- Ricky (François Ozon, France/Italy, 2009)
- L'armée du crime (The Army of Crime, Robert Guédiguian, France, 2009)
François Ozon's Ricky isn't what I thought it would be. In fact, discussing what it is and what it's not would spoil the surprise, because it's definitely worth seeing. Suffice to say, that if you read the ACMI or festival blurb, you may get the wrong impression of the film, which is a good thing.
The film's visuals have a lovely naturalistic look. Sergi Lopez plays a little out of type - more of a sluggard than his usual Mr. Everyman. The other performances are fine but it's the story that wins it. Highly recommended, especially if, like me, you like Ozon. I like that his films are unconventional and diverse, crossing genres and covering different genres. It adds to the unpredictability of his work. In this one, the music (which is nicely subtle) also slightly confounds one.
The Army of Crime
Robert Guédiguian is one of my favourite French directors. For decades, he's been making socially aware realist dramas (like La ville est tranquille/The Town is Quiet) with a regular troupe of actors (and behind-the-scenes technical staff, too). His latest film doesn't disappoint and should be one of the highlights of the French Film Festival this year. It's also a significant departure from Guédiguian's body of work.
First, his regular troupe step into the background with small parts, leaving the main roles to younger actors, like Virginie Ledoyen, Simon Abkarian and Robinson Stévenin. And secondly, it's a period film based on a true story, about a particular group within the French Resistance in Paris during World War II. It sits quite comfortably as a companion piece to films like Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows or Louis Malle's Lacombe, Lucien.
While the genre is surprising, the ethnic slant isn't. Guédiguian depicts a partisan group of largely ethnic French: Armenian, Italian and Spaniard communists, as well as Polish Jews. The fervour of these foreigners was a contrast to the lethargy of the French at the time. It's the multicultural elements that have attracted me to Guédiguian's social realist films in the first place.
Other than this ethnic element, I don't think the film offers anything particularly new to the genre, but that's not a criticism. Many films have informed us of the horrors of the Holocaust, the German terror, the horrors of collaboration and the French resistance. The film has many strengths. Guédiguian is surprisingly adept at handling the wartime themes but what wins it over is the human element. The film juggles many scenarios and weaves them together skillfully. It left me feeling devastated. At this stage, The Army of Crime, Ricky and The Father of My Children are the three must-see films of the festival. But with up to another dozen films I'm hoping to see, hopefully there'll be a few more gems among them. Exciting!
The Alliance Française French Film Festival opens on Thursday 4 March with Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Micmacs and runs until Sunday 21 March at the Palace Como, Balwyn, Westgarth and Kino cinemas.
Ricky is currently screening as part of ACMI's Long Play series until Wednesday 10 March.