MONMOUTH – Western Oregon University will host a series of French films over the course of four weeks, as part of the annual Tournées Festival. Each film is free and open to the public, and will be shown at 7 p.m. in room 211 of the Instructional Technology Center.
The film series kicks off on October 28 with “Persepolis,” a poignant story of a young girl coming of age in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It is through the eyes of this precocious nine year old, Marjane. The film shows people's hopes dashed as fundamentalists take power - forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands. Clever and fearless, she outsmarts the “social guardians” and discovers punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden. Yet when her uncle is executed and bombs fall around Tehran, during the Iraq/Iran war, the daily fear that permeates life in Tehran is palpable. As she gets older, her parents worry for her safety and decide to send her to school in Vienna when she turns 14. Vulnerable and alone in a strange land, Marjane endures the typical ordeals of a teenager. She also has to combat being equated with the religious fundamentalism she is trying to escape. Over time she finds acceptance and even love but remains terribly homesick. Marjane decides to return to Iran to be close to her family. After a difficult period of adaptation, she enters art school and gets married, all the while continuing to speak against the hypocrisy she witnesses. At age 24 she realizes that although she loves her country she cannot live there anymore and she decided to leave for France.
“Molière” is the second film in the series and will be shown on November 4. In 1644, Jean Baptiste Poquelin, also known as Molière, is only 22 and his illustrious theater troupe, founded the previous year, is bankrupt. Hounded by creditors, Molière is thrown into jail. When the jailors finally let him go, he disappears. Historians have found no trace of him before he reappeared with his troupe several months later. Taking this mystery as his starting point, Laurent Tirard concocted an elaborate historical fiction in which the young Molière is released from prison by Mr. Jourdain. This wealthy bourgeois settles Molière's debt on the understanding that he will teach him the craft and art of the stage. Mr. Jourdain is infatuated with the lovely but poisonous Célimen, whose salon gathers suitors and great wits. He craves to impress her but she only has disdain for him. To ensure that his love interest remains a secret from his wife, Elmire, Mr. Jourdain presents Molière as an austere private tutor. Molière falls in love with Elmire who, at first, only has harsh words for this holier-than-thou figure who invaded her home. Trapped in this untenable situation, Molière's eyes and mind will open to life itself and to his work as an artist. It is from this tale, and from his passion for Elmire, that Molière, the great dramatist, is born.
On November 11, the festival features “L’origine de la Tendresse: et Autres Contes.” This is a program of short films. The first is “Gratte-papier,” is about a day like any other in the Parisian metro - or so it seems. A young man reads and a young woman is seated next to him. They have nothing in common, yet they will be introduced in an unexpected fashion. “Ma mère, une histoire d'immigration,” is a story of the director's mother who left Algeria in 1956 to reunite with her husband in Paris. It is also the story of three generations of women: her mother's, Zehira; her daughters'; her granddaughters'. “Une voix, Un vote,” is a look at the importance of voting in the run-up to the 2007 presidential elections. “Le Dernier jour” is the next short film. On July 1, 2005, the 1867 Schneider and Co power hammer N°125 ceased operating at the former smithy of the Brest military harbour. This is the story of the machine and its workers' last working day. Next is “L'origine de la tendresse,” about Elise, a quiet, solitary woman who works as a museum attendant. Nothing really happens in her life. And in a life in which nothing happens, no moment is devoid of meaning. “Kitchen” features a woman, her husband and two lobsters. A recipe that turns sour...
The next film in the series is “Two Days in Paris.” Jack is a sharp, neurotic New York interior designer; his girlfriend Marion is a smart, sometimes cagey, French photographer. They've been together in New York for two years and are about to spend two days in Paris. The trip puts their relationship to the ultimate test. Marion and Jack uncover more cracks in their compatibility as they travel around town. He is shocked by her erratic temper, evidenced by outbursts at a racist Parisian taxi driver, at ex-boyfriends, or anyone else who rubs her the wrong way. As he meets one overly-friendly male acquaintance after another, Jack is consumed by jealousy and wonders what Marion has kept from him about her romantic past. The snowballing mystery in Jack's mind threatens to end their relationship in utter disaster. As a writer-director-producer-editor-composer-star, Delpy deftly handles her multiple responsibilities, weaving brilliant humor with a myriad of intellectual, political and psychological musings. Whether considering Jack and Marion's relationship, or the world at large, she takes the stereotypical French versus American debates further and deeper, playing on both truth and the often total absurdity of this complex relationship.
“Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell),” the final film in the series, will be shown on November 25. As the editor of French magazine ELLE, Jean-Dominique Bauby was a key player in Parisian social and cultural circles before suffering a massive stroke at the age of 43. He developed what doctors called a locked-in syndrome: he lost all muscle control, save his left eyelid. Blinking one letter at a time, he composed a book describing his new life. As soon as it was published the book became an international best-seller; Jean-Dominique Bauby died shortly after. This is the basis of Julian Schnabel's enthralling film in which Jean-Dominique Bauby summons enormous courage, determination and his soaring imagination to escape from his trap. Tapping into the limitlessness of his memories, fantasies, wit, and desires, he finds a way to race through experiences of wonder and grief, sex and love, fatherhood and childhood, faith and questioning, ecstasy and absurdity - and touches the very essence of what it is to be human. Along the way he is buoyed by five remarkable women: Céline, the mother of his children who remains devoted to him despite his betrayal; Inés, the girlfriend who still haunts him; Henriette and Marie, who give him the power to re-connect with the world and his loved ones; and Claude, who becomes his literary assistant.
This series is sponsored locally by the Western Oregon University Film Studies program. The festival is made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Culture (CNC). The Tournées Festival was conceived to encourage schools to begin their own self-sustaining French film festivals. Since its inception, the program has partnered with hundreds of universities and made it possible for more than 300,000 students to discover French-language films. The Tournées Festival distributes approximately $180,000 in grants annually.
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Shaun Huston, film studies and geography professor