Wednesday 20 April 2022

Films of the New French Extremity (1–31/5/22)

The BFI have announced full details of CRUEL FLESH: FILMS OF THE NEW FRENCH EXTREMITY, a season of brutally compelling films that explore intimacy in a violent world. Running throughout May at BFI Southbank, the programme explores the unique moment in cinema history that sent shockwaves through arthouse sensibilities. This season will feature the work of filmmakers such as Claire Denis (TROUBLE EVERY DAY), François Ozon (CRIMINAL LOVERS), Leos Carax (POLA X), Marina de Van (IN MY SKIN), Lucile Hadžihalilovic (LA BOUCHE DE JEAN-PIERRE, with Hadžihalilovic attending in person), and Gaspar Noé, the latter of whom will also be subject of a special focus in May. 

FOCUS ON: GASPAR NOÉ coincides with the release of the filmmaker’s new work VORTEX (2021), and will include in person appearances from the director. The centrepiece event of the focus will be Gaspar Noé in Conversation on 10 May, during which the one-of-a-kind filmmaker will reflect upon his work so far, including VORTEX, which will be on extended run at BFI Southbank when it is released in cinemas UK-wide on 13 May. IRREVERSIBLE (2002) is built around Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci, trading on their popularity and charisma as a real-life couple to make their violent descent even more assaulting. In 2019, Noé returned to the film to tell the story in chronological order; IRREVERSIBLE: THE STRAIGHT CUT (2002) goes beyond a linear reassembling of the narrative.

Contextual events during the NEW FRENCH EXTREMITY season will including opening event SEX AND DEATH, BUT MAKE IT ARTHOUSE, a richly illustrated talk on 3 May that will introduce the key titles, filmmakers and thematic preoccupations of this distinct film movement. There will also be an online panel discussion – HORROR À LA FRANÇAISE – available for free on BFI YouTube from 11-31 May. As part of the season a four-session course running every Tuesday – CITY LIT AT THE BFI: NEW FRENCH EXTREMITY – will consider the historical, cultural, social and political context for this phenomenon and seek to examine a number of these films in detail. There will also be a NEW FRENCH EXTREMITY collection on BFI Player, available concurrently with the BFI Southbank season.

The closest thing to a comedy to be found in this programme, MAN BITES DOG (Rémy Belvaux/André Bonzel/Benoît Poelvoorde, 1992) is a Belgian mockumentary that follows a crudely charismatic serial killer who is delighted to be the subject of a documentary that will cover his thoughts on the ‘craft of murder’ and classical music. In the exceptionally creepy Belgian horror THE ORDEAL (Fabrice du Welz, 2004), a traveling entertainer becomes stranded in a remote mountain town and is taken in by an affable local, who nurtures a dangerous obsession. Without any women or music, Fabrice du Welz deliberately avoids horror clichés to make something truly strange.

Source/images: BFI