FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL
The 33rd Alliance Française French Film Festival opens in Sydney on Tuesday 1 March and runs until early April, with other states more or less in tandem (see the website for dates in your city). Once again, it promises the best of recent French cinema with a program of 42 features, including 26 Australian premieres and five world premieres. In other words, it is bound to deliver something for everyone. Prior to the media preview of the not-to-be-missed opening night film, Lost Illusions (Illusions Perdues), Artistic Director Karine Mauris delivered a comprehensive overview of what to expect and her exuberance was refreshingly optimistic after the challenges faced by the festival in the previous two years.
Many of the films come from established directors but there are also five titles from directors making their debuts. Well-known names include Jacques Audiard, François Ozon, Patrice Leconte, Cédric Klapisch, Céline Sciamma and Claire Denis, among others. Great actors are here, naturally: stars like Gérard Depardieu, Juliette Binoche, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Daniel Auteuil, Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardant, Cécile de France and Vincent Lindon. The list goes on and on. The selection of movies covers a host of different genres, too, and you’ll find comedies, thrillers, family films, sci-fi, romances, historical dramas, animation and crime stories in the program.
With such a wealth of talent on show, it’s hard to single out highlights, but Lost Illusions must be one of them. This sumptuous film feels thoroughly modern, despite the fact that it comes from a novel by Honoré de Balzac written between 1837 and 1843, because its subject is journalism and how truth and lies are used as commodities by certain press barons and their employees. It’s a delight, directed by Xavier Giannoli. François Ozon’s latest work, Everything Went Fine (Tout S'Est Bien Passé) features veteran actor André Dussollier as a man who has suffered a debilitating stroke asking his daughter, played by Sophie Marceau, to help him end his life. It premiered in Cannes last year. A must-see is Gérard Depardieu as George Simenon’s famous French detective Maigret in Patrice Leconte’s film of the same name; it will make an interesting comparison with OSS 117: From Africa with Love (OSS 117: Alerte Rouge en Afrique Noire), a satire starring Oscar-winning actor Jean Dujardin as a bumbling spy sent to help an African leader get re-elected. Claire Denis’ Fire (Avec Amour et Acharnement) will be worth the price of admission just to see two great stars on screen together for the first time: Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon. Kompromat promises to be exciting because it’s based on the true story of a French public servant working for the Alliance Française in Siberia who fell foul of the Russian intelligence service and was framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Gilles Lellouche plays the hapless civil servant.
This is just a taste of some of the festival’s delights, so head to the website to see the entire program. Once again, thanks to the Alliance Française French Film Festival, we are able to travel to France and French-speaking territories through the medium of film. How lucky we are. Bonne séance!