The French have always had a certain a knack for aging gracefully, so it’s no surprise that as the Alliance Française French Film Festival turns quarter of a century old – kicking off in Sydney last night, then Melbourne today, before glamorously jetting round the country and finishing in Byron Bay in late April – the line up is looking as good as ever.
Australia’s longest running and biggest foreign film festival showcases just short of 50 films this year, with RocKwiz presenter and Eurovision host Julia Zemiro, who was born in Aix-en-Provence, as its patron.
Kicking off with writer/director Nils Tavernier’s feel-good flick The Finishers, about a wheelchair using son and his former Iron Man father competing in a triathlon together, and ending with a Jacques Tati classic Mon Oncle, we round up 10 of the best in between.
The Past’s Tahar Rahim teams up with the beautiful Leá Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour) in writer/director Rebecca Zlotowski’s sophomore feature Grand Central. Gary (Rahim) lands a job at a nuclear power station and almost immediately falls for Karole (Seydoux), the fiancé of a co-worker. What could possibly go wrong?
Love Like Poison director Katell Quillévéré’s second feature, Suzanne, will have you reaching for the hankies as the titular single mother (Sara Forestier) falls for the wrong man Nicolas (Paul Hamy). It may sound like a well-worn story, but this is a 90-minute powerhouse of family drama.
Camille Claudel 1915
It wouldn’t be a proper French film festival without a bit of Juliette Binoche, who stars in controversial director Bruno Dumont’s Camille Claudel 1915. Picking up the threads of Bruno Nuytten’s 1989 classic Camille Claudel, Binoche stars as the titular sculptor and former lover of Rodin, now confined to a mental asylum.
If that all sounds a bit too heavy, Jean-Marc Rudnicki’s Wrestling Queens is a riotously comic hoot with an unexpectedly warm heart. Estranged from her young son, Rose (Marilou Berry) attempts to win his favour by taking up his favourite obsession – wrestling – dragging three supermarket colleagues along for the ride.
If you loved The September Issue’s peek inside the Vogue closet and up close and personal approach to fashion industry icon Anna Wintour, you’ll want to catch Mademoiselle C. Taking a similar approach with former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief and Karl Lagerfeld BFF Carine Roitfeld, the doco follows the larger than life character as she launches her new magazine.
Me, Myself and Mum
Marie Antoinette actor turned writer/director Guillaume Gallienne translates his one-man comedy show revealing his awkward coming out for the big screen. Gallienne not only plays himself, but also dons drag to portray his mum in this fabulously funny Cannes and Cesar darling.
Belle and Sebastian
Kids, and former kids of a certain age, will love Nicolas Vanier’s live action retelling of the 1960s Japanese cartoon about a boy and his dog, itself adapted from the novel by Cécile Aubrey.
Jean Dujardin, the spunky Oscar-winning star of The Artist, plays a Russian secret agent Gregory Lioubov in Éric Rochant’s sexy thriller Möbius. Out to entrap a dodgy tycoon (Tim Roth), Gregory instead finds himself falling for the beautiful Alice (Cécile de France). With Monaco as the backdrop, this one looks luscious and is packed with intrigue.
The Intouchables star François Cluzet plays a security van driver who pulls off a mammoth heist as he goes AWOL with 11.6 million Euros, in this true-life inspired thriller from Philippe Godeau.
When Bertrand Tavernier, one of France’s most-lauded auteurs, adapts Abel Lanzac’s comic book Quai d’Orsay that lampoons French politics Armando Iannucci-style, you’re in for some razor sharp satire. Thierry Lhermitte stars as the hapless foreign minister whose team tries desperately to keep him on track as imminent war rumbles on the horizon.