There are almost 50 movies screening in this year's Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, which makes its way around the country this month. Here, in no particular order, are some of the best on offer.
A teen from the ‘burbs tries the thug life on for size, in Céline Sciamma’s delightful Girlhood. Three tough types induct 16-year-old Marieme into their group, but their bark is much worse than their bite; Marieme revels in the solidarity and thrives during lazy days of trash-talk, pizza and putt-putt. The film is comprised of a series of moments about the awesome/awful possibilities of adolescence, the highlight being a hotel dance-off to Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’.
Far From Men
A fine two-handed Western about blood feuds and displacement, starring Viggo Mortensen and Reda Kateb. Reliably stoic, Mortensen plays a teacher in a remote Algerian village, tasked with the unenviable job of transporting an Arab prisoner to his trial – and certain death – during the outbreak of the civil war. Director David Oelhoffen directs this adaptation of Albert Camus’ The Visitor with a quiet dignity, set against a score by unconventional Western aficionados Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
A career diplomat has his work cut out for him in trying to convince a high-ranking Nazi to overrule a Hitler hissy fit, in the riveting historical drama. The film is a fictionalised account of a Swedish consular official (Andre Dussollier)’s actual attempts to dissuade Hitler’s man in Paris (the ever-dependable Niels Arestrup) from destroying the city in the final days of WWII. Hitler has issued a ‘scorched earth’ directive to blow up Paris’ great monuments and bridges; in the failing Fuhrer’s reductive logic, the city ought not survive the war architecturally unscathed when his beloved Berlin lies in ruins. The two formidable actors (reprising their stage roles) make Diplomacy absorbing to the end, despite the film’s obvious outcome. (Spoiler: the Eiffel Tower doesn’t blow up.)
Mia Hansen-Love charts the rise of French Touch house music in her mid-‘90s time-capsule of a DJ whose career trajectory is the inverse of his helmet-headed contemporaries, Daft Punk. Hansen-Love co-wrote the script with her brother, Sven, whose experiences as a garage house DJ inform the storyline of lead character, Paul. As is Hanson-Love’s style, the movie consists of a series of intimate moments, so it’s the next best thing to being in a small underground Paris club, without the hassle of getting in the door.
The Blue Room
Mathieu Almaric directs a tense psychological mystery about a pair of flushed and sweaty lovers, whose risky afternoon dalliances may or may not have been the root cause of a homicide. A time-shifting narrative lays plain the evolution of Julien (Almaric)’s affair with femme fatale Esther (Stephanie Cleau), and raises questions about the dangerous flipside of uncontrollable impulses.
Fancy more? If you've got the time and the tickets, you should check these out as well:
The Family Belier
In The Courtyard
Fiona Williams had an early glimpse at the program when she participated in the annual Rendevous with French Cinema as a guest of Unifrance.