Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


“Few achievements in the world of cinema can equal it,” says venerable film critic Roger Ebert about Marcel Carné’s Les Enfants du Paradis (1945) a fabulous restored version of which (its Australian premiere) will close this year’s Alliance Francaise French Film Festival. It will be a resonant finale to a festival with 20 of the program’s 43 films Australian premieres, including the opening film, Christian Vincent’s Haute Cuisine.

Set in 1830s Paris, the film follows the ill-fated relationship between a mime, Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault), and an actress, Garance (Arletty). When Garance is falsely accused of a crime, she seeks the protection of one of her many admirers, however Baptiste’s love never goes away. Made under extraordinary conditions during the last
years of the Second World War, this epic film was the result of a collaboration between poet/screenwriter Jacques Prévert, legendary production designer Alexander Trauner and visionary director Marcel Carné.

The film was shot in sometimes clandestine manner under nasty Nazi noses, with some of the Jewish department heads working in hiding. “That this film, wicked, worldly, flamboyant, set in Paris in 1828, could have been imagined under those circumstances is astonishing,” writes Ebert.

He describes it as “a sophisticated, cynical portrait of actors, murderers, swindlers, pickpockets, prostitutes, impresarios and the decadent rich. Many of the characters are based on real people, as is its milieu of nightclubs, dives and dens, theatres high and low, and the hiding places of the unsavoury.

“Carne plunges us directly into this world with his famous opening shot on the 'Boulevard of Crime,' which rivals the ''street of dying men'' scene in Gone With The Wind, reaching seemingly to infinity, alive with activity, jammed with countless extras.”

It’s worth noting Ebert’s quip that it was “precisely this kind of well-mounted, witty film that was attacked by the young French critics of the 1950s who later became known as the New Wave. They wanted a rougher, more direct, more improvisational feel--theatre not on a stage but in your face.”

By clear and absolute contrast, the program begins with Haute Cuisine, a story based on a female chef - Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch, who was the private chef to President Francois Mitterand, the latter played by newcomer Jean D’Ormesson. The cinematic chef, called Hortense Laborie in the film, is played by the much loved Catherine Frot. At first she faces resentment and resistance from the kitchen staff, but the spirited Hortense gradually wins them over. However, she soon discovers that the real heat is not in the kitchen, but in the halls of the Palace with constant battles for influence over the Chief of State.

In between opening and closing films is a cupboard full of new movies by a range of French filmmakers. Last year, the festival put 126,000 bums on seats, and 80% of them belonged to Australians. 

Dir: Claude Miller
The 2012 Cannes Film Festival ended on a bittersweet note when it closed with Thérèse Desqueyroux. It was directed by one of France’s most beloved and acclaimed filmmakers, Claude Miller, who had died just one month before the Cannes screening. Based on François Mauriac’s famous novel, Miller’s elegant last film gloriously brings to life a classic tale based on a real life incident. Thérèse (Audrey Tautou, star of Amelie and Delicacy) is an intelligent young woman married off to Bernard Desqueyroux (Gilles Lellouche), the chauvinistic son of another local bourgeois dynasty. Thérèse’s avant-garde ideas clash with the local conventions and she yearns to break free. Her freedom comes tantalizingly close when Thérèse discovers that increasing Bernard’s medicine dose makes him unwell. (Based on a true story)

THE CHERRY ON THE CAKE (La cerise sur le gâteau)

Dir: Laura Morante
When Amanda (Laura Morante) connects with Antoine (Pascal Elbe) at a New Year’s Eve party and begins seeing him regularly, her friends are delighted. That is until they realise Amanda mistakenly believes Antoine to be gay. Amanda’s friends conspire to keep her in the dark until Antoine is so important to her that he can safely reveal his love without her bolting. Blending wild farce, romance and a slightly bitter message that relationships might not be worth all the effort, this is a rare film about a middle-aged woman that doesn’t make an issue of her age.

