march usually arrives like a lion in the form of the film society of lincoln center's "rendez-vous with french cinema," the annual showcase of the latest films from france. the 14th edition of rendez-vous (18 new films-all new york premieres, and some u.s. and world premieres-and, for the first time, a collection of shorts) is the usual mix of veteran and new filmmakers, and established and up-and-coming stars.
this year's directors are starrier than usual: still-standing standard-bearers of the influential french new wave and other names familiar to rendez-vous and new york film festival audiences. agnès varda, now 80, stars in her own cinematic autobiography, the beaches of agnès, showing her eventful life through the prism of the shifting sands that have shaped her. name-checking people whom she crossed paths with during her career as photographer and director-her husband jacques demy, jean-luc godard, harrison ford, jim morrison, the black panthers-only hints at the depth of this self-effacing, funny and ultimately poignant memoir by this amazing artist. gerard depardieu and vahina giocante in claude chabrol's intriguing mystery, bellamy. photo courtesy of film society of lincoln center/unifrance. the 78-year-old claude chabrol also shows that he's as spry as ever with his intriguing mystery, bellamy, in which he collaborates for the first time with another french film legend-gérard depardieu, who masterfully plays a famous, worn-out detective interrupting his vacation to deal with a murder and his deadbeat brother's return. director chabrol and actor depardieu are unafraid to show the inelegant ravages of age on their over-the-hill hero, huffing and puffing merely to keep up appearances.
other notable rendez-vous directors include:
? costa-gavras, creator of the 40-year-old classic thriller z, whose latest, eden is west, introduces an illegal immigrant for whom the west is a literal paradise;
? andré téchiné, maker of timely, socially charged dramas, who returns with a world premiere starring catherine deneuve, the girl on the train, an astutely observed, absorbing film about how attitudes toward ethnicity and racism affect ordinary lives in modern france;
? anne fontaine, a witty explorer of the dark side of sexuality and gender questions, whose the girl from monaco is a mischievous look at blind desire, embodied by a high-priced lawyer's lust for an airhead tv weather gal;
? françois dupeyron, whose subtle character studies are exemplified by the splendid with a little help from myself, an acidic comic drama about the unlikely alliance between a newly widowed african immigrant and the elderly widower living across the hall.
the series opens march 5 with a gala presentation of the first film to be shown in the newly reopened alice tully hall: paris 36, director christophe barratier's loving homage to 1930s french cinema, stars nora arnezeder, whose performance is garnering similar praise to that of another actress who starred in rendez-vous' opening night film in 2007: marion cotillard. she walked off with the best actress oscar for playing edith piaf in la vie en rose. does that fate also await arnezeder?