Sacrebleu! It’s that time of year again (already!) when the French Film Festival rolls into town. Going from strength to strength in its 29th instalment, the festival just keeps growing, and there are sessions aplenty to sink your French fingers into this year with a buffet of FIFTY films!
Kicking off tonight at Palace Electric Cinemas, the Alliance Française French Film Festival runs 1 March – 28 March. With anticipated Encore Screenings of the feted festival picks at the back-end of the program, prepare for an immersive month.
Opening Night comedy C’est la Vie! is selling like hot crêpes with newly-added sessions bound to sell out. The reception for the event, which includes a drink upon arrival, gets underway from 6:30 pm with screening to commence at 7:15 pm. Tickets are $50/$55 for Alliance Française & Palace Electric Members/non-members accordingly.
Bookended by comedies, the festival presents a healthy dose of the genre. The line-up wouldn’t be complete without a generous serving of romance. Naturally. The cinematic banquet otherwise offers films across various categories: Modern families, Everyday Heroines, Team Spirit, Creative Icons, Tour of France, Crazy In Love, Giggle & Grin, Documentaries and Family Time.
Closing Night reception and screening of rom-com 50 Is the New 30 takes place on Wednesday, 28 March. However, there are four more Special Event Screenings to be enjoyed throughout the festival as presented by various local sponsors.
In a joint presentation from the High Commission of Canada and Fuse Magazine, BPM (Beats Per Minute) will screen Thursday 8 March at 7 pm. Preceded by a reception at 6:30 pm, a Q&A with a guest speaker will follow the feature which spotlights the socio-sexual activism of the ACT UP movement to increase HIV awareness during the presidency of François Mitterand in the early 90s.
Local purveyors of French fare Les Bistronomes and Baked (on Mort) will present Back to Burgundy on Thursday, 15 March. The Braddon buddy businesses will offer a reception from 6:30 pm before the screening at 7 pm of this morsel of vivacious viticulture from director Cédric Klapisch (The Spanish Apartment) set in France’s famous wine region.
Hotel Hotel, in partnership with the Canberra International Music Festival, presents 1920s post-war period thriller See You Up There on Tuesday 20 March. A pre-screening concert will be offered at Nishi Gallery from 5:30 pm (concert tickets sold separately for $35 through the Alliance Française). Hotel Hotel will then host a reception from 6:30 pm, with the film to follow at 7:15 pm.
The festival wouldn’t be complete without Juliette Binoche and in a fitting collaborative outing, HerCanberra will present their Ladies Night screening on Wednesday 21 March of Let the Sunshine In, an observational dramedy of divorcée singledom and ill-fated dalliances, anchored by the acclaimed actress.
Tickets for all Special Event Screenings are $28/$32 for members/non-members.
There are four exciting biopics, each an insight into France’s enduring cultural influence: Barbara about the famed mononymous chanteuse; Gauguin starring the iconic Vincent Cassel as the lauded post-impressionist; Rodin which explores the life of the legendary sculptor a century on from his death and, for the film buffs, the David-Stratton-endorsed Redoubtable from Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), starring Louis Garrel (Saint Laurent) as the 60s spearhead auteur of the famed French New Wave, Jean-Luc Goddard.
Kids will enjoy the final chapter in the Belle & Sebastian trilogy, as well as Big Bad Fox & Other Tales – both set for their Australian audience Premières. There are even two documentary inclusions among this year’s titles: an investigative exposé of a Siberia-set family-feud on a far-flung outpost in Braguino, and a compelling observation of the interpersonal repercussions of gender reassignment in a filmmaker’s debut feature documentary about his half-brother’s transition in the USA in Coby.
Some of my picks for the festival are youth-drama The Workshop from Laurent Cantet (The Class); psycho-sexual thriller Double Lover from the ever provocative François Ozon (In the House, Swimming Pool); contorted Cannes 2017 Opening Night thriller Ismaël’s Ghosts boasting the powerhouse trifecta of Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Marion Cotillard; unconventional coming-of-age tale Ava; parental-battle divorce-drama debut Custody; playful reimagining of Robert Louis Stevenson’s work Mrs. Hyde as the inimitable Isabelle Huppert (Elle) plays the titular high-school physics teacher; Number One which highlights female struggle in a cut-throat corporate world from the only female filmmaker to date to win a Best Director César; and Bloody Milk, a daring (dairy?) psychological thriller set on a milk farm.
There is clearly plenty to choose from. Where to start, you ask? Dip your feet in and take a chance on a title. Full-time student card holders should also make the most of the weekday discount available on sessions before 4:30 pm. Multi-Film passes are available at a discount for 5, 10 or even 20 films. Pick up the Festival program for session times and more information. Tickets are available for purchase at the box office. You can also buy them online HERE and HERE.
You have an entire month to sample tastes, so whether you’ve been to the festival many times over or this is your first exposure, profite! Bon film!
Vive la France!
Local sponsors: Hotel Hotel, Her Canberra, Fuse Magazine, High Commission of Canada, Les Bistronomes, Baked, Travel Makers.