The first half of the spring 2020 season of Murray State's Cinema International features women-led and created French films. Cinema International director, Dr. Thérèse St. Paul and history professor, Dr. Eleanor Rivera, visit Sounds Good to discuss this week's screening and preview the rest of the season.
The season kicks off with The Return of the Hero, a 2018 French film directed by Laurent Tirard. "It's a period piece taking place during Napoleonic times in 1809 up to 1812," St. Paul explains. "It's a comedy...focused on a captain who disappears to go off to war. [He] does not write and disappears...leaving his young wife with no news for several years."
"From there, there's this whole story about women leading the show. Her [the young wife]'s sister decides to write letters in the name of the famous captain because her sister is really depressed. Of course, hell breaks loose when the famous captain comes back. [The movie stars] famous academy award winner, Jean Dujardin [The Artist]. There's a lot to this film. There's a lot to learn and discuss because, first of all, we hear about Napoleonic times. We also see that society is geared in certain ways. There's a myth about Napoleon and the whole ethos. There's a lot to discuss, which we will after the movie," St. Paul says.
Return of the Hero is set following Napoleon Bonaparte's rise to power through a coup in 1799. "At that point, France had been in revolution for a decade," Rivera explains. "By the time we get to the period in which this movie is set, he's consolidated his power into an empire. He's declared himself Emperor, there are French armies fighting all over Europe, they've annexed territory in Spain and Germany and Belgium and the Netherlands. Napoleon sets about stabilizing the country, and part of that is by relying on officers who've risen in the ranks of armies in the past twenty years."
"Like this captain who comes back," Rivera continues, "being an officer in the Napoleonic army is a way to have social mobility, to give yourself new status. Napoleon sees it as a way to ensure a strong social framework for society. Not the old aristocracy and the kings, not peasants or the working class, but this new group of officers who have experience fighting in wars." The French state began drafting soldiers in 1793, "two years into their war with the rest of Europe," Rivera says. "If you're smart, if you follow directions, if you're good at politics, if you could stay alive - which most people couldn't - you could move through the ranks with really no other qualifications...which I think this movie gets at."
The next Cinema International film will be Madame Hyde (2017), directed by Serge Bozon. Madame Hyde follows the story of Mrs. Géquil, a physics teacher who adopts a new personality following a lightning-related accident. "It's focusing on a woman, a teacher...but it also provides the film writers and opportunity to really show what's wrong with the French school system - the issues with the French nation at the moment. [The movie] also shows his strong belief in the power of education," St. Paul says.
Following Madame Hyde will be 2017 Ismael's Ghost, directed by Arnaud Desplechin. Ismael's Ghost uses layered narratives to create a "film within a film," St. Paul explains. "It's very psychologically moving."
Return of the Hero will be presented on Thursday, January 23rd, and Saturday, January 25th, at 7:30 p.m. in the Curris Center Theater. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information on the rest of the Cinema International season or Return of the Hero, visit Murray State's website. For information on how to make a donation to the Cinema International program, contact Lucy Love (email@example.com) in the Office of Development. Online donation information can be found on Cinema International's website.