FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL
The 31st Alliance Française Film Festival commences in Sydney on 10 March and in Melbourne the following night and runs through to 8 April, with other capital cities and regional centres more or less in tandem (check the website for specific details in your area). It “will once again be a great success,” predicts the French Ambassador to Australia, Christophe Penot, and if the huge audiences of last year’s Festival are repeated, he’ll be correct. Sadly, it is the final year for Artistic Director Philippe Platel, the Cultural Attaché of the French Embassy, who is leaving after four years at the helm and whose movie selections have been largely responsible for the increase in attendances during that time.
The Festival opens with Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s The Extraordinary, based on the incredible real-life story of two men who work with disadvantaged youth, one a Jew, Bruno, who runs a home for autistic kids and the other a Moslem, Malik, who trains underprivileged students to be carers for people with autism. The closing night film of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, it is described as an uplifting experience that delivers important lessons about connection, dignity and equality, and it stars Vincent Cassel and Reda Kateb. Closing the Festival is Erwan Le Duc’s The Bare Necessity, a romantic comedy about a family forced to re-assess everything they have taken for granted when an enigmatic stranger enters their lives. The director’s debut feature, this quirky view of French provincial life stars the wonderful Fanny Ardant.
There are lots of enticing titles to choose from among the many dramas, comedies and thrillers on offer, including Nicolas Bedos’ La Belle Époque, a whimsically romantic comedy/drama about a man (Daniel Auteuil) transported back to the 1970s, to the week when he first met the love of his life. Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables (not to be confused with with Victor Hugo’s classic novel), follows a cop during his first week in a special police unit covering the street riots of 2005, which commenced in the outer suburbs before spreading through Paris and beyond. A couple of made-for-TV series also feature in the Festival this year. Not to be missed is Savages, a six-episode series showing in two sessions, which premiered in the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival’s influential ‘Primetime’ programme. A political thriller, it is described as an “edge-of-your-seat plunge into the heart of power and identity in contemporary France.”
A special collection of four films featuring Catherine Deneuve is on show, including the Australian premiere of André Téchiné’s latest movie, Farewell To The Night, in which a woman is confronted with the radicalisation of her grandson, who plans to fight for ISIS. There is also a screening of the first film Deneuve and Téchiné worked on together, his 1981 psychological drama Hotel America. Cédric Kahn’s Happy Birthday sees Deneuve as the matriarch of a family that explodes into emotional turmoil when they gather to celebrate her 70th birthday. Finally, a restored print of the 1970 fantasy musical Donkey Skin, directed by the legendary Jacques Demy, will be a highlight of the Festival. It was a huge hit in France when it was first released 50 years ago and it continues to be much-loved by cinephiles today.
There are also a handful of fascinating documentaries in the Festival, all focussing on heroes of different kinds: one looks at the remarkable life of Charles Aznavour, singer, actor and political activist, Aznavour By Charles; another examines the life of French fashion icon Pierre Cardin in House Of Cardin; and a third, How To Become An Astronaut, follows Thomas Pesquet as he undergoes the gruelling preparation required to spend 180 days on the International Space Station.
With over 40 features from such a variety of diverse genres to choose from, it is time to go on-line and discover the titles that you want to see and make plans for your Festival-viewing over the next four weeks. Bonne visualisation!
THE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL HAS BEEN POSTPONED.
DUE TO COVID-19 - PALACE HAVE CLOSED THEIR CINEMAS AROUND AUSTRALIA UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE...