Sunday, March 14, 2010

Le Roi de l'évasion (The King of Escape): Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, March 15-16, 2009

Little by little, the international film community is catching on that French director Alain Guiraudie is one of the most distinctive and confident voices in today's cinema. His latest film, 2009's Le Roi de l'évasion (The King of Escape), can look like either a bold surrealist gesture or the last gasp of classical widescreen filmmaking, depending on where one focuses. A plot description - a gay, plump, 40-year-old tractor salesman (Ludovic Berthillot) in the south of France yields enthusiastically to the overtures of the beautiful 16-year-old daughter (Hafsia Herzi) of his boss - doesn't begin to convey Guiraudie's wild, rapid storytelling style, nor the extraordinary ease with which the filmmaker depicts a set of social groups that even adventurous filmgoers are unlikely to encounter on screen often. There is an amazing opposition, almost a contradiction, in Guiraudie's approach: he stylizes the social landscape into an idealized vision of sexuality freely expressed and tolerated; and yet the comic compression of the plot suggests a paranoid dream of punishment and persecution for the slightest and most concealed sexual impulse. That Guiraudie is aware of this bizarre split, and presents it to us simply and lucidly without resolving it, marks him as a major artist. Le Roi de l'évasion (The King of Escape) plays twice more in the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema program: on Monday, March 15 at 3:45 pm at the Walter Reade, and on Tuesday, March 16 at 9:30 pm at the IFC Center.

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