FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL 2011 – LAUNCH
FRENCH SCREEN ROYALTY OPENS FILM FEST
Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu co-star in Francois Ozon’s Potiche, the opening night film of the 2011 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival – French cinematic royalty you could say – in a comedy set in the 70s. It launches a program of 46 films that slice across contempo French filmmaking. Andrew L. Urban reports.
In Potiche (a potiche is a decorative object) Catherine Deneuve plays the glamorous but neglected housewife Suzanne Pujol, whose husband Robert (Fabrice Luchini) cheats on her, ignores her in favour of running her family's factory like a tyrant; not far away is Maurice Babin (Gérard Depardieu), a local politician and communist party member who was once Suzanne's lover.
Ozon’s best known films, Swimming Pool, 8 Women, Under the Sand, all have women centre stage, and he usually casts the best female actors in France; this is no exception.
This year the festival program is presented in eight sections: When Cinema Seizes History, Women Behind the Lens, Police and Thieves; Vive la Difference!, All You Need is Love; Forever Young; Beyond Fiction; and If You Want Blood You’ve Got it!
Festival Director Jean-Jacques Garnier says he didn’t set the section first and then seek films to fit. “The sections really suggested themselves. Last year, for example, we had no thrillers; what thrillers were available [in France] weren’t very good and others weren’t ready.” Now they are – seven of them, including Turk’s Head, a searing feature debut by the popular actor, Pascal Elbe. Elbe is himself memorable as the doctor who is in the wrong place at the wrong time – when anti-police feelings are running hot in the Paris precinct and his car is mistaken for a police vehicle, thanks to its blue flashing light. A young Turkish lad throws a Molotov cocktail on it, setting off a chain of events that drive the film’s complex, satisfying drama.
The Women Behind the Lens section also contains seven features, including Géraldine Nakache’s All That Glitters. Writer/directors Hervé Mimran and Géraldine Nakache have scored a triumph in turning this small scale material of personal conflict into decent cinema, by amplifying the theme of friendship and its central role in our lives and by layering the screenplay with elements that sing true.
"Beautifully observed truths"
Beautifully observed truths about the limits of our power to change our lives with superficial elements adds to the weight of the subject matter and all the performances are superb.
Garnier is especially happy to have found a great diversity of love stories of various kinds, which he groups in All You Need Is Love. The (again) seven films in this section includes Bus Palladium, the directing debut of prolific writer Christopher Thompson. He has written four films directed by his mother Danièle, including Jet Lag and Orchestra Seats, and has written scripts directed by James Ivory, Giuseppe Tornatore and Agnieszka Holland.
Bus Palladium is about a group of young friends and musos whose newly formed rock group, Lust, is heading for success, but each of them harbours personal aspirations that put their shared future in doubt. The arrival of Laura in their lives destabilizes their fragile equilibrium as both lead singer Manus and lead guitarist Lucas fall for her – and she exploits them both. The film was invited to festivals in Seattle, Montreal and Tel Aviv.
“I love this year’s line up,” Jean
“I love this year’s line up,” says Garnier. I especially wanted to program more documentaries because there are so many good ones around now.” In an adjacent section, yet again with seven films, Garnier has programmed historical themes. “It seems that about two years ago, when most of these films were written and put into production, “many filmmakers simultaneously thought of making films that look behind our shoulder at events.”
High profile filmmakers represented in this section include Olivier Assayas (Carlos the Jackal) and Bernard Tavernier (Princess of Montpensier – a 16th century romantic drama).
Garnier has also slotted in one horror movie, The Pack, to represent a growing trend for the genre in French cinema of late. “There are half a dozen horror films around in France now, but this one I really love – and it has such a great cast: Yolande Moreau, Emilie Dequenne and Benjamin Biolay…”
Again sponsored by French cookware giant, Tefal, the 2010 Festival features three films in the Forever Young section, including the animated charmer, A Cat in Paris, directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol, which has its French premiere on December 15, 2010.
Published December 2, 2010
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Festival Director Jean Jacques Garnier
Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 2011
Sydney 8 - 27 March
Melbourne 9 - 27 March
Brisbane 16 March - 3 April
Canberra 16 March - 3 April
Perth 23 March – 10 April
Adelaide 23 March – 10 April
The inaugural online French Film Festival, January 2011 – website live from Dec 10, 2010
All That Glitters