Loving - Jeff Nichols' new film gives him the opportunity to capitalize on his most beautiful trait in his handling of stories: the modest, borderline humble way of portraying his protagonists. Here is a director that could be a case study of the polar opposite of directing with condescension. In all of his films so far, Nichols has shown a consistent delicacy that betrays true respect for the characters he puts on screen.
Loving is the story of the inter-racial couple that borderline unwittingly removed some archaic slave laws that remained in place in the US until 1968 from sheer inertia, as white men were not allowed to marry black women. Their case was taken over by various civil rights organisations until it reached the Supreme Court, where it ultimately removed one of the last concrete elements of racism in American law.
The film begins with the couple's otherwise completely normal development up until the sheriff shows up on their doorstep to take them to jail for being caught in the same bed. But where you would normally expect a moment of self-righteous anger from the protagonists, a moment of sanctimonious beating of chests, Nichols shows none. His characters are some modest god-fearing deep Americans, ready to bow down their heads and apologize to whatever authority imputes them with impunity.
This is where Nichols shines, as the cry for justice is completely muffled throughout the whole film, to the point in which the maximal form of protest that the husband offers, at the eleventh hour, is a simple "You tell the judge I love my wife." They truly are simple people, and Nichols, here with more delicacy than ever, sides with their silence and authenticity against what seems like a distantly controlling, monstrous social apparatus. But silence is power when it comes to cinema, and Nichols manages to walk a very fine line of repression that ultimately packs more of a long-term punch than any hysterics.
L'eau froide - One of Assayas's earlier films that was meant to be a 52 minute TV movie that was ultimately turned into a feature as well. Unfortunately the fact that the film was initially planned to be considerably shorter shows, as at some point there is a 20 minute party scene in an abandoned house that does not do much to further much of anything. But as is the case with these over-extensions, the argument of further "immersion" can always be summoned. Otherwise this is a fairly classical tale of misunderstood boy meets misunderstood girl as they plan to elope and create their own universes. An illustration of some intensity capped with some bittersweetness.
Personal Shopper - Assayas's last film showcasing a very serious Kirsten Stewart facing her past ghosts quite literally. Beyond the elegant manner in which Assayas always carries his films, Personal Shopper manages to keep the spectator fairly on one's toes as it is never quite apparent where the film is going. The suspense, however, is never quite capitalized upon, as at some point the film devolves into a 15 minute loop of texting shenanigans that ultimately manage to deflate the situations due to its being pushed so far. A mysterious texter keeps texting Kirsten Stewart, jolly good, but when the mystery seems to artificially extend into forever, the film feels like it stops evolving. The whole situation is resolved in a fairly brutal bait and switch that does a good job at illuminating nothing and keeping the protagonist fairly opaque.
Sweet Dreams (Marco Bellochio) - A film made with an 80 year old man's sensibility for time and trauma. About a boy that never quite snaps out of the trauma caused by his mother committing suicide when he was little. It didn't seem all that bad, but the pacing quite literally put me to sleep.
Ma Loute - Where Bruno Dumont comes together in quite the spectacular fashion, managing to produce a sparkling mix of painting, Tin Tin and Jacques Tati. Featuring the absurd bourgeoisie, the cannibalistic peasants, idiotic police officers and a transgender teen oscillating between the worlds. Dumont's persistence in casting real people with real faces goes a long way here in creating inadvertent paintings one frame after the other. Quite beautiful and quite funny.