Wednesday, March 25, 2015

French Film Festival 2015

The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival has been on in Melbourne over the past few weeks and Onagh and I have been to see a number of the films showcased this year. Attending has also allowed me to see how much of my high school French I actually remember. Here are the films that I have seen, which thankfully have been pretty good for the most part:

The Gazelles follows Marie (Camille Chamoux) as she throws away her 15 year relationship with Eric and enters the dating scene with a bunch of friends of her work colleague Sandra (Audrey Fleurot). A lighthearted and at times scary glimpse into the singles scene when you are older, it was an amusing film to watch.

The New Girlfriend is a psychological thriller that starts with the funeral of Laura and follows the aftermath for her husband David (Romain Duris) and their baby, as well as Laura's lifelong best friend Claire (Anais Demoustier). Claire goes to visit David one day and discovers him dressed as a woman. The film explores how Claire helps David to develop his female persona Virginia, and how that impacts on Claire's relationships with both her husband and David.

The Connection is the true story behind the hit movie The French Connection told from a European perspective. The film covers the drug trade and corruption in Marseille in the mid-1970s and stars Jean Dujardin as the magistrate Pierre Michel and Gilles Lellouche as mafia boss Gaetan Zampa. It was an action packed film and quite entertaining.

Saint Laurent is another film set mainly in the late 1960s to mid-1970s and covers the life of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel). You get to see his struggles with poor health and addiction, as well as his relationships with his partner and muses. The film culminates with his 1976 Moroccan-inspired collection. If they ever do an English language biopic they should get designer and Project Runway alum Austin Scarlett to play YSL.

Almost Friends is a comedy that involves two women at a crossroads in their lives. Carole (Emmanuelle Devos) feels overshadowed by her chef husband Sam (Roschdy Zem), and secretly comes to an adult training center to get an assessment of her career options. She becomes friends with her counsellor Marithe (Karin Viard) and Marithe gives Carole advice that plays more to her ulterior motives than Carole's best interests. I thought the film was ok, but found Sam distracting as the actor has a resemblance to President Barack Obama.

The Gate is set in Cambodia during the 1970s reign of Pol Pot and tells the true story of French ethnologist Francois Bizot (Raphael Personnaz), who was captured and imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge. It explores the relationship he develops with Comrade Duch (Kompheak Phoeung) while under captivity and what happens when they meet again years later. Considering the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, I thought the film was quite restrained in what it showed of the realities of captivity in the prison camps.

Girlhood is set in the housing projects of Paris and follows 16-year-old Mariame (Karidja Toure). After she is told her grades are too poor to continue on to high school, she meets three other girls who are brash and stylish and joins up with them. The film explores their friendships, the social and gender politics of growing up in a tough neighborhood, and the choices the girls make in order to survive.

The Belier Family also focuses on a 16-year-old girl, Paula (Louane Emera), the only hearing member of a deaf family who are dairy farmers in a small village. At school she decides to join the choir because of a cute boy, but it turns out she has an amazing singing voice. Her teacher encourages her to practice in order to audition for a music school in Paris, and Paula struggles with wanting to aim for independence in her life while at the same time feeling guilty about abandoning her family. The audition scene was particularly poignant as she sang Michel Sardou's "Last Flight"- especially for someone like me who has left family behind to live half way around the world. This was probably my favorite film of all the ones we saw.

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