Another empathy machine from those Dardennes. I preferred this to Two Days, was more involved in the story and more impressed by the performances. Although I wasn’t too surprised when the crime finally got solved… when you cast regular Dardenne star Jérémie Renier as the dad of a possible witness to the crime in a minor scene, you can assume he’ll be coming back in a major way in the second half of the film. Supposedly this has been re-edited since Cannes, but it’s hard to imagine what that means since the scenes are mainly long takes.

“A good doctor has to control his emotions.” Jenny (Adèle Haenel of 120 BPM, House of Tolerance) is a young doctor just getting her own place, doesn’t answer the door after hours, and is told the next day that the woman trying to get in was found dead. The police tell her all they can, then she investigates by asking employees and patients if they’d seen anything, eventually figuring out that one sick kid isn’t physically ill but has made himself sick worrying since he witnessed his dad killing the girl. The movie builds up so much goodwill in its first half and through Haenel’s sensitive performance that I didn’t even mind when it turned into a mystery-thriller towards the end.

Doesn’t seem like my kind of thing, as I assumed it wouldn’t be from seeing L’Enfant, but at least on the HD screen at home it’s easier to take their handheld follow-cam asthetic without feeling ill, and at least now I’ve seen both of their Cannes top-prize-winning films and don’t feel like I’m missing something. I get that it’s empathetic filmmaking, and Rosetta shares with their Two Days, One Night lead character a desperate drive to survive (not some huge success, just to keep a simple, steady job) alternating with bouts of depression – both realistic and moving portrayals. But it’s also just dismal enough (ends with Rosetta unable to commit suicide because she runs out of gas) that I felt more bummed out by the scenario than uplifted by the great humanist filmmaking. Admittedly it grows on you after a few days – and now I’m behind on the blog so it’s been a month, and it has definitely stuck with me.

Rosetta lives in a trailer park with her drunk mom, has stomach pains, and is seriously pissed at having lost her job in the opening scene. Soon she takes another girl’s job making waffle batter, loses it almost immediately when the boss decides to hire his son instead, so she rats on her only friend Riquet (who has been selling his own homemade waffles on the sly) and takes his job. Yes, it’s a Belgian movie with a serious emphasis on waffle making. Being stalked by Riquet, she phones in her resignation and goes home to kill herself and her mom, which she hasn’t managed to do by the time Riquet shows up, so I suppose it’s a happy ending?

Waffler confrontation:

Slant:

What makes Rosetta unique, though, is its lead character’s determination to reveal and destroy any hint of surrounding weakness threatening to subvert her singular direction in life. Rosetta would rather risk Riquet physically retaliating against her than be linked to his illegal operation—or die trying to save her mother from the bottle instead of sticking her head in the sand. Both scenarios prove the character’s fundamental need to exist within a state of hardened reality, not soft fantasy.

Ebert, who mentions Mouchette and Vagabond:

It doesn’t strive for our sympathy or make any effort to portray Rosetta as colorful, winning or sympathetic. It’s a film of economic determinism, the story of a young woman for whom employment equals happiness. Or so she thinks until she has employment and is no happier, perhaps because that is something she has simply never learned to be.

Rosetta: Émilie Dequenne was later in a Téchiné movie and Brotherhood of the Wolf. Her semi-friend Riquet: Fabrizio Rongione has been in most Dardenne movies since, also La Sapienza. As the waffle boss: Olivier Gourmet, which sounds like a French name I’d make up as a joke, who has been in every Dardenne movie since La Promesse, also Time of the Wolf (not Brotherhood of the Wolf). This won the palme and best actress at Cannes (up against All About My Mother, Pola X, Kikujiro, Ghost Dog) but the Césars preferred Venus Beauty Institute.

Those Dardennes:

The documentaries that we used to make, you go to film a reality that exists outside of you and you don’t have control over it — it resists your camera. You have to take it as it is. So we try to keep that aspect of documentary into our fiction, to film something that resists us … We want to remain on the level of the things as they are and not impose on them.

Marion Cotillard has been on sick leave with the depression, returns to her solar-panel factory where the boss has decided that they got along just fine without her, so he’s eliminating her job and giving everyone a bonus. If she can convince half of ’em to give up their bonus over the weekend, she gets her job back. Cruel setup, and she’s not up for the task, decides to overdose on sleeping pills instead, but then her husband (Fabrizio Rongione of half their other films) and a couple sympathetic coworkers help get her back on track.

Those Dardennes keep the pace moving, don’t follow-cam the back of Marion’s head for extended periods like they did the star of L’Enfant. Overall more believable that the earlier film too, all conversational realism. Ending is a win for Marion’s self-esteem, at least. She’s a vote short, so the boss, impressed by the effort, offers to give her the job of an immigrant coworker whose contract is up for renewal, and she takes the high road and refuses, says she’ll find a job elsewhere.

R. Collin:

If the Dardennes’ last film, The Kid with a Bike, was their modern-day reworking of Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist classic Bicycle Thieves, consider this their Umberto D. It’s a film about the dignity that meaningful work confers; and the way in which an economic downturn can effect other equally ruinous slumps, both social and emotional.

Luc Dardenne:

The question or dilemma posed in the film is the same as the other [Dardenne] films, in essence. Someone has been ostracized, excluded, or forcefully removed from the community, and is trying to re-enter. The moral dilemma is not hers initially, but it falls to the others. In the end, it’s a similar situation, no more or less urgent, but complicated by new forms of labor.

A program of shorts that played at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival to mark its 60th anniversary. Pretty terrific bunch of 3-5 minute shorts by possibly the best group of directors ever assembled… worth watching more than once. Each is about the cinema in some way or another, with a few recurring themes (blind people and darkness, flashbacks and personal stories). Katy watched/liked it too!

First half of shorts (second half is here):

Open-Air Cinema by Raymond Depardon
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One Fine Day by Takeshi Kitano, continuing his self-referential streak.
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Three Minutes by Theo Angelopolous is a Marcello Mastroianni tribute starring the great Jeanne Moreau.
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In The Dark by Andrei Konchalovsky
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Diary of a Moviegoer by Nanni Moretti
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The Electric Princess Picture House by Hou Hsiao-hsien
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Darkness by the bros. Dardenne
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Anna by Alejandro González Iñárritu
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Movie Night, the first of two gorgeously-shot outdoor movie starring chinese children, by Zhang Yimou.
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Dibbouk de Haifa, annoying business by Amos Gitai.
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The Lady Bug by Jane Campion.
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Artaud Double Bill by Atom Egoyan.
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The Foundry, comic greatness by Aki Kaurismäki.
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Recrudescence, stolen cell-phone bit by Olivier Assayas.
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47 Years Later very self-indulgent by Youssef Chahine.
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Typically depressing movie about poor people, but this time with a goofy “childlike” criminal lead. Funny how he stays likeable even when abandoning his young buddy and selling his baby. Must be the hat and the stylin’ jacket. Redemptive ending in jail. His wife isn’t the focus of the movie… and good, cuz she’d ground it too much in sad reality. Liked it for sure, breezily watchable, but wouldn’t give it the top honors that’ve been floating around (palme d’or, etc). Kinda put me in a low mood and made me not wanna go see the promise. But figured it was my only chance, and went anyway.