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Celebrating its 20th anniversary (already!) the Alliance Française French Film Festival has boosted its quantity and its ‘freshness’ with more new films and a broader program, ranging from the retro musical of the Opening Film, Paris 36 by Christophe Barratier through the farcical, Francis Veber’s A Pain in the Ass, to the dramatically revealing, JCVD, the surprise hit of Cannes 2008, with Jean Claude Van Damme in a bold, self-deprecating role – as himself.

In times of stress, what better than nostalgia – so it’s on that note that French Film Festival Director Jean Jacques Garnier has picked Paris 36 as the opening film for this the 20th edition, leading with a lift. “There’s plenty of heart in this uplifting crowd pleaser,” says Louise Keller in her upcoming review, “about a theatre in 30s Paris that is home to friendships, blossoming love and represents dreams of a better tomorrow. Sound familiar? The underlying themes of Paris 36 are as relevant today as they were then, and filmmaker Christophe Barratier has lovingly recreated the era, complete with its sensibilities and conflicts, and couched his carefully drawn characters therein.”

The film stars Gerard Jugnot, Clovis Cornillac, Kad Merad and pretty newcomer, Nora Arnezeder, in Christophe Barratier’s latest film.

"A very different nostalgia"

A very different nostalgia, one tinged with sadness, prevails in Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours, in which two brothers and a sister prepare to farewell their last links with childhood when their mother’s death leaves them with the painful task of relinquishing the family home and her personal belongings, including a valuable art collection; starring Juliette Binoche & Charles Berling. “The past, the present and the future all play a part in Olivier Assayas’ film,” says Louise, “in which a family has different views about the value of possessions and things from another era. A melancholy mood lingers throughout in this story centering on a beautiful French country home in which many joyous hours were spent in the summers of a now fractured family whose priorities are now different.”

"wear jaw-straps"

And for something completely different, wear jaw-straps to keep your jaw from hitting the floor during JCVD, in which the legendary Jean Claude Van Damme plays himself – in a fictional but parallel universe. Van Damme has never done work like this before, and he’s supported by the director’s unique vision for the film. The scenario is nothing special: a robbery by a small gang, one of whose members is a psychotically dangerous character. But the film never lets us relax in the knowledge that Van Damme will heroically save the day – and this is its trump card. It was one of the buzz films of Cannes in 2008.


PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE: PART 1 and PART 2 (L’ennemi public no. 1)
Director: Jean-François Richet (Starring Vincent Cassel & Ludivine Sagnier)
Spanning several decades, this gripping saga covered by two films, tells the true story of notorious French gangster, Jacques Mesrine, brilliantly portrayed by Vincent Cassel.

A CHRISTMAS STORY (Une conte de Noël)
Director: Arnaud Desplechin (Starring Catherine Deneuve & Jean-Paul Roussillon)
In the French provincial town of Roubaix, three generations of a gorgeously fractious dysfunctional family gather for Christmas in the knowledge that their mother has been struck by cancer which may or may not be cured by a bone marrow transplant. Bickering, past grudges and unforseen romantic complications make for a festive weekend with unpredictable results.

SHALL WE KISS: (Une baiser s’il vous plaît?)
Director: Emmanuel Mouret (Starring Virginie Ledoyen & Emmanuel Mouret)
Emilie, an attractive textile designer, visiting Nantes, accepts a ride with local man Gabriel and before long both are sharing dinner. But when Gabriel attempts a good night kiss, Emilie rebuffs him, explaining her reluctance with a story which unfolds about the trouble that ensued when two of her best friends succumbed to the age-old question, “Shall we kiss?”

Director: Fabien Onteniente (Starring Franck Dubosc, Emmanuelle Béart & Gérard Dépardieu)
Didier Travolta is an unemployed, forty-something disco fan who still lives at home and has a son whom he hasn’t seen for a while. When his wife threatens to withhold holiday custody of their son unless his prospects improve, Didier sets out to win a dance-contest with the grand prize of two free tickets to Australia. But many years have passed since his dancing heyday. Will disco rise again…?

Director: Robert Guédiguian (Starring Ariane Ascaride & Jean-Pierre Darroussin)
Set in the gritty streets of Marseilles, a kidnapping forces three middle-aged friends to revisit their criminal past when a long-hidden act of violence comes back to haunt them.

FAMILY VALUES (Affaire de famille)
Director: Claus Drexel (Starring André Dussollier & Miou-Miou)
A look at the violent consequences faced by a middle-class family, as seen from three different points of view.

LOVE ME NO MORE (Deux jours à tuer)
Director: Jean Becker (Starring Albert Dupontel, Marie-Josée Croze & Pierre Vaneck)
On the eve of his 42nd birthday, Antoine, an advertising executive, subjects his wife, children, friends, co-workers, and complete strangers to a brutal honesty that leaves the recipients shocked to their core. But things are not what they seem, in this latest film from renowned director Jean Becker.

THE GREAT ALIBI (Le grand alibi)

Director: Pascal Bonitzer (Starring Miou-Miou, Lambert Wilson & Valeria Bruni Tedeschi)
Every weekend, Senator Henri Pagès and his wife entertain guests at their beautiful country mansion. But when one of their guests, a renowned psychoanalyst and consummate womanizer, is brutally murdered, his wife, discovered by his corpse, with a smoking gun still in her hand, would appear to be the ideal culprit…or is she?

Published February 26, 2009

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Paris 36

Festival website
All at Palace Cinemas unless otherwise stated:
Sydney: March 4-19 - Academy, Verona & Norton Street

Melbourne: March 5-20 - Como, Balwyn, Westgarth & Kino Cinemas

Canberra: 18th-29th March - Greater Union Manuka

Brisbane: 19th-29th March-Centro

Adelaide: 26th March - 5th April - Nova Eastend

Perth: 25th March-5th April - Cinema Paradiso

Festival films which will be released in (some) Australian cinemas:

Summer Hours - April 2, 2009

A Pain in the Ass – April 9, 2009

Paris 36 – April 30, 2009

Mes Amis Mes Amours - May 14, 09

Seraphine – June, date tba

Me Two – not dated

Asterix at the Olympic Games - not dated

Public Enemy No1 - not dated

JCVD – not dated

Shall We Kiss – not dated

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