“La Tête Haute” in Kildare


Deirdre Lane went along to to her local cultural centre in Newbridge to check out a highly-regarded French film, as well as some of the reaction of the audience

Cannes French festival opening film “La Tête Haute” (Standing Tall) appeared in Dublin as part of the annual Irish Film Institute (IFI) French Film Festival then premiered regionally in Riverbank Newbridge – or PontNeuf as we now say in la région.

Access Cinema‘s Maeve Cooke was welcomed to PontNeuf in French at our Riverbank Theatre, host to one of the Europa cinemas. The Irish Arts Council celebrates diversity of European films and brings culture to life in the sticks. Once the only culture found in PontNeuf cinema houses was the kind that stuck your feet to the grime layered carpets. Vive la différence !

Emmanuelle Bercot, the film director, niece to a counsellor of a juvenile detention camp conveyed the unfortunate journey of a toddle to prisoner and his all-too-frequent sessions with the law. The still beautiful Catherine Deneuve , cast as juvenile judge, extended a level-headed path to Malony (Rod Paradot) through his childhood to his one way joyriding journey to jail. Despite his ill-equipped junkie mother, and absent father, Malony erred and was at odds with his label of ill gotten trouble maker. His blatant disregard for authority and their threats and instruction yet non malicious activities was portrayed in a “ToldYouSo” yet caring manner.

The harsh sounds of stapling, whirling of a printer and clatter from a maze of prison gates behind Malony and echoes of screams are some thrilling aspects woven through the film.Captivating shots of the shackled teenager, marched down a dark tunnel dwarfed by a statuesque uniformed officer conveyed the severity of the impending incarceration. Gone the softness, yet solemn, leniency handed over by one Catherine Denuve, coming of day ceremonies in the french mountains to a harsh tearful lockup at near adulthood

This glimpse into the French correction system was thoughtful and realistically set: The grime on the doors, the palatable tension. boy-to-man metamorphosis, challenges to the authorities,interracial bullying, volatile testosterone and nudity – well it is a French film – and explosive music. Music from Die Antwoord (Cape Towns’ RapRave act) frantically pulsates as Malony’s meltdown and anger flay across the village dance floor.

The dichotomy of critics in PontNeuf post event was so gender biased. PontNeuf men loved the system’s successful detention and rules; hard teamwork being proven, even if for just one subject. Non-chemical, more human focused corrective methods were welcomed. “It was hard work to watch or connect with” interjected one lady. The women alas saddened by the tragic family circumstances unfolding on screen. It certainly built an appetite for the next French film. “Best film ever shown in Riverbank” according to one chap.

For me, it was a thrill to see France on the big screen and marvel at its forests. Personally, countryside images could be sharper but Malony did not value nature’s freedom and that’s exactly what Bercot expertly portrayed too.

Troubled teenager Malony (Rod Paradot) has been in and out of detention facilities, counselling centres, and even prison, since the age of six, despite the tireless efforts of his social worker (Benoît Magimel) and the juvenile judge assigned to his case (Catherine Deneuve). Director Emmanuelle Bercot (On My Way, 2013), inspired by her childhood visits to a juvenile detention camp where her uncle worked as a counsellor, creates with dramatic detail and dialogue, a sympathetic yet honest portrait of a young man living on the margins of society.

Director’s Note: Standing Tall pays tribute to the heroic struggles of those in the justice system who work to reintegrate troubled youths.

Directed by: Emmanuelle Bercot
Running Time: 119 minutes
Country: France
Year: 2015

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