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2008 Française French Film Festival - Review

Author: Daniel Crichton-Rouse
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
This year the Alliance Française French Film Festival is hot – hotter than usual. With films featuring almost every En Vogue actor in the business (and in one case, three of them in bed together), the organisers have gone all out in 2008 for what is the strongest line-up of films in years. Possibly in the festival’s history. 3D’s Daniel Crichton-Rouse previews a few of the highlights.

Let’s face it – all the finest things come from France: fromage, vin et film. Without cheese, wine and film I don’t think life would be half as great as it is. For starters, my diet would dry up – who wants vegetables and water when you can spread a pungent mont d’or on a crusty baguette and swill around some Bordeaux- And why watch Tom Cruise hog the screen when you can enjoy the company of Jean-Paul Belmondo or Jean-Pierre Léaud, or even Louis Garrel- (Or alternatively Jean Seberg, Claude Jade and Eva Green-) Then there’s Paris…you can never forget Paris.

Cue the Alliance Française French Film Festival. Since 2002, the annual Australian festival has debuted films as diverse as horror (the fantastic gothic period piece-come-Matrix action flick The Brotherhood of the Wolf), classic French comedies (the Daniel Auteuil driven Après vous), Golden Era-esque romantic comedies (last year’s Priceless, starring Amélie’s Audrey Tautou), dramas (The Child) thrillers (A Matter of Taste), psychological head-fucks (Irréversible, starring Monica Bellucci in one hell of a disturbing film), Academy Awards winners (The Barbarian Invasions) and even animations (the irresistible Triplets of Belleville). I think a thank you is in order.

This year’s festival is bigger, bolder and brassier than ever, with a handful of films that would hold on their own at the box office due to their star power, which is sure to bring in festival punters.

First up is the opening night film Paris, from Spanish Apartment/Russian Dolls director Cédric Klapisch, which stars the always-outstanding Juliette Binoche (Three Colours: Blue, Hidden, Chocolat) and frequent Klapisch collaborator Romain Duris (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Dans Paris). An ode to Paris, the film finds a young man (Duris) with 24 hours to live, touring his city encountering the lives of those he holds dear, and those he doesn’t even know.

Binoche also appears in The Flight of the Red Balloon, the first film in a series produced by the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (a museum home to a very exstensive Impressionist collection). Partially inspired by the 1956 Palme d’Or winner The Red Balloon, which also screens at this year’s festival, it tells the story of a Parisian family as told through the eyes of a Chinese student.

Duris also reappears in the period farce Molière, starring as the great French satirist Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, aka Molière. Directed by Laurant Tirard (last year’s I Do), this film echoes Shakespeare In Love in its tone, and tells the tale of Molière, a bad actor in incredible debt who ends up in prison. Upon his release he disappears, but not without a fair amount of romance and seduction. Also stars Laura Morante (The Son’s Room) and Ludivine Sagnier (Swimming Pool).

This writer’s most anticipated film, however, is L’invité (The Dinner Guest), which sees the onscreen return of Daniel Auteuil and Thierry Lhermitte together, after the hilarious Le Placard (The Closet) in 2001. Auteuil plays Gérard, a man on his way to Indonesia to start a new job. But before he relocates, he’d like to invite his future team leader to dinner. Trouble is, he can’t cook… Everything Auteuil touches is gold, and this is sure to appeal to fans of The Closet, The Valet and The Dinner Game.

Young French sex symbol Louis Garrel also returns to Australian screens, after last year’s Dans Paris (alongside Romain Duris), in a role similar to the one that made him famous – as one third of a love-triangle in Bernado Bertolucci’s 2003 New Wave homage, The Dreamers. Ismaël (Garrel) and Julie (Sagnier, in her second festival appearance) are a couple who’ve become blasé with each other. To excite things, Ismaël brings his co-worker Alice into the relationship, creating a ménage à trios that eventually unlocks deep issues. Oh, and it’s a musical – I should probably mention that.

The Festival also boasts feature-length documentaries, including Lagerfeld Confidential, a behind-the-scenes look at the life of the House of Chanel icon and a man widely regarded as the most influential designer of the 20th Century. Families don’t get left out as well, with a selection on show of the finest animations and child-friendly films to have emerged from France in recent years.

This is definitely one of the premier Film Festivals in Australia so make sure you get in early for your tickets to avoid missing out. Allons-y!

WHAT: Alliance Française French Film Festival
WHEN: Wednesday 5 – Wednesday 19 March
WHERE: Palace Cinemas Academy Twin, Verona, Norton St