Running from late February until mid-April at Palace Cinemas across the land, the 29th annual Alliance Française French Film Festival is serving up a veritable degustation of sweet Gallic screen treats, including 47 features, 2 documentaries and a cheeky Parisian TV series.
Launching the 2018 festival is C’est la vie! (Le sens de la fête), a new comedy from Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, the famed directorial team behind the 2011 global hit, The Intouchables. Jean-Pierre Bacri stars as Max, a famed, but cantankerous caterer and event organiser, tasked with creating a fairytale wedding at a sumptuous 17th century château. Saddled with a hopelessly inept assortment of staff, his pragmatic mantra, “We need to adapt,” will be truly tested, as his meticulously planned event threatens to descend into comic farce.
Closing out the season is 50 Is the New 30 (Marie-Francine), an endearing rom-com that sees Valérie Lemercier (Royal Palace!, The Visitors) enchants as Marie-Francine, a 50 year-old abandoned by her husband for a younger woman in the same week that she loses her job, who reluctantly returns to live with her kind, but over-bearing parents.
Other highlights this year include:
13 year-old Ava learns that her impending blindness is accelerating. Defiantly, she embraces her other senses and explores her burgeoning sensuality, leading her on adventures she would never have dared before her prognosis. Nominated for the Critics’ Week Grand Prize at the 217 Cannes Film Festival.
Back to Burgundy (Ce qui nous lie)
Learning of his father’s imminent death, Jean returns to his family’s vineyard where over the course of a year, he and his siblings put aside their lingering resentments and strive to maintain their father’s legacy against all expectations.
An actress, cast to play the title role in a film based on the life of Barbara, a famed chanteuse, is driven on an uncompromising search to discover the singer’s very essence by the biopic’s director, himself obsessed with the elusive subject.
Bloody Milk (Petit paysan)
Director: Hubert Charuel Cast: Swann Arlaud, Sara Giraudeau & Isabelle Candelier
When lonesome dairy farmer, Pierre, learns that a deadly virus has infected one of his much-loved herd, he attempts to hide the outbreak from the authorities, vowing to save them…even if it means resorting to drastic and irreversible measures. Winner of Best First Feature at the 2017 Philadelphia Film Festival.
BPM (120 battements par minute)
Winner of multiple awards, including the FIPRESCI prize and Grand Prize of the Jury, at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, this searing drama takes place in the early 1990s. A decade into the AIDS epidemic, ACT UP Paris activists increase efforts to fight general indifference. Nathan, a newcomer to the group, has his world shaken-up by Sean, a radical militant, who throws the last of his strength into the struggle.
Custody (Jusqu’à la garde)
Actor turned writer/director Xavier Legrand’s critically acclaimed debut drama – winner of major awards at the recent Venice and Zurich Film Festivals along with the Sebastián and Palm Springs International Film Festivals – is a heart-stopping tale that follows a family’s disintegration following an acrimonious divorce.
Double Lover (L’amant double)
From director François Ozon. Whilst seeking counselling for sexual dysfunction, former model Chloé falls in love with her psychoanalyst, Paul. But as their relationship develops, she is forced to confront not only her deepest buried secrets, but also her darkest, most compelling desires.
Dr. Knock (Knock)
An expert in the art of seductive guile, a former conman, turned GP, arrives in a sleepy 1950s village, intent on making money through bogus diagnoses. All goes well until his own romantic feelings and a figure from the past, threaten his idyllic world.
Guaguin (Gauguin – Voyage de Tahiti)
On self-imposed exile in Tahiti, painter Paul Gauguin (Vincent Cassel) seeks to rediscover his art, as a free man, far removed from the civilized restraints of 1890s Europe, and in doing so discovers the woman who becomes his muse and inspires his greatest paintings.
Golden Years (Nos années folles)
Bridegroom Paul leaves for the front on the eve of WW1. Distressed by battle and eventually injured, he deserts and flees to his bride, Louise, who devises a plan to dress him as a woman, thus allowing him to be seen in public as his feminine, alter ego, ‘Suzanne.’
Ismael’s Ghosts (Les fantômes d’Ismaël)
Starring Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Just prior to shooting his new film, a director’s tranquil life is shattered when his past love, who had mysteriously vanished, re-appears following a lengthy absence during which she had been presumed dead. Nominated for the prestigious Prix Louis-Delluc.
Directors: David Foenkinos & Stéphane Foenkinos Cast: Karin Viard, Dara Tombroff & Anne Dorval
On turning 50, divorced teacher, Nathalie, slowly devolves from a skilled professional and loving mother, into an irritable, narcissistic and jealous monster who detests the happiness and success of those around her…with far-reaching consequences.
Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur)
Direced by Claire Denis and starring Juliette Binoche, Xavier Beauvois, and Gérard Depardieu. Isabelle, a divorced artist residing in Paris searches for love, but finds only callous suitors unworthy of her hot-blooded sensuality and intelligence, leading her to ponder whether her quest for ‘the one’ is in fact actually preventing her from enjoying life. Winner of the SACD Prize for Best Screenplay at Directors’ Fortnight at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
Following the death of his mother, Zino leaves Paris and embarks on a search for his missing father, Farid. But unbeknownst to Zino, Farid transitioned into Lola 25 years earlier – a discovery that challenges their fledgling relationship.
