The name of Alexander Ostrovsky may not be as well known in the west as Anton Chekhov’s, but he was far more prolific a playwright, and many of his works are the backbone of his country’s theatrical tradition. The Comédie Française incorporated The Forest, his 1871 comic drama (we would now call it Chekhovian, but Ostrovsky died when Chekhov was just getting started) about the familial intrigues between a scheming middle-aged woman, her marriageable niece, and an itinerant nephew who returns from self-imposed family exile, into its repertoire in 2003. Arnaud Desplechin’s version, created for Arte’s “Theatre” series, prunes the production down to a trim 82 minutes. The Forest is both a vibrantly spontaneous and brutally funny family drama, and a glorious tribute to acting and theater—in other words, an Arnaud Desplechin film. With Michel Vuillermoz and Denis Podalydès as the nephew and his friend, Adeline D’Hermy as the niece, and Martine Chevallier in a stunning performance as the sublimely selfish aunt Raissa.
Claire Denis | France | 2014 | DCP | 30m
French with English subtitles
Claire Denis’s formidable new short film, shot during her time as a visiting professor at Le Fresnoy, is cinema at its most fundamental: a man and a woman seen only within the charged space of their own coupling. Longtime Denis collaborator Alex Descas and theater actress Norah Krief are the mixed-race couple who come together and then violently apart. The text is by the novelist and playwright Christine Angot, the images shot by Denis’s creative partner Agnès Godard.