Most cruel contrast

L’Enfant d’en Haut (Sister)

Ursula Meier, 2012

Twelve-year-old Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) lives in a grim industrial Swiss valley with his flighty older sister Louise (Léa Seydoux), who can’t hold onto a job. Struggling with poverty, the siblings survive thanks to Simon’s prowess as a thief: Every day in winter, the young boy takes the cable car up from his drab valley to the sunny white-powder world of a wealthy ski resort and steals expensive equipment that he can later sell, and even sandwiches to take home for dinner. But while his activity begins to attract attention, Simon also grows incredibly jealous of the attention Louise pays to other men. Reminiscent of works by the Dardenne brothers, this second film by Franco-Swiss director Ursula Meier (Home) explores with subtlety the powerful relationship between its two main characters, remarkably well played by the two young actors. And an unexpected twist gives the film a new and fascinating dimension. After winning a Silver Bear at last year’s Berlin film festival, it is Switzerland’s Oscar candidate for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film award. Tied for Sixth Le Grand Elan (They Met on Skis), Christian-Jaque, 1940 Un Homme, un Vrai (A Man, a Real One), Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu, 2003 Snowboarder Olias Barco, 2003 La Première Etoile (Meet the Elisabethz), Lucien Jean-Baptiste, 2009 Trailers of most of these

 

Most hilarious

Les Bronzés Font du Ski

Patrice Leconte, 1979

A year after the initial success of Les Bronzés, the troupe of actors and comedians from the Paris café-theater Le Splendid (which counted among its ranks budding stars Thierry Lhermitte, Gérard Jugnot, Josiane Balasko and Christian Clavier) was back on track for this new—and far better—comedy, a laugh fest unlike any other made in France. Les Bronzés (literally, the sun-tanned ones) recounted the antics of vacationers who meet at a Club Med on an African beach; this second adventure follows them up to the slopes of Val d’Isère for a ski trip that relentlessly goes wrong. It’s packed with cult lines and memorable scenes, including an encounter with horny Italians in a remote cabin and Michel Blanc’s repeated failure to “conclude” as he desperately pursues les femmes. It all builds up to a rescue by mountain peasants who ply the hopelessly hapless band of bronzés with a local eau-de-vie flavored with toad. It’s a beloved classic in France, and its fans never tire of watching it again and again.

 

Most surprising

La Femme de Mon Pote (My Best Friend’s Girl)

Bertrand Blier, 1983

Thierry Lhermitte is back on the slopes as Pascal, a sexy winter-clothing shop owner in Courchevel. An ex-jock and very successful with women, he falls for the pretty Viviane (Isabelle Huppert) and introduces her to his best pal, the solitary and not-so-handsome Micky (the comedian Coluche). Micky too is charmed by the free-spirited beauty, causing him troubles with his conscience as a love triangle begins under the wooden roof of their lodge. Generally presented as a comedy, the movie nonetheless hits a bittersweet note, enhanced by its moving final scene. Directed by Bertrand Blier, the film is also wellserved by catchy dialogue and fine acting, including a surprising and wonderful Coluche, who snatched a César award a year later for his role in Tchao Pantin.

 

Most sentimental

Les Marmottes (The Groundhogs)

Elie Chouraqui, 1993

Inspired by the films of Claude Lelouch, Les Marmottes brings together several generations of actors as members of a family reunited for a winter vacation. The senior member of the tribe, Léo (Daniel Gélin), hosts his Parisian guests for Christmas in his superb chalet at Chamonix. But tensions soon arise as old secrets are revealed, long-lasting relationships begin to fray and new loves emerge. Gérard Lanvin is perfect as the gloomy husband, and so are Jean-Hugues Anglade as a hysterical son, Jacqueline Bisset as the family femme fatale, and Virginie Ledoyen and Christopher Thompson— then newcomers—as teen sweethearts. The only negatives are somewhat weak direction and several unnecessary subplots.

 

Most disturbing

La Classe de Neige (Class Trip)

Claude Miller, 1998

With a screenplay adapted by author Emmanuel Carrère from his own much-praised novel, this stunning work by Claude Miller delves into the troubled mind of a boy poisoned by gloomy thoughts and scary dreams. Overprotected by his father, pale young Nicolas (Clément van den Bergh) is lonely and taciturn, seeming to connect only with his friend Hodkann (Lokman Nalcakan) and his teacher, Mademoiselle Grimm (Emmanuelle Bercot). When his class goes on a ski trip, his nightmares turn to morbid visions, and the frontier between reality and phantasm soon fades. But the worst is yet to come, as the class trip is clouded with sordid events and disturbing revelations. Awarded the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this psychological drama is more frightening than most horror films. And it remains a rare treat by great director Claude Miller, who died last year.

 

 

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