Going to the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival has been a rewarding experience in my life, since it first began in 1989, the year I moved to live at Woollahra in Sydney, nearby to Paddington and the first theatre where it was shown.
Today it is shown all over Australia at Palace Cinemas.
What a fabulous journey it has been, and today it’s the most popular festival of its kind in Australia and the biggest French entertainment festival outside France.
Looking forward to opening night each year is part of the fun.
In 2018 the opening night and closing night films C’est La Vie (Le Sens de la fete) and 50 is the new 30 Marie-Francine, are both comedies having their Australian premier and along with everything in between, they are sure to delight.
C’est La Vie is a comedy about the chaotic preparations attached to a wedding set in a French Chateau, where a cantankerous French caterer has to create a fairytale wedding, despite being hampered by a disorganised rabble of so-called skilled supporters.
Waiters, chefs, cooks, photographers, wedding singers, flowers, fireworks and so much more, a wedding event with a variety of crazy guests certainly has the propensity and possibility of running smoothly or like this hilarious take on the niceties attached to nuptials, prove to be a disaster in the making until they all turn it around.
For a couple who seek to adapt, Pierre (Benjamin Lavernhe) and his bride-to-be, Helena (Judith Chemla) are looking forward to what they are hoping will be a momentous and memorable day.
This year the festival will feature some fifty films (47 features, 2 documentaries and a cheeky Parisian TV series) to be viewed over a one month period in the genres of comedy, thriller, drama, romance, biopic, documentary, historic drama, psychological thriller and adventure.
Two films about well-known French artists who became iconic during their lifetime, Gauguin and Rodin are sure to attract the crowds who know and admired heir work. It will be an exploration of French artistic history.
Gauguin directed by Edouard Deluc stars Vincent Cassel, who you may remember tried to chase down Jason Bourne in his last film.
A consummate and incomparable French actor, Cassel will be navigating his way through the ‘constricting social mores of his day and the stultifying political climate of bourgeois Paris’.
Rodin, directed by Jacques Doillon and featuring Vincent Lindon as the artist, marks a century since this great sculptor’s death, when he’s being celebrated in museums around the world.
It starts with his commission of ‘The Gates of Hell’ and the following decade when he creates some of his most revered works including the Burghers of Calais and The Kiss.
Back to Burgundy is a story set in the wine country, with a son returning to his father’s vineyards after having spent ten years working in an Australian winery where he has discovered that ‘love is like wine… it needs time’.
All and all there is a stunning array of films to choose from in the program, including those recommended by this year’s festival patron David Stratton. They include Double Lover, a thriller directed by Francois Ozon, which he describes as a ‘cheeky enjoyable melodrama’.
For those who enjoyed the family wild life adventure Belle & Sebastian about the friendship between a boy and his dog in 2013, there is a follow up Belle & Sebastian, Friends for Life – with ‘breathtaking landscapes, true friendship and a lot of excitement’.
The festival will end with 50 is the new 30, a movie directed by and starring the incomparable Valerie Lemercier.
It’s a a romantic comedy about the dilemma surrounding turning fifty years of age, which we find out is far more messy and complex than those facing it may like to believe.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018
Director: Léa Mysius
Cast: Noée Abita, Laure Calamy, Juan Cano & Tamara Cano
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)
Director: Cédric Klapisch
Cast: Pio Marmaï, Ana Giradot, François Civil & Jean-Marc Roulot
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.
Director: Mathieu Amalric
Cast: Jeanne Balibar, Mathieu Amalric, Vincent Peirani & Aurore Clément
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 (BEATS PER MINUTE) (120 battements par minute)
Director: Robin Campillo
Cast: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Anaud Valois & Adèle Haenel
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)
Director: Xavier Legrand
Cast: Léa Drucker, Denis Ménochet & Thomas Gioria
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)
Director: François Ozon
Cast: Marine Vacth, Jérémie Renier & Jacqueline Bisset
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.
Director: Lorraine Lévy
Cast: Omar Sy, Ana Giradot, Alex Lutz & Pascal Elbé
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.
GAUGUIN (Gauguin – Voyage de Tahiti)
Director: Édouard Deluc
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Tuheï Adams & Malik Zidi
On self-imposed exile in Tahiti, painter Paul Gauguin 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)
Director: André Téchiné
Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps & Céline Sallette
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)
Director: Arnaud Desplechin
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard & 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)
Director: Claire Denis
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Xavier Beauvois & 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.
Director: Nadir Moknèche
Cast: Fanny Ardant, Tewfik Jallab& Nadia Kaci
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 BIENVENÜE (Jeune femme)
Director: Léonor Serraille
Cast: Laetitia Dosch & Souleymane Seye Ndiaye
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.
STEIN GOES ONLINE (Un profil pour deux)
Director: Stéphane Robelin
Cast: Pierre Richard, Yaniss Lespert & Fanny Valette
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)
Director: Philippe Le Guay
Cast: François Cluzet, François-Xavier Demaison & Toby Jones
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)
Director: Tonie Marshall
Cast: Emmanuelle Devos, Suzanne Clément & Richard Berry
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)
Director: Rachid Hami
Cast: Kad Merad, Samir Guesmin & Alfred Renely
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)
Directors: Zabou Breitman
Cast: Naidra Ayadi, Zabou Breitman & Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
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.
REDOUTABLE (Le Redoutable)
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin & Bérénice Bejo
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, Godard 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)
Director: Anne Fontaine
Cast: Finnegan Oldfield, Grégory Gadebois & Isabelle Huppert
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.
Director: Guillaume Canet
Cast: Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard & Philippe Lefebvre
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)Director: Albert Dupontel
Cast: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Albert Dupontel & Laurent Lafitte
In this compelling, widely acclaimed drama, 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)
Director: Xavier Beauvois
Cast: Nathalie Baye, Laura Smet & Iris Bry
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)
Director: Laurent Tirard
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Mélanie Laurent, & 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)
Director: Nicolas Vanier
Cast: François Cluzet, Jean Scandel & Éric Elmosnino
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)
Director: Laurent Cantet
Cast: Marina Foïs, Matthieu Lucci & Florian Beajean
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.