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Tournées Festival of Contemporary French Cinema

Beaches of Agnes

Posted 3/24/2010

Tournées Festival of Contemporary French Cinema

March 24-April 1 at the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus

This inaugural festival of contemporary French cinema, spearheaded by the French program of Hopkins' Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures and made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Culture, is free and open to the public. The first film of the fest, Laurent Cantet's The Class, will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Baltimore public high school students and Northwestern High School principal Jason Hartling, Pikesville High School principal Edmund Mitzel, filmmaker Matt Porterfield, Hopkins French language program director Kristin Cook-Gailloud, and moderated by documentary filmmaker/Hopkins associate research professor Bernadette Wegenstein. For more information visit

THE CLASS Winner of the 2008 Golden Palm, Laurent Cantet's The Class doesn't resist its somewhat formulaic plot about a middle-class white teacher struggling to instruct his diverse and working-class students. But it is particularly attuned to the nuances of the classroom itself, the tensions that bubble up and over in a moment's notice, made all the more exhilarating by students who have no reason to show restraint. François Bégaudeau, who plays the cocky and abrasive teacher, pushes the method acting technique to an extreme. Not only did he write the screenplay and novel on which the movie is based, but he also spent a year teaching at a school very much like the one portrayed in the movie. (Martin L. Johnson) At Mudd Hall, room 26 on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus March 24 at 7:30 p.m.

TERROR'S ADVOCATE Barbet Schroeder--best known as the director of Barfly and Reversal of Fortune, cultishly known for such early fare as More and La Vallée, but whose documentary work, such as the indescribable General Idi Amin Dada, often borders on the spectacular--directs this 2007 documentary about Jacques Vergés, a lawyer who has defended left- and right-wing terrorists and personas non grata, from Algerian freedom fighter Djamila Bouhired (whom he eventually married) to Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Venezuelan-born Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine bomber Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, aka Carlos the Jackal. Fascinating. At Mudd Hall, room 26 on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus March 25 at 7:30 p.m.

THE WITNESSES With the opening shot in a crowded park, auteur André Téchiné plunges right into Paris' uninhibited gay underworld. A young Manu (Johan Libérau) has come from the provinces to meet guys and to stay with his younger sister (Julie Depardieu). He meets Adrien (Michel Blanc), an older doctor, with whom he begins a celibate relationship. The doctor's close friend, children's-book author Sarah (Emanuelle Béart), has just had a baby, but ignores it. Her husband, Mehdi (Sami Bouajila), is a vice cop with a taste for guys. And so they take a break from Paris and all head out for a vacation on the beach. Meanwhile, it's 1983-'84, and AIDS is starting to appear for the first time in Paris hospitals. The meandering quality of relationships in Téchiné's movies can leave you checking your watch, but here it's an effective counterpart to the ruthlessly linear quality of AIDS itself. (John Barry) At Krieger Hall, room 205 March 26 at 7:30 p.m.

DOCUMENTARIES BY TERI WEHN-DAMISCH This evening's program features a section of works from Teri When-Damisch, the documentarian who put together 2007's candid portrait of Canadian philanthropist and urban activist Phyllis Bronfman Lambert, Citizen Lambert: Joan of Architecture. At Maryland 110 March 29 at 7:30 p.m.

FRANTZ FANON: HIS LIFE, HIS STRUGGLE, HIS WORK French-Algerian director Cheik Djemaï interviewed family, friends, and colleagues of this powerful psychiatrist and 20th-century revolutionary thinker from Martinque to create a portrait of the man whose books can still provoke. At Maryland 110 March 30 at 7:30 p.m.

BEACHES OF AGNES If you find yourself one-tenth as intellectually spry and creatively nimble in your 80s as Belgian filmmaker/photographer Agnès Varda is in her cinematic autobiography The Beaches of Agnès, give thanks and praise to whom/whatever you need. Beaches is an intoxicating treat, 110 minutes of Varda remembering her life, her movies, and her life in movies, lines that thread together into this witty, moving fabric of restless creativity. Although it charts Varda's life--her marriage to Jacques Demy, her friendships with stellar talents such as Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Jane Birkin, and the perpetually wily Chris Marker--Beaches is as much an exploration of memory itself as it is a cinematic treasure of one amazing woman's life. A must. (Bret McCabe) At Mudd Hall, room 26 on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus March 31 at 7:30 p.m.

LADY CHATTERLY Female French director Pascale Ferran turns to D.H. Lawrence's second published version of Lady Chatterley's Lover and hones in on its less pedantic politics and more sensuous vibe. Think of it as Lawrence's naturalist riff and you'll get a sense of the serene, almost environmental mood permeating Ferran's Lady Chatterley. The story remains the same: upper-class gentleman Clifford Chatterley (Hippolyte Girardot) was wounded in WWI, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Largely ignored and left to her own devices, his wife, Constance (The Barbarian Invasions' Marina Hands), finds emotional and physical solace in her husband's gamekeeper Parkin (Jean-Louis Coullo'ch). Ferran's patient storytelling allows the love affair to feel like an almost organic inevitability, as much a product of the comfortably verdant countryside where Constance and Parkin first meet and carry on their trysts as it is of human needs. (BM) At Remsen Hall 101 April 1 at 7:30 p.m.

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