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For Your Consideration: 'Camille Redouble'

The awards for feature films at this year's Festival de Cannes included Winter Sleep by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceyland (Palme d'Or), the young Italian director Alice Rorhwacher's Le Meraviglie (Grand Prix), Bennett Miller (Best Director) for Foxcatcher, Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin (Best Screenplay) for Leviathan (an adaptation of the Book of Job), Julianne Moore (Best Actress) in David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, Timothy Spall (Best Actor) in Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner, and Jury Prizes to Xavier Dolan's Mommy and Jean-Luc Godard's Adieu au language. Other films that received critical notice were Timbuktu, by Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako, the only African feature in the competition; Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent on the life of the fashion designer; Argentine director Damian Szifron's comedy Relatos Salvajes; Deux jours, une nuit by the Dardenne brothers and starring Marion Cotillard; Naomi Kawase's Still the Water; The Tribe by Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, entirely in sign language and not subtitled; and Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, directed by Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, which brings together short bits of footage shot by “1,001 Syrians,” documenting the civil war in Syria on mobile phone and Internet video, along with some actual film from the siege of Homs.

Last night, as part of its excellent French Cinémathèque series, the French Embassy screened a film that made waves at the 2012 Festival de Cannes, Camille redouble by French director Noémie Lvovsky. It is a tribute remake of Francis Ford Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married, in which a woman going through a rancorous divorce is magically transported back to her senior year of high school. Lvovsky's film, of course, is transposed to France and the time travel is to that magical year of 1985, which is evoked expertly in costumes, decor, and music. When Lvovsky's Camille wakes up in a hospital after a wild New Year's Eve party in her 40s, it is New Year's Day when she is about to turn 16: to go home, she has to put on an ensemble right out of Desperately Seeking Susan. The idea, of course, is for Camille to have a chance to reconsider the wrong turns she took in her life, by which she ended up on the brink of divorce, alcoholic, and a barely working actress -- the opening scene, in which she has a bit part in a slasher film, is one of the film's funniest.

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Camille Redouble, directed by Noémie Lvovsky
Camille also discovers that many of the things that happened in the past are good and also just inevitable. She can change some things about herself, in how she treats other people, and the chance to confront again some of the bad situations of her past, to listen again to the advice she was given, and mostly ignored, is precious. Lvosky prefers to work with an ensemble, both of screenwriters and actors, and the collaboration makes this project stronger than it would have been. Yolande Moreau (Séraphine) and Michel Vuillermoz (Vous n'avez encore rien vu) give poignant and hilarious performances as Camille's bemused parents, and Camille's interactions, with an adult's experiences, with her former teachers are particularly delightful -- Mathieu Amalric as an arrogant literature teacher (see the embedded scene above), Micha Lescot as the absurdly intense director of a student production of Goldoni's Gl'innamorati, Denis Podalydès as the brilliant physics teacher who tries to understand Camille's claims about time travel.

Samir Guesmi is at times disturbingly Nicholas Cage-like as Éric, Camille's marivaudage-spouting high-school sweetheart and costar in the Goldoni play, while Judith Chemla, India Hair, and Julia Faure make up the rest of the zany quartet of Camille's high-school friends. Jean-Pierre Léaud, seen most recently in Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre, has a cameo as the quirky watchmaker who seems to set Camille's journey in motion. This may not a great film, but it is an enjoyable comedy that never lags, and for anyone who went to high school in the 1980s, like your moderator, it offers many laughs on that account.

The next screening in the French Cinémathèque series will be Abus de Faiblesse (June 18), starring Isabelle Huppert, in its other venue, the Avalon Theater in Chevy Chase.

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