Juliette Binoche, Vincent Cassel, Yvan Attal, SMarion Cotillard and the incomparable Catherine Deneuve are just some of the big names Australian audiences will be able to see on screen at the 31st French Film Festival. Covering 8 cities and 4 satellite locations, the Festival kicks off on 10 March (running until 19 April ) with a selection of 49 contemporary and classic French films, many having their Australian premiere.
Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel (Macbeth, True History of the Kelly Gang), who has long taken inspiration from French cinema, will be the 2020 Festival Patron. And acclaimed director/actor, Zabou Breitman, will be in Melbourne to introduce her animated drama, The Swallows of Kabul (Les hirondelles de Kaboul). The event is slated for the evening of Tuesday 17 March at Palace Cinema Como, and will be followed by a filmmaker Q&A.
The FFF will also be joining in to help those impacted by the bushfire tragedy by supporting special previews of How to Be a Good Wife and In the Name of the Land to be held in all capital cities on 9 and 10 March. One hundred percent of tickets sales for these sessions will be donated to the Australian Red Cross Bushfire Appeal, and Rural and Remote Mental Health.
The Extraordinary (Hors normes), described as “one of the most gloriously uplifting films to emerge from France in recent years”, will open the Festival. The latest feature from Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano (The Intouchables), The Extraordinary is inspired by a true story. For twenty years, Bruno (Vincent Cassel) and Malik (Reda Kateb) have run two separate non-profit organizations where they train young people from underprivileged areas to be caregivers for autistic youth abandoned by the state system. But the authorities, concerned that they’ve never sought certification and that many of their carers aren’t ‘officially’ qualified, decide to mount an investigation. The Extraordinary is a crowd-pleasing charmer, with a host of extraordinary characters in exceptional circumstances. It’s a testimony to the great things that can be achieved when people support one another in the face of adversity.
Concluding the 2020 season will be The Bare Necessity (Perdrix), the directorial debut of Erwan Le Duc. Set in a tiny town nestled in the mountains of the Vosges, romantic mayhem ensues when an enigmatic young woman forces a stagnant family to re-define their boundaries and begin to truly live. The film stars Swann Arlaud, Maud Wyler, Fanny Ardant and Nicolas Maury.
For screening dates and venues, ticket information, trailers and a full list of films, head to the Official FFF website. In the meantime, here are a few of the films we’re looking forward to:
La Belle Époque
The clichés of French film history are playfully explored in César Award-winning filmmaker Nicolas Bedos’ hilarious La Belle Époque. The film darts between present day and the wild, wonderful disco era of the 1970s in a whimsical, witty and romantic tale. Disillusioned, his long-term marriage on the rocks, a man (Daniel Auteuil) is given a second chance when he encounters a company offering a unique theatrical service that enables customers to revisit memories through carefully orchestrated re-enactments, thus allowing him to return to 1974 and the peak of his happiness.
The Wolf’s Call (Le Chant du Loup)
Diplomat, novelist, comic creator and screenwriter Antonin Baudry’s action-packed feature directing debut is a stunning submarine-set thriller. The Wolf’s Call was a box office sensation in France, and is now cruising into international waters. While collaboration is key for a French submarine crew, whose mission it is to rescue a special forces team near Syria, the job of sonar technician Chanteraide (François Civil) is one of the most vital. Chanteraide has the special ability to identify sounds few other can register, and Baudry builds riveting tension through the strange sounds Chanteraide hears as the submarine’s crew return to the ocean after a precarious mission.
The Lost Prince (Le Prince Oublié)
Oscar winner for The Artist (2011), Michel Hazanavicius is back with The Lost Prince. The tale follows single father Djibi (Omar Sy) and his young daughter Sofia. Every night, they escape into ‘Storyland’, an imaginary movie studio where Djibi builds elaborate tales of dragons and knights to enthral his daughter, starring himself as the heroic Prince. As Sofia grows up, their bonding ritual begins to change. Sofia is ready for her own stories and her own adventures where her father plays less of a central role. Is the Prince ready for this new role? Or does Sofia’s growing up render him lost forever?
Room 212 (Chambre 212)
Christophe Honoré (Inside Paris), pays homage to the classic musicals of Jacques Demy in Room 212. Maria (Chiara Mastroianni) is a formidable university professor, whose stale marriage of two decades has seen her seek out affection elsewhere. After their latest squabble, Maria checks into a hotel directly across the street from their apartment. Article 212 of the French civil code states spouses “owe each other respect, fidelity, support and assistance”, so it’s no coincidence that the room she’s allocated bears this number. Magically, Maria is given much more than a bird’s eye view of her home; she’s able to scrutinise not only her husband (played, in a delectable piece of casting, by the actress’s own ex, Benjamin Biolay) but scenes from their marriage. The arrival of some unexpected visitors from their past complicates things further: they also have opinions, and plan to share them…
The Translators (Les traducteurs)
A classic French whodunnit. Nine language experts, hired to translate the final book of a bestselling trilogy, are in lockdown within a luxurious bunker. But when the top-secret manuscript’s first ten pages appear online, their dream job implodes. The culprit has to amongst them and the publisher is ready to do whatever it takes to unmask who it is. The Translators will be screening at the Festival simultaneously with its French theatrical release.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Brisbane International Film Festival 2017 – preview
- Italian Film Festival 2017 – film feature
- Scandinavian Film Festival 2017 – preview
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television