Harvard Film Archives Welcomes François Ozon on October 2, with Screening of Controversial New Film

Wednesday October 9, 2019

The Harvard Film Archives celebrates the career of out, iconoclastic French director François Ozon this month and next with screenings of four of his films, including an appearance by Ozon at a sneak preview of his controversial, award-winning "By the Grace of God" on Monday, October 21.

A luminary and frequently controversial figure of the French cinema since the 1990s, Ozon has continued to surprise and delight with his ever-stylish, daring and genre-defying films.

Ozon first made a name for himself as an auteur with a series of audacious and darkly exuberant works that included "See the Sea" (1998), "Sitcom" (1999), "Water Drops on Burning Rocks" (2000) and "8 Women" (2002), energetic and intelligent films which channeled and reinvented traditions of the thriller, kitchen-sink melodrama and the musical while also paying direct homage to one of Ozon's acknowledged idols, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. During the same period, Ozon also explored a subtler, at times more melancholic mode of art cinema with now-classic films such as "Under the Sand" and "Swimming Pool," understated psychological studies starring the enigmatic icon of disquieting art cinema, Charlotte Rampling. In 2016, Ozon turned in a new direction with a lush period film, "Frantz," a lyrical drama of war and forgiveness set in the aftermath of World War I.

Ozon continues to be remarkably prolific and unpredictable, but perhaps never more so than with his latest film, "By the Grace of God," a sobering response to the sexual abuse scandal now shaking the Catholic Church in France and centered on the still-ongoing trial of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who covered up knowledge of the serial assault of young boys during his all too long tenure. Winner of the coveted Silver Bear at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival, "By the Grace of God" reveals yet another side of Ozon's cinema, charged with an urgent anger and sense of injustice and dedicated to a methodical and compassionate retelling of a dark, traumatic story from the point of view of the now-adult victims.

The Harvard Film Archive is thrilled to welcome François Ozon for a sneak preview screening of "By the Grace of God," presented as part of our monthly Cinema of Resistance series. Accompanying the film are three earlier works offered as a showcase of the restraint, lyricism and political charge that are less acknowledged as facets of Ozon's vital and polymath cinema.

The schedule is as follows:

"Swimming Pool"
Saturday October 19 at 7pm

With his archly stylish and self-conscious thriller, Ozon made clear his playful dedication to a postmodern variant of auteurist cinema by taking the title, sundrenched setting and uneasy eroticism from Jacques Deray's eponymous, now-classic 1969 film to create an uncanny almost-doppelgänger feature placed in deliberate quotes by the figure of Charlotte Rampling as a popular but frustrated British crime novelist come to France to try and write in a different vein. What Rampling encounters in her promised Provence idyll is, of course, not what she expected, but instead what the knowing viewer not so secretly hoped for: a sex thriller murder mystery announced by the sudden arrival of the brooding nymphet daughter of Rampling's publisher, who immediately sets into play a slow-motion and ambiguous rivalry with the older woman. As the mysterious daughter, Ozon regular Ludivine Sagnier injects a searching energy into the story as she gradually challenges Rampling to unleash her inhibitions, promising to reveal dark secrets of a buried crime that appeal to the writer's cherished demons and the viewer's darkest curiosity.

Directed by François Ozon. With Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Charles Dance. France/UK 2003, 35mm, color, 102 min. English and French with English subtitles

"By the Grace of God" ("Grâce à Dieu")
with François Ozon in Person

Monday October 21 at 7pm

Outraged by the still-unresolved sex crimes committed by prominent members of the French Catholic Church, Ozon first considered making a documentary before realizing he was better suited to craft a compelling multithreaded narrative that could do justice, in every sense of the term, to the point of view and life experience of long-suffering victims of sexual abuse. Telling the story of three men looking back, reluctantly but with real purpose, "By the Grace of God" constructs a riveting study of injustice, community and faith that looks closely at the rippling effects of sexual abuse upon families, loved ones and the victims themselves, who have struggled against the shame and guilt and confusion inflicted upon them during their most vulnerable years. Ozon uses all of his consummate skills to deliver a powerful indictment of rigid and criminally indifferent Church hierarchy while also showing admirable restraint in depicting the crimes committed in ways that ennoble, yet in no way soften, the still heart-wrenching suffering being felt to this day.

Directed by François Ozon. With Melvil Poupaud, Denis Ménochet, Swann Arlaud. France/Belgium 2019, DCP, color, 137 min. French with English subtitles

"Under the Sand" ("Sous le sable")
Friday November 15 at 7pm

Still Ozon's finest film, "Under the Sand" channels the spirit of Virginia Woolf to enter fully into the mind-space of a woman locked in a slow spiral of grief, mourning her husband whose unexplained disappearance she still does not believe. Charlotte Rampling uses the subtlest gestures to achingly capture the ritualistic denial of death later described so poignantly by Joan Didion, with a glazed far-away look and muted anguish that her friends and family try to ignore and, inevitably, to cure. Under the Sand is a masterful psychological study of grief but also an extraordinary tone poem.

Directed by François Ozon. With Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Jacques Nolot
France/Japan 2001, 35mm, color, 92 min. French and English with English subtitles

Friday November 15 at 9pm

Ozon's sensitive adaptation of Maurice Rostand's pacifist play "The Man I Killed" reveals the rarely acknowledged political voice of his cinema, offering a poignant meditation on war and regret just as Europe, and the US, were threatened by rising nativist and nationalist urges that today feel uncannily familiar. Yet Ozon also injects a subtle psychosexual charge and a melancholy into his retelling of the story of a French WWI veteran trying to find peace with his actions as a soldier while hinting at a repressed double identity.

Directed by François Ozon. With Pierre Niney, Paula Beer, Ernst Stötzner, France/Germany 2017, DCP, color & b/w, 113 min. French and German with English subtitles

General Admission Tickets $9, $7 Non-Harvard Students, Seniors, Harvard Faculty and Staff. Harvard students free.

Special event tickets (for in-person appearances) are $12.
Tickets go on sale 45 minutes prior to show time. The HFA does not do advance ticket sales.

The Harvard Film Archive is located at 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA. For more information, visit the Harvard Film Archive website.

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