BACK for its 26th year, the 2015 Alliance Française French Film Festival is bringing to Melbourne a large slate of the best films French cinema has to offer, most of which will be screening in this territory for the first time. Daniel Driscoll has put together a selection of films you should consider checking out.
One of Melbourne’s most popular film festivals, Alliance Française French Film Festival, returns this March to showcase some of the very best that contemporary and classic French cinema has to offer. New features, modern classics and a few blasts from the past including anti-war film, 1937’s Grand Illusion directed by Jean Renoir, make up the film festival’s lineup.
Many of the features included are critically acclaimed with a large proportion having screened at some of the most prestigious film festivals around the world including the Toronto International Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival.
The festival showcases France’s talent for turning out a large breadth of high quality cinema that ceases to waver year after year.
From March 4 to March 22, the Melbourne leg of the film festival will again take place at various Palace Cinemas around the city and Bay area including the Kino Cinema on Collins St, Melbourne and Palace Cinema Como on Chapel St, Prahran.
With a huge selection of films on offer we’ve sorted through what’s showing and selected a few films worth spending some time on.
Films to catch
Directed by Anne Fontaine, Gemma Bovery opens the festival and tells the story of an English couple named Gemma and Charles Bovery who move into a small Normandy town where the local baker (Fabrice Luchini) and resident Flaubert fan believes these two real life figures are replicating the behaviour of his favourite fictional characters right in front of him.
This retelling of the classic Madame Bovary story balances real sensuality and hilarious one-liners in a story about the dangers of stirring passions. Gemma Arterton stars as Gemma Bovery, the bored housewife who attracts the comical obsession of Luchini’s baker and the film’s narrator in an endearing film where complications arise when Gemma meets a dashing aristocrat – just as the plot unfolds in the book.
If you’re after a dramatic biopic then this is the film for you. Saint Laurent tells the story of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and documents his fall from grace and rise to fame.
The film stars Gaspard Ulliel as the famous and flamboyant designer well known for his artistry, drive and inspiration. The biopic focuses on Laurent at the height of his celebrity and explores tortured iconoclast’s relationships, addictions and insecurities.
Paris Je T’aime
Paris Je T’aime closes the festival with a return to the big screen and features the talents of 20 different directors including France’s Olivier Assayas and American auteur Gus Van Sant. The film features a collection of 20 vignettes in a variety of genres inspired by the subject of love and the city of Paris.
Referred to as a modern classic by some, this compilation film features a star-studded cast including the late Bob Hoskins and Fanny Ardant as a couple trying to reinvigorate their marriage, Juliette Binoche as a grieving mother and Steve Buscemi as a hapless tourist in the Métro.
The Last Diamond
The Last Diamond stars Yvan Attal as Simon, a thief on parole who is hired to carry out the biggest job of his career, steal the famous Florentine diamond. Julia (Bérénice Béjo) is a diamond expert with a personal interest in making sure the jewel is successfully auctioned. While subtly influencing the situation to ensure his advice on the security procedures around the diamond are taken into account, the two characters become drawn to each other with plenty of complications, crosses and double-crosses to stand in their way.
The Last Diamond is a fast-paced heist flick full of plot twists with an unexpected jewel of a love story at the centre of this exciting thriller.
Directed by Jean Renoir, Grand Illusion is a powerful anti-war film that even now at more than 75 years old has lost none of its impact. Packed with strong performances, thrilling escapes and touching irony, the film is an acknowledged masterpiece of French cinema and has been restored for the benefit of the French Film Festival’s audience.
These recommendations are only a small selection of what’s on offer over the two and a half weeks. With such a huge line up ranging from dramas to comedies, documentaries and classics you won’t be starved for choice.
The 26th Alliance Francaise French Film Festival will take place between March 4 – 22 at participating Palace Cinemas across Melbourne. For more information about the film festival, including film descriptions, schedule or other resources, please visit the festival’s official website.