Footnotes [Sue quell pied danser]

(France 2016)

The second film of a holiday double feature date, Footnotes [Sue quell pied danser], is a cute little Marxist musical about the trials and tribulations of the working class in rural France. The story follows millennial Julie (Pauline Etienne), who snags a job at a factory for a high end shoe designer, Jacques Couture. The job has potential to become permanent, which sounds good to her — she was “downsized” from her job at a shoe store before that, and it took awhile to find another one.

Unbeknownst to Julie — or anyone else in the factory for that matter — the company’s ruthlessly corporate CEO, Xavier (Loïc Corbery), plans to move production to China because it’s cheaper. The factory manager, Félicien (François Morel), is trying to dissuade him. The gals on the production line read about it in the paper, though, and plan a strike. In her first week on the job, Julie finds herself pushed to pick sides, which gets in the way of her budding romance with charming and strapping delivery driver Samy (Olivier Chantreau).

More London Road ( than La La Land (, Footnotes is pleasant and entertaining even if it doesn’t quite take off. Cowriters-directors Paul Calori and Kostia Testut keep it light, obviously borrowing from classic Hollywood musicals of the ’40s and ’50s. The songs are about crappy jobs, taking pride in one’s work, making ends meet, organizing into collective bargaining unit, and striving for a better life. The lyrics are fun, but the samba-flavored tunes are otherwise bland and forgettable. So is the choreography, which except for one scene (it involves bright Kinky Boots red shoes) is clumsy and lackluster.

Come to think of it, so are the sets. As would be expected, much of the action takes place in big industrial spaces. Nothing is done to emphasize anything about them; they stay in the background. It’s a huge contrast to a movie like Office (, which went over the top highlighting the size and scope and efficiency of the office building where it took place, and even had at its center a huge clock as if to say “time is money.” Nothing like that here. Frustratingly, the decision Julie makes at the end totally throws off what the story gets at and seems to build toward the entire time.

I wanted to love Footnotes. I didn’t. A little more pizzazz would’ve been a huge improvement.

With Julie Victor, Clémentine Yelnik, Vladimir Granov, Laure Crochet-Sernieclaes, Elodie Escarmelle, Nuch Grenet, Eve Hanus, Valérie Layani, Valérie Masset, Michèle Prélonge, Sophie Tabakov, Yasmine Youcef, Jazmin Londoño Castañeda, Paul Laffont

Production: Loin Derrière L’Oural, France 3 Cinéma, Région Rhône-Alpes, La Banque Postale Image 9

Distribution: Rézo Films (France), Monument Releasing (USA / Canada), Longride (Japan)

85 minutes
Not rated

(Gene Siskel Film Center) C

Saturday Church

(USA 2017)

Ulysses (Luka Kain) is a quiet, delicate teen who lives in Queens and is just starting to figure out his sexual identity — it involves wearing panty hose under his jeans. When his father dies, he becomes the “man of the house.” Unfortunately, his mother (Margot Bingham), who works all the time, is already on edge because she caught him wearing her clothes. Ulysses shares a bedroom with his younger brother, Abe (Jaylin Fletcher), who knows that he’s still rummaging through mom’s closet on the sly and gives him shit for it. School is no respite because Ulysses’s classmates are jerks.

Enter stern Aunt Rose (Regina Taylor) to help at home while mom is away at work. She takes charge, usurping Ulysses and his mother as the master of the domain. She’s not about to have a dress-wearing freak around, so she pushes Ulysses toward the one cure she knows: the Lord.

Ulysses escapes to the Christopher Street Pier, where he meets a gang of “drag queens”: Ebony (MJ Rodriguez), Dijon (Indya Moore), and Heaven (Alexia Garcia). They take him to “Saturday Church,” a space in Greenwich Village where one night a week trans mother hen Joan (Kate Bornstein) offers a meal, a shower, clothes, perhaps a spot to vogue, and companionship to homeless LGBTQ kids. This is where Ulysses finds his groove.

Too bad mean Aunt Rose is waiting for him to come home.

Damon Cardasis’s first feature length film is a winning mix of Moonlight ( ), La La Land ( ), and Tangerine ( ) with just the right splash of Paris is Burning ( ). Saturday Church has some shortcomings, but the film oozes so much charm and warmth that I found it easy to forgive its flaws. Some of the songs and dance numbers are better than others — the song in the locker room and the other with Ulysses singing to his new boyfriend (Marquis Rodriguez) as they walk to the train stand out, especially when flower petals start falling. It’s really cool.

The acting is really good all around, but Kain is particularly awesome. He gives palpable tenderness and vulnerability to his character. The so called “drag queens” are not just fierce but downright touching. The way they save Ulysses is sweet. They make you long for a friend who has your back like they do. The story here totally sold me. I look forward to what’s next from Cardasis.

With Stephen Conrad Moore, Peter Y. Kim, Evander Duck Jr.

Production: Spring Pictures, Round Films

Distribution: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Screening introduced and followed by a live Q and A with Damen Cardasis

82 minutes
Not rated

(Directors Guild of America) B-

Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival

La La Land

(USA 2016)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, the opening night presentation for the Chicago International Film Festival. I like its stars—Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are great in just about everything they’re in; in fact, they both have the rare ability to elevate even superb material. I adore Los Angeles, too. I figured at worst, I’d have some decent eye candy and some lovely scenery to take in.

Thankfully, La La Land is far better than the worst case scenario I imagined: it’s glossy, colorful, and pretty, even if it’s not Moulin Rouge. It starts out strong with a vibrant dance number that takes place in a traffic jam on a freeway, probably the 101. The scene reminds me of a more exuberant version of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” video. Attention grabbed! This is where our heroes meet, one flipping the bird at the other.

We soon learn that both Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling) are trying to make it, she as an actress and he as a jazz pianist. She puts herself out there; he doesn’t. They cross paths over the course of nearly a year, flirting and pulling back then flirting some more. Some of their interactions are hilarious, like Sebastian’s stint in an ’80s cover band playing at a party that Mia happens to attend. They finally click; it’s exciting to watch them come together. They have a real chemistry. They also have dreams and goals that require sacrifice. Sadly, nothing is what it’s built up be—neither dreams coming true, fame, nor love. At its heart, La La Land is a relationship film, and a tragically decent one at that.

Undeniably well-done, La La Land definitely has a certain magic to it. Linus Sandgren’s cinematography is gorgeously eye popping; of all the films I’ve seen that came out this year, it’s second only to Hell or High Water. Some songs are better than others, but the acting all around makes up for it. John Legend has a role that turns out to be more than a cameo, and he’s actually pretty good. Essentially a love letter to Los Angeles, there’s no shortage of romantic moments here, not the least of which takes place floating midair under the stars at Griffith Observatory after closing time. Or in a movie theater for Mia and Sebastian’s first kiss.

The story is an emotional roller coaster that pulled me along through its ups and downs. The final scene got to me in a way that no film has in awhile—it actually fucking hurt. So in that sense, La La Land surely stands on its own. I question how memorable it will ultimately prove to be, though. I can’t put my finger on exactly what, but it lacks that extra element that would make it a truly great film. Perhaps its story is conventional, or perhaps its execution is too restrained and not over the top enough. I don’t know. As much as I enjoyed it, I can think of other movies the actors have done that are better. Time will tell where this one lands, but for now it’s worth the investment to see it.

128 minutes
Rated PG-13

(AMC River East) B

Chicago International Film Festival