LITTLE GIRL – Review by Leslie Combemale

If people who are less understanding of trans rights see this film, it has the potential to shift belief and possibly reverse a lot of outdated laws. That would be a gift and blessing to kids finding challenges now, but even more future kids who won’t have to struggle needlessly as they grow. Of course the film is subjective, as it aims to change a lot of hearts, and attempts to do so through experience rather than statistics, but if the definition of great art is that it elicits compassion and understanding, Little Girl qualifies.

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PETITE MAMAN (TIFF2021) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Celine Sciamma is the quintessence of female filmmaking. In all her films, she values emotional intelligence, and uses the female lens to examine life and universal truths through stories about women’s experiences and relationships. Her female characters are multidimensional and exist on their own terms, often apart from, or with very little influence from, the men around them. A look here, the touch of a hand there, cooperation in a task together, a verbal exchange where a secret is shared or somehow reveals a character’s fears and hopes, these are her building blocks. With Petite Maman she creates an immersive experience, and one in which most women will see themselves in some way.

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CURIOSA – Review by Leslie Combemale

Lou Jeunet’s woefully off-target and ponderously slow French Curiosa aims for historical illumination, sex positivity, and strong feminist and feminine energy, and misses the mark in nearly every way. I’m all for sexy fun couched in a historically-influenced story, especially when it’s delivered in such a beautiful palette and accompanied by women so well appointed in costume, makeup and hair that they literally look like they just stepped out of a Marie Cassatt painting. What none of us should be up for is a story that ignores the most fascinating aspects of the real-life characters on which the film is based, in favor of a clumsily structured tale of supposed female empowerment.

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WHITE AS SNOW – Review by Leslie Combemale

Fairy tale archetypes are front and center in the surprisingly bland French film White as Snow, even with the presence of first lady of French film Isabelle Huppert and Lou de Laâge. Huppert plays the wicked queen to de Laâge’s fresh faced ingenue in a story meant to update and sex up the famed tale, presumably in the name of female empowerment. If only director and co-screenwriter Anne Fontaine didn’t vilify age and send the message that youth equals beauty and power in every scene of the film, the sexually adventurous choices her Snow White makes wouldn’t feel so shallow.

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DEAR HACKER (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Noting one day that a flashing light on her webcam had been activated without her intervention, filmmaker Alice Lenay wanted to know why. Was someone watching her? Was there something else responsible? Ostensibly framed as an investigation of sorts, the documentary consists of a series of online video conversations between Lenay and a number of experts, friends, and expert-friends to try and get to the bottom of what was happening.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 16, 2021: MAMA WEED

If necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, then being short on cash must be the godfather — or, in this case, godmother — of trying your hand at a life of crime. Such is the situation in Jean-Paul Salomé’s Mama Weed, which stars Isabelle Huppert as Patience Portefeux, a police translator whose lack of funds leads her to seize a golden, albeit illegal, opportunity.

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MAMA WEED – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

It’s a true cinematic sin that for a career that spans five decades and with more than 120 films on her resume, French film legend Isabelle Huppert finally earned her first lead actress Oscar nomination for her darkly clever performance in Paul Verhoven’s 2016 thriller Elle. While her widow and mother of two grown daughters in her latest film Mama Weed doesn’t quite compare with her most audacious roles, at age 68, the sight of the still-glorious Huppert onscreen being as intriguing as ever will give you a contact high that lasts a good long time.

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KEEP AN EYE OUT – Review by Diane Carson

Experiencing the wildly inventive world of writer/director Quentin Dupieux’s Au poste!, translated as Keep an Eye Out, I had to abandon anticipated conventions of film comedy. And yet, laughing out loud, I happily embraced Dupieux’s surreal absurdity and creative storytelling produced on a miniscule $624,000 budget, set primarily in Chief Inspector Buron’s cluttered office, with only three main characters.

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UN FILM DRAMATIQUE – Review by Diane Carson

Director Éric Baudelaire’s Un Film Dramatique is indeed a film. However, it isn’t dramatic. More accurate descriptive words are unsatisfying, annoying, and, occasionally, mildly amusing. That’s not surprising since twenty-one children in the multiracial Dora Maar Middle School in St. Denis, France, shot the documentary as a class project over four years.

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TWO OF US – Review by Diane Carson

Filippo Meneghetti has crafted an elegant, sophisticated narrative in Two of Us. In contrast to lesbian stories centering on young women, co-writers Meneghetti and Malysone Bovorasmy present two widows, Mado and Nina, both in their seventies. They’ve been lovers for two decades, but secretly because of Mado’s fear of her daughter Anne’s and son Frederic’s reactions.

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