Ann Hornaday Recommends
With the current onslaught of French movies, from "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" to "5x2," "Apres Vous," "A Tout de Suite" and "Ma Mere," it's worth reminding that few filmmakers do summer better than the French (or, in at least one case, the Poles who live in France under constant threat of extradition). Here are three movies, all set in France during the summer, that capture with lyrical humor, romance and a dark sense of foreboding the season's most ineffable emotions.
Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953, 85 minutes) may be the ur-text for great summer comedies, a delicate, meticulously choreographed farce starring the incomparable Jacques Tati as a bourgeois businessman whose beach vacation is made mayhem by his own quietly comic misadventures. Although "Mr. Hulot's Holiday," also directed by Tati, isn't a silent film, it feels like one, letting its sublime physical comedy play across the screen like the fine cinematic ballet that it is.
Pauline at the Beach (1983, 94 minutes) is one of French director Eric Rohmer's "season" films, and for some reason it's always been more a summer movie than his 1986 "Summer." Here, the impossibly statuesque Arielle Dombasle plays Marion, whose marriage is breaking up and who takes her teenage niece Pauline (Amanda Langlet) to the beach for a getaway. Not surprisingly, both women embark on affairs, but it's the first love for Pauline -- whose adolescent awkwardness and awakening sense of self are perfectly embodied by Langlet -- that makes this such a haunting, resonant evocation of summer's fleeting passions.
Repulsion (1965, 104 minutes) looks at the dark side of summer vacation, wherein Catherine Deneuve plays a woman going mad during Paris's famous August break. Full of some of the most terrifying visual effects ever put on-screen (those walls!), "Repulsion" is also a powerful portrait of the humid loneliness of summer in the city, when a young woman's fancy can so quickly curdle and sour. Creepily transfixing.