Montparnasse Bienvenue (Jeune femme)
This multi-award winning drama, which counts the Golden Camera Award at Cannes 2017 amongst its many accolades, tells the story of free-spirited Paula who follows her boyfriend to Paris, only to discover that his affection has waned. Casting regrets aside, she throws herself into Parisian life, intent on a fresh start, and subsequently faces the challenge of life as an adult for the first time.
Mr. Stein Goes Online (Un profil pour deux)
With the help of his young friend, Alex, reclusive widower, Pierre, discovers the joys of online dating and falls for the gorgeous Flora. But his profile sports a photo of Alex, so when Flora suggests they that finally meet, he must convince Alex to go in his stead.
Normandy Nude (Normandie nue)
The charming town of Mêle-sur-Sarthe, Normandy, is in economic meltdown. Things seem hopeless until a famous American photographer passing through the village, decides that he’s discovered the perfect backdrop for his next shoot. There’s only one catch…the townsfolk all have to pose naked…!
Number One (Numéro une)
A business executive attempts to smash through the ‘glass ceiling’ and become the first woman to lead a major French company. But what at first seems like an exciting challenge degenerates into all-out gender war.
Orchestra Class (La mélodie)
A talented, yet down-on-his-luck musician, is reduced to teaching a sixth grade orchestra class. When he sees potential in one painfully shy, yet gifted boy, he rashly promises to take his class to perform at the Paris Philharmonic. But will they make it?
Paris Etc. (Special TV Series Presentation)
Amidst the backdrop of Paris, this thoroughly entertaining television series takes a cheeky foray in the daily lives of five Parisian women, experiencing their hopes, dreams, frustrations, friendships and the different ways in which they each seek love. The Festival will be screening the first three 30-minute episodes of season one.
Redoubtable (Le Redoutable)
From the director of The Artist comes a comedy-drama that looks at a period in the life of one of France’s great filmmakers, Jean-Luc Godard. Having just wed his La Chinoise muse, Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin – Nymphomaniac: Volume 1), Godard (Louis Garrel) succumbs to an existential crisis following the film’s reception. His subsequent self-examination compels him to pursue his convictions, at the risk of his marriage and artistic sensibilities.
Reinventing Marvin (Marvin ou la belle éducation)
A young man from a small French town embarks upon a journey to understand his sexuality. Finding allies who encourage him to tell his story on stage, he eventually risks everything to create a show that becomes the path to his reinvention.
Rock ‘n Roll
In this droll comedy, Guillaume Canet, married to real-life partner, Marion Cotillard, leads a happy and fulfilling life. But when a chance remark leads him to feel that he has lost his sex appeal, he embarks upon on an ego trip into the ridiculous.
See You Up There (Au revoir là-haut)
In this compelling, widely acclaimed French box office smash, two survivors of the trenches, a brilliant, but horribly disfigured designer who hides behind elaborate masks, and a humble accountant, embark upon a dangerous, but spectacular scam, selling phony war memorials In 1920s France.
The Guardians (Les gardiennes)
In 1915 France, an elderly matriarch struggles to keep her farm solvent whilst the family men are away at the front. The austere beauty of the surrounding landscape bears witness to both romance and tragedy with the distant war, always painfully present in this critically feted pastoral tale.
The Return of the Hero (Le retour du héros)
Starring Jean Dujardin, Mélanie Laurent, and Noémie Merlant. France 1809: when the dashing Captain Neuville proposes to young Pauline, her sister Elisabeth is unimpressed. But as Pauline fades whilst awaiting news of him from the front, Elisabeth writes her sister bogus letters, reinventing Neuville as a true war hero, when the reality is decidedly different. Then he suddenly reappears…!
The School of Life (L’école buissonnière)
In 1930, young Paul leaves an austere Parisian orphanage to live with Célestine, and her husband Borel, gamekeeper of a vast country estate owned by the elderly Count de la Fresnaye. There, Paul learns about life, the many secrets of the Count’s mysterious forests and that his coming to Sologne was more than just pure chance.
The Workshop (L’atelier)
Antoine takes part in a creative writing workshop run by Olivia, a famous novelist. However, Olivia is both alarmed and captivated by the teenager’s hostility and as the workshop gradually slips out of her control, her interest journeys beyond mere intrigue into a fascination that is both intellectual and, at times, erotic.
The 2018 Alliance Française French Film Festival screen at:
SYDNEY: 27 Feb – 27 March Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona, Chauvel Cinema, Palace Central & Hayden Orpheum Cremorne
MELBOURNE: 28 Feb – 27 March Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth, Kino Cinemas & The Astor Theatre
CANBERRA: 1 – 28 March Palace Electric Cinema
BRISBANE: 8 March – 4 April Palace Barracks & Palace Centro
PERTH: 14 March – 4 April Cinema Paradiso, Luna on SX & Windsor Cinema
HOBART: 15 – 24 March State Cinema
ADELAIDE: 22 March – 15 April Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas, Palace Nova Prospect Cinemas
RIVERSIDE: 5 – 8 April Riverside Theatres Parramatta
CASULA: 5 – 8 April Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre
Visit the official Festival website for more info.