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Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 2014

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Event: -
Celebrating its 25th anniversary with a bumper line-up
2013 was a relatively quiet year for French cinema, but you can bet your bottom Euro the Gauls won't lay low 2 years in a row. The box office for January has been full of local hits and if the line-up for the 2014 French Film Festival is anything to go by, they're in for a bumper year.

alliance francaise french film festival 2014
Diane Kruger and co-star and writer / director Guillaume Gallienne in Me, Myself and Mum

For me, the highlight of this year's festival looks to be Me Myself and Mum. It's based on the autobiographical one-man hit play by Guillaume Gallienne. He wrote and directed the screen version and plays himself and his mother in this comedic coming-out tale. It won two awards at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and went on to be a huge commercial hit in France. Like La Cage Aux Folles, this could be that rare foreign language comedy that actually translates into an international success.

The Festival has been split into various categories, Love Is In the Air (for what is French cinema without romance?), Life Stories (featuring historic biopics and contemporary real life stories) and various self-explanatory genre headings (Giggle and Grin, Ventures and Adventures, Family Ties) which highlight the diversity of the festival.

If you're wondering what Jean Dujardin has been doing since winning a Best Actor Oscar, his latest is here - Mobius. It's a slick Hitchcockian spy thriller, co-starring Cecile De France and Tim Roth.

alliance francaise french film festival 2014
Juliette Binoche de-glams for Camille Claudel 1915

Many of the big names in French cinema appear throughout the festival, including fellow Oscar winner Juliette Binoche. She stars as the title character in Camille Claudel 1915 about the troubled life of the celebrated sculptress whose family committed her to a mental asylum.

Belle and Sebastian has nothing to do with the Scottish indie band of the same name and everything to do with the classic French television series of the 1960's about a boy and his dog and their scrapes with Nazi officers during the German occupation. This big screen adaptation has been a crowd-pleaser in France and will no doubt do the same here.

alliance francaise french film festival 2014
Tahar Rahim and Lea Seydoux in Grand Central

Grand Central is getting glowing reviews internationally. It's an intense menage-a-trois featuring two of France's hottest young stars, Tahar Rahim (A Prophet, The Past) and Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour). It looks pretty irresistible.

The French cinema cliche of an older man with a much younger woman gets a refreshing reversal in two films, The It Boy and Bright Days Ahead. In both cases the woman is about 20 years older than her male lover. The It Boy skews to a younger crowd, but the latter has the advantage of starring Fanny Ardant, still stunning in her sixties.

Populaire is a bright and colourful rom-com with the ever dashing Romain Duris (Heartbreakers) featuring the unlikely world of speed-typing as its backdrop.

alliance francaise french film festival 2014
Mads Mikkelsen rattles off some French (his fifth language) in Michael Kohlhaas

Icon of contemporary world cinema, Meds Mikkelsen, continues his impressive multi lingual skills, not to mention commanding screen presence. He speaks fluent French in Michael Kohlhaas, an epic tale set in the 16th century and featuring lots of bloody and muddy battles. At home Mads speaks Danish, English, German and Russian, so who knows which film festival he'll pop up in next.

An even bigger icon, legendary Roman Polanski, is in the line-up with his latest, Venus in Fur, starring Mrs Polanski (aka Emmanuelle Seigner) and the one and only Mathieu Amalric. It's the kind of claustrophobic psychological drama that Polanski does so well.

Under the Rainbow is the latest from creative duo Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri, who gave us The Taste of Others and Look at Me. They stick to what they do best, Paris-set ensemble comedies that poke fun at societal norms and the subtle complexities of friendships and relationships.

Anyone who is a fan of the extraordinary 2008 film Seraphine would do well to check out director Martin Provost's latest Violette. Once again he centres his gaze on a fascinating female artist, this time novelist Violette Leduc.

alliance francaise french film festival 2014
A scene from Truffaut's Jules et Jim. The ultimate menage-a-trois film.

There's also a tribute to one of the all-time greats, Francois Truffaut. Screening are two of his finest films, Jules et Jim and The 400 Blows. If you've never seen them on the big screen, you owe it to yourself to rectify such a criminal omission. Also in the lineup is his final film, the hard to find Finally, Sunday - a bit of a treat for cinephiles.

Also in the program is a smattering of documentaries and a couple of animated titles, including the latest in the Kirikou series, Kirikou and the Men and Women.

Opening Night film is The Finishers, an inspiring true story about a wheel-chair bound son and his ex-iron man father. The closing night film is up to you! You can choose between a number of classic Jacque Tati films. Click here to have your say in which film is selected.

The French Film Festival travels around the country, taking place in 16 Palace Cinemas. This is the event's 25th anniversary and it really does look like an embarrassment of riches this year.

I suggest you check out the program and book as early as you can. This is one film festival that sells out many of its sessions.

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Why? The best in contemporary French cinema
Where: Palace cinemas around the country
Sydney:4 - 23 Mar / Melbourne: 5 - 23 Mar / Canberra: 6 - 25 Mar / Brisbane: 6 - 25 Mar / Perth: 18 Mar - 6 Apr / Adelaide: 20 Mar - 8 Apr / Byron Bay: 24 - 28 Apr
Cost: Single session tickets are $20, Palace and Alliance Franciase members $15.50. 5 Film Passes $90/$70, 10 Film Passes $170/$130, 20 Film Passes $280/$240
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