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La Belle Époque - Film Review (French Film Festival 2020)

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by May Cross (subscribe)
I'm a writer, artist and keen photographer.
Published February 13th 2020
Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be
The film La Belle Epoque is strangely not set in the Belle Epoque period but it is set in France and does depict another period of time. La Belle Epoque refers to the name of a chic Parisian cafe, not the era. The film is set in Paris today and several years ago. The '70s actually. If you are too young to remember the 1970s, it's the decade that fashion forgot. Think bright minis, Isadora Duncan scarves, crocheted dresses, ugly jumpers and big hair. Hippy not hipster.

This time-travel satire (but not really time travel) stars the versatile and prolific Daniel Auteuil, one of my favourite French actors. He has starred in dozens of films including the excellent Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources, The Adversary, Napoleon and Me, and Girl on the Bridge. He does comedy equally as well as he does period drama. Although he is also well known for his directing, this was directed by Nicholas Bedos, and it is their first time working together.

A depressed pollical cartoonist travels back to May 1974 when life was simpler, or was it? It still had a degree of complexity, but it was a time when we talked to each other, not the phone. Although his life is empty and he is disillusioned, he stats bleakly, "It's not horrible being me." It's a gentle rom-com (sorry no zoms) with a few laugh out loud moments. Love, fidelity and jealousy are the universal themes which are lightly explored.

In modern times nostalgia has become big business. You can immerse yourself in history or revisit fond memories. What historical era would you choose? The French Revolution or World War II or something different entirely? Studios, artists, and actors can create sites like film sets. It is all tailor made, or is it just hype? Is everything real or is everything phoney? Who is being dishonest or deceitful? Little details are a big deal. What a curious profession acting is. There is an amusing dig at Gwyneth Paltrow and her idiotic health claims and extreme commercialism.

Can you spot any anachronisms? The decor may be what the 1970s threw up, but the music was great fun, and there were juke boxes! Some of the songs featured are Sandie Shaw singing Burt Bacharach's "There is Always Something There to Remind Me"; Monkees doing Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer"; plus good ole "Me and Bobby McGee", "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie", and a couple of cute French numbers.

la belle epoch, french film festival, alliance francaise

The general message is to be curious, use your imagination and keep being creative. Good advice in my opinion. I also learnt what Suze is – a French aperitif if you too didn't know. Make sure you stay until the end – even after the credits begin to role. There is one last unexpected bonus scene.

La Belle Epoque was featured in La Selection Officielle 2019 Festival de Cannes and is included in Alliance Francaise's 31st Film Festival 2020 in Australian capital cities.
Au revoir
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Why? It's French and it's fun.
Where: cinemas just about everywhere
Cost: check with your cinema
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