ON AIR (Parler-moi de vous)

Dir: Pierre Pinaud
Mélina has the most famous voice in France. The 40 year-old host of an evening radio show dispenses frank and funny advice to listeners to help fix the problems in their lives – but during the day she lives anonymously and avoids contact with everyone. Abandoned as a child, Mélina now decides to seek out her mother and finds her living on the outskirts of the city. Karin Viard, the multiple César winning star, is the complex and phobiaridden Mélina. As she begins to stalk her long lost mother (Nadia Barentin), Mélina also gets closer to the handsome Lucas (Nicolas Duvauchelle). Soon Mélina finds herself confronting her own social and romantic problems as she is forced to deal with a series of touching and hilarious situations.

OUR CHILDREN (A perdre la raison)
Dir: Joachim Lafosse
Based on a real life incident in Belgium, the film begins with Murielle (Emilie Dequenne) and Mounir (Tahar Rahim) falling in love. Mounir lives with the wealthy Dr Pinget (Niels Arestrup), and at first Murielle is happy to move into their home as well. As child after child is born, the young couple becomes more dependent on Dr Pinget, and Murielle begins to suffocate under his influence and her workload as mother and live-in maid to the two men. The walls close in around her and Murielle’s grip on reality begins to falter.

Our Children (left): The Man Who Laughs (center); Louise Wimmer (right)

LOUISE WIMMER (Louise Wimmer)
Dir: Cyril Mennegun
The comfortable life of middle-aged Louise Wimmer has been turned upside down. Separated and drowning in debt, she now finds herself homeless, forced to sleep in her car and barely scraping together money for food from shiftwork as a hotel maid. Preferring to keep to herself, Louise must somehow build a new life on her own – even if it means accepting the help of others. This uncompromising character study, and honest look at daily life on the fringes of French society today, has been hailed at film festivals from Venice to London. Critics have praised this first fictional feature from documentary filmmaker Cyril Mennegun, especially the unforgettable performance of relative newcomer Corinne Masiero.

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (L’homme qui rit)
Dir: Jean-Pierre Améris
Based on the acclaimed Victor Hugo novel, The Man Who Laughs is an epic story that is both lavish in scope and deeply personal. César Award winner Marc-André Grondin stars as Gwynplaine, a disfigured man with a scarred mouth that gives him a permanent smile. When Ursus (Gérard Depardieu), a travelling showman, finds the mutilated and abandoned child, he takes him in and raises him along with Déa, a young blind girl. Together they travel from village to village performing “The Man Who Laughs” – a tender romance between Gwynplaine and Déa that delights audiences wherever they go. However, when Gwynplaine discovers he is the heir to a fortune, he becomes seduced by a life of luxury and a decadent duchess (Emmanuelle Seigner), forgetting the two people who always loved him.

RENOIR (Renoir)
Dir: Gille Bourdos
It is 1915. The eminent painter Auguste Renoir is in his twilight years, tormented by the loss of his wife and the arthritic pains of old age. When young Andrée enters his life, the grand old artist finds his last model a source of renewed inspiration. At the same time, the painter’s son, future filmmaker Jean Renoir, returns home to
convalesce after being wounded in action. Jean falls in love with the wild and beautiful Andrée against the wishes of his father.

FEU (Fire)

Dir: Bruno Hullin
Christian Louboutin, the celebrated designer behind the world- famous line of red-soled shoes, has teamed up with the legendary French cabaret institution, Crazy Horse Paris, to create Feu. Literally translated as ‘fire’, this filmed version of a live production is a sizzling collection of tableaux, mixing erotic cabaret with music, dance, masterpiece paintings, space-age chic and, of course, some seriously stylish footwear. Feu is the result of a unique collaboration between Louboutin, costumer Mark Fast and Crazy Horse choreographer, Patricia Folly. The music is by renowned filmmaker David Lynch and Swiss musician Swizz Beatz.


Published February 14, 2013

Email this article

Haute Cuisine

Sydney: March 5 – 24
Melbourne: March 6 – 24
Canberra: March 7 – 26
Brisbane: March 14 – April 4
Adelaide: March 19 – April 7
Perth March 19 – April 7

Les Enfants du Paradis

Thérèse Desqueyroux

On Air


© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020