A WORD FROM THE EDITOR
We begin this year with a series of film reviews. My preview of new French films with “historical content” at the Toronto Film Festival yielded no gems and some disappointments. I found La peur, set in the trenches of World War I, excruciatingly boring and its supposed “realism” much exaggerated. Although Aleksandr Sukarov’s Francofonia was gorgeous to look at, the director’s meditations on the fate of western culture were heavy-handed and sometimes puzzling. Despite its [French] title, the film dealt little with the Louvre during the Occupation, focusing instead on the intersection of creative and destructive urges. In the end, one film grabbed me: Diastème’s Un Français, about a neo-Nazi skinhead in the 1980s whom we follow over three decades as he sheds his racism and his rage. His personal redemption is contrasted to the Front national’s cosmetic efforts to do the same.
In the Maybe Missed section, Kathleen Wellman reviews A Little Chaos, Alan Rickman’s fantasy about Louis XIV, Le Nôtre, and the building of the gardens at Versailles. The spunky heroine, an independent gardener who seduces both Le Nôtre and the King with her talent, is winningly played by Kate Winslet. The film’s recasting of the monarch as fond paterfamilias and botanical experimenter is more Farmer George than historical Louis, but this is, after all, a fantasy.
Lastly, in our Classics rubric, Elena Russo guides us through Abdellatif Kechiche’s L’Esquive, winner of 15 international awards. A class in one of the cités is rehearsing Marivaux’s Games of Love and Chance, while their daily life mirrors some of its plot. Most important, Elena Russo tells us, is that they absorb from Marivaux a different way of expressing emotions and the ambiguous states they cause. The film is not meant to update Marivaux to the banlieue but rather to show how classics can expand one’s conceptual apparatus.
With this issue, Eric Reed, historian of the Tour de France, leaves us as web editor to take on high administrative duties at his univesrity. He has been a terrific colleague and the team will greatly miss him.
University at Buffalo, SUNY