Sunday, March 01, 2009

French Film Festival 2009 - Preview

The Alliance Française French Film Festival opens in Melbourne this Thursday 5 March with Paris 36 at the Como Cinema. Some 33 or so films will screen until 20 March at four Palace Cinemas locations: Como, Kino, Westgarth and Balwyn. Paris 36 is a musical comedy, not a genre that interests me particularly, but should do well with the Como demographics.

Most years I see about a dozen films at the festival, my favourite festival outside of MIFF. I think the French do cinema better than anyone (and, mind you, as bad as anyone, too). I've spent a bit of time drawing up my list of films to see based on these highly technical prioritisations:
  1. Must-see
  2. Will-see
  3. Might-see
  4. Meh
  5. Avoid
I generally don't give priority to films that I know will have a cinema release. Summer Hours is one of these - it has a 2 April release - but it's also in my list of must-sees. I've already seen and loved it, and I'll probably see it again with the missus, but after the festival. The other films I know that are getting a release are:
Interestingly, all but one film in the festival have an OFLC classification, but seeing as most of them are MA15+ (even films that clearly are not in that category), I'm not sure what that indicates. At least it means that children can get into more films than usual. There's two films specifically targeting children: Astérix at the Olympic Games and U. The former is a fairly stock standard Gérard Depardieu comedy and should entertain the kids OK, but is not particularly engaging for the parents. I might get the missus to take the kid to see it, but I don't know if I could sit through it again. U, on the other hand, looks more interesting and I'll definitely be aiming to take the kid to that.
[Image from U]

1st priority films:A Christmas Tale is by Arnaud Desplechin, whose films featured in an excellent retrospective at Melbourne Cinémathèque last year. Desplechin has a unique cinematic perspective and this film has a lot of buzz surrounding it. Lady Jane is by Robert Guédiguian, one of my favourite French directors. He uses the same retinue in each of his films. La ville est tranquille was sublime, though his latest outing ventures into film noir territory. For Summer Hours, check out my review.
[Images from
A Christmas Tale, Lady Jane]

2nd priority films:
I've seen part 1 of Public Enemy and was pleasantly surprised. It's a crime thriller based on a true story, perhaps a little reminiscent of Channel 9's Underbelly, only much better. First, it's got Vincent Cassell, and he raises the genre considerably. It's got a great lineup of support actors, including Gerard Depardieu, who I generally dislike, but is great in this (yes, he redeems himself after Astérix). The film is reasonably violent but not gratuitously so. It's not afraid to kill off characters that you'd like to see more of. It's genre, but genre done very well. I look forward to seeing part 2.
[Images from Public Enemy - Part 1, Dolls and Angels, Ulzhan]

3rd priority films:
I'm not going to list the others (there's too many of them); for me they're not worth seeing, but that's my taste. I really don't like most French comedies and family dramas/melodramas. But there's always exceptions. If you have a tip, recommendation or comment, please let me know.
[Image from Actresses]

I know I've expressed this many times before, but...

{start of rant}
I think film festivals should highlight the artistic achievements of a country, showcasing edgy, challenging avant garde films as a priority rather than previews of highly commercial films that are going to get a release, or that add little to the body of a country's output. The French film festival focuses too heavily on the latter and not enough of the former.
{end of rant}

In spite of the shite, I love French cinema. Je l'adore ! I love the culture and the approach to story-telling. I love the characterisations and I love the language.


HarryTuttle said...

I agree with you, it's way too commercial.

My recommendations :
Modern Life*
A Christmas Tale*
Lady Jane*


* films I've seen.

La Vie Moderne is the only French film of this selection that I'd keep in my year's best list.

Paul Martin said...

Many thanks, Harry, for your recommendations. Much appreciated and valued.

Je suis désolé pour ne répondre pas à votre dernier email.

Je suis désolé pour ne pas répondre à votre dernier email. Je ne trouve jamais le temps.