In its 33rd year, the Alliance Française French Film Festival brings us 42 films filled with Australian and World Premieres, five directors making their feature film debut and 36% of films by female directors. It's an event that attracts fifty thousand viewers each year, and would not be possible without the unwavering support from all those involved like Palace Cinemas, Alliances Françaises, sponsors, partners, and distributors. Let's not also forget the dedicated audience, so go forth and spread the word for there are some gems to be discovered. This Festival is a celebration of life, an ode à la vie.
The Opening Film Lost Illusions is an adaptation from Balzac's classic novel published in 1837, yet still relevant in modern times. It's a film of opulence, it's lavish and grand. Handsome, highly ambitious young poet Lucien is an idealist who learns that anything can be bought and sold. He has entered a society that's far more dangerous than he realised. Failing to make a name for himself in his provincial hometown, he naively follows his married patroness to the glamorous beau monde of Paris where the venomous conspire to keep him out of their ranks.
The Closing Night Film Fly Me Away is inspired by a true story and is a feel-good movie full of humanity much like another French film, The Intouchables. Thomas has dropped out of university and spends his days and nights wasting time and being self-indulgent. Living off his father's wealth, the money trail gets cut, and he is forced to work with one of his father's young patients, born with a serious congenital disorder. This film is a balance between tears and laughter as a brotherly bond is formed.
Between Two Worlds and The Kitchen Brigade are part of Special Events Films, with the first employing non-professional actors who form the rest of the cast, and steal the film with their performances. They embody the shadow workers despised by society. A writer breaks through the ranks, posing as a cash-strapped divorcée who needs work, and is hired as a cabin cleaner on a ferry boat. However, Marianne (Binoche) gets more uncomfortable about her deception as time goes along, as she forms a tight bond with her co-workers. She is now faced with the awful situation of having to confess she has been using the life stories of her new friends as raw material for her book.
The Kitchen Brigade is where chaos reigns when an inflexible 40-year-old sous-chef facing financial difficulties, reluctantly accepts a job that has been embellished in a cafeteria. It explores the world of French gastronomy while also tackling issues of social justice and inclusion. It also explores learning, communication, success and self-esteem, mixing humour, humanism, realism and entertainment. It pays tribute to young people with a tormented past and an uncertain future, holding onto hope of a better life, struggling relentlessly to integrate into French society; and of course, acknowledges all those who devote so much energy to help them.
The Velvet Queen might be a film of the awe-inspiring landscapes of Tibet, but you just might want to go there for a film that suspends time and set to the sublime music of Australians, Warren Ellis and Nick Cave. This is a search for the elusive snow leopard that very rarely, if ever, reveals itself to humankind. Other inhabitants like wolves, bears, yaks, and birds come to life on the big screen in an atmospheric experience of a hunt without weapons. This is the director Munier's obsession to capture the holy grail of the animal kingdom.
Farewell, Mr. Haffman is a film rich in moral complexity and empathy with several twists too good to spoil. It's a must-see gripping new film about a transaction that will forever change the fate of an employer and employee. A risky proposition in occupied Paris 1941 guides you, the viewer, through the world of Vichy France, where lives are irrevocably shaped by the twin scourges of war and the black market. This is the Festival's major highlight, so don't miss it.
You really need to check out the full program for all you want to see, as there are so many exciting films to choose from. Anaïs In Love is a World Premiere and about a love triangle. Alain Delon is showcased in a classic French 1960 crime thriller which propelled him to instant stardom. Purple Noon is his first major role that led him to become one of France's greatest sex symbols. Waiting for Bojangles is spirited and eccentric and looks like a lot of fun set in a magnificent Parisian flat, which makes the inevitable heartbreak all the more tragic. A trip down the black and white film memory lane is taken with Paris, 13th District; a district where not many Parisians frequent. It's a film that will delight, enchant and upset in this tale of young love set in contemporary Paris.
Men on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is a little twist that has males instead of females having a little breakdown in films. Get ready to explore the whole range of emotions through a masculine lens in this feel-good comedy. Gérard Depardieu is in three films at the Festival and Maigret is one of them where he plays an 'Inspector Columbo' like character working at solving a crime. As Maigret, he irascibly and ingeniously follows the clues. If you're looking for a Hitchcockian thriller, you'll find it in Madeleine Collins as it masterfully guides audiences on a journey of surprising discoveries. Goliath is one that'll enlighten and open your eyes to many questionable current agricultural practices in a David and Goliath fight between farmers and multinational pesticide companies.
The Festival is also about family and for the young ones, you have Pil's Adventures and Little Nicholas' Treasure. The first about a young 9 year old boy with limitless curiosity and a dangerously overactive imagination. Happy where he is, a plan is afoot when his father gets a sought after promotion and relocation is on the cards. This film captures the magic of childhood and the values of both family and true friendship. Pil's Adventures on the other hand is animated, and the story of a little orphan girl, living on the streets of a medieval city. From the Cursed Forest to the were-unicorn's lair, Pil and her unlikely companions will live the greatest adventure of all and find the family they never had. Humour, adventure and magic are at the heart of this family film animation.
Head to the Festival, spread the word and escape with your loved ones on enchanting journeys and unforgettable characters, while also finding time to have a laugh and be entertained during these often difficult times. Enjoy special events complete with special happenings in store for you. This year, the films speak about love in different ways and directors have unleashed the freedom of French movies, and of French cinema.
For the Melburnians, beyond the Festival, watch out for Bastille Day French Festival Melbourne on 16-17 July 2022. The link will also take you to all things French-related you can find in Melbourne. There is no doubt all states will have their own Bastille Day celebrations, so watch your for your next injection of all things French.