In the summer of 1995, French documentarist Nicolas Philibert shot the rehearsals for an outdoor performance of Witold Gombrowicz’s Operetta at a psychiatric clinic in La Bord; the film that resulted was released the following year. As in Philibert’s other documentaries, his uncoercive respect for the participants registers almost immediately; he wants us to get to know these performers as people rather than as patients, even though the mood is periodically one of amiable chaos. A couple of the most interesting moments arise when patients address the filmmaker directly; the second time this happens, he’s identified as a representative of societymeaning us. In French with subtitles. 104 min. (JR)
In terms of plot, this postapocalyptic horror tale about an epidemic that decimates most of England is pretty familiar stuff, the most obvious referents being Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, its various movie spin-offs, and George Romero’s zombie pictures. But Danny Boyle’s purposeful direction and Mark Tildesley’s imaginative and resourceful production design keep this fresh and edgy; the images of a wasted London and the details of a paramilitary organization in the countryside are both creepy and persuasive. Alex Garland wrote the script, and the effective cast includes Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, and Brendan Gleeson. 108 min. (JR)
As a big fan of Under the Sand (2001), the previous collaboration between Charlotte Rampling and writer-director Francois Ozon, I was prepared to follow them pretty far into the ambiguities and nuances of this tale, about a celebrated British mystery novelist (Rampling) who arrives at her publisher’s country house in the south of France to work on a book but finds her space invaded by his promiscuous daughter (Ludivine Sagnier of Ozon’s 8 Women and Water Drops on Burning Rocks). Unfortunately, after the well-honed psychological melodrama of its first half, this wanders off into the metaphysical territory of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (a much better film). In English and subtitled French. 102 min. (JR)
Through a series of mishaps, a beautician headed for Acapulco (Juliette Binoche) and a chef en route to Munich (Jean Reno) find themselves sharing a hotel room near Charles de Gaulle International Airport, and in spite of many temperamental differences they fall in love. Director Daniele Thompson collaborated with her son Christopher on the script for this 2002 romantic comedy in ‘Scope, and as concocted as it may sound, she and her two leads bring it off (Binoche is especially effective playing a character that seems to have as many layers as her makeup). One should note that, for better or for worse, Miramax has cut ten minutes from the French release. In French with subtitles. 81 min. Pipers Alley.