The Alliance Française French Film Festival has good reason to be excited about its 26th annual season, with news that revered film critics Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton will be the Festival’s 2015 patrons.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Margaret and David have enjoyed one of the longest and most enduring partnerships on Australian television. Their deep love of cinema and lively repartee made At the Movies (ABC TV) and The Movie Show (SBS TV) essential weekly viewing for nearly three decades.
We are deeply honoured to have Margaret and David as patrons of the 2015 Festival. Here, in their own words, are their personal Festival ‘picks’:
3 Hearts (3 Coeurs)
Benoît Jacquot has created a sublime, if painful, romance with fate intervening in the lives of a taxman (Benoît Poelvoorde) and two sisters (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni). In addition to these fine European actors, Jacquot has cast iconic Catherine Deneuve as the mother of the sisters. Set in a provincial town south of Lyon, the coincidence of two sisters falling for the same man in a ‘coup de foudre’ is both bizarre yet understandable. The ramifications create a powerfully emotional film that references great romances of the past.
Far From Men (Loin des Hommes)
Viggo Mortensen must be one of the most language-adept actors in film. Here he speaks slightly accented French, which is befitting for his character Daru, the son of Spanish settlers in Algeria. The year is 1954, when the National Liberation Front began its uprising. Daru is a teacher in a remote location and is aware of the tentative safety of his position. Does he stay or go? That decision is made for him when a prisoner, Mohamed (Reda Kateb), is delivered to him with instructions Daru must take him to court in Tilsit, