Film Review: The Graduation (Le Concours)

The Graduation

The Graduation (Le Concours) is a fly-on-the-wall documentary that pays off, despite a slow start.

Le Femis in Paris is one of the top film schools. Every year, numerous candidates compete for limited places at the highly selective school. Each of the prospective students need to go a rigorous selection process…

Filmmaker Claire Simon goes behind the scenes at Le Femis in Paris, capturing their selection process in The Graduation (Le Concours). The film follows the various stages of selecting new students, from the initial exams, to the practical tasks and the oral examination. Simon has been granted to the school, documenting each stage, and the assessors’ discussion of candidates.

The Graduation begins rather slowly, as students are filmed taking the entrance exam. The film does not immediately hook viewers; it is not clear how the film is going to be interesting in the first twenty minutes or so. Nevertheless, it defies these early expectations. The turning point appears during the examiners’ room footage. It is clear from this segment that there is a sufficient contretemps to make for an interesting film.

There are some great scenes in The Graduation. In particular, there are some very funny bits in the script development interviews. Also, those who have seen Weiner-Dog will find the interviewee who struggled to name a film particularly amusing. As the film progresses to the oral examination, viewers will likely be invested in the outcome of the selection process. This section of the documentary gives an insight into the background of some of the candidates, as well as the rumination of the assessors. Simon rewards her audience in the last five minutes by showing some of the successful candidates. Most viewers will have formed an opinion on the candidates, therefore it is interesting to see how closely this aligns with the examiners.

The Graduation is most rewarding for those who commit to it. Highly recommended for film school graduates in particular.

The Graduation (Le Concours) is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.

Film Review: Weiner-Dog

Weiner-Dog

Todd Solondz Wiener-Dog is an immensely entertaining black comedy. Some segments of the film charm more than others, but overall the film is very enjoyable viewing.

A dachshund passes from various owners, each with their own idiosyncrasies. The little dog impacts their lives, as he is passed from a family to a veterinary nurse, from an odd couple to a screenwriter…

Writer-director Todd Solondz delivers another black comedy which swiftly veers from humour to tragedy. Weiner-Dog works so well because Solondz captures his characters succinctly and successful. Each of the vignettes is distinctive, yet features the same brand of black comedy.

Weiner-Dog is divided into a series of short stories, each featuring the same cute dog. Some of these vignettes are more memorable than others. The film starts strong with a young boy getting his dog, despite the reluctance of his mother. This sequence sets up the tone of the film effectively. Solondz paints his film with some bleak ideas. It is the humour surrounding the darkness which makes the film enjoyable. There are some serious themes throughout the film, yet the light touch approach makes these palatable.

The veterinary nurse sequence is as sweet as it is odd. The vignette with the script writer at film school will prove most amusing for those who have experienced similar situations to those portrayed. The penultimate scene will satisfy only those with the darkest of humour. The prolonged duration will feel unnecessary for other viewers. There are some glorious shots in Weiner-Dog, not least the slow-motion interlude in the first segment. The intermission is charming in its silliness.

The ensemble cast of the film do a good job of inhabiting their characters. Kieran Culkin and Greta Gerwig work well together in their story. Julie Delpy is suitably priggish in the opening segment, a good contrast to joy of Keaton Nigel Cooke. Danny DeVito’s weariness perfectly suits his character.

The humour of Weiner-Dog will not thrill everyone, but it is wonderful fun for those who like their comedy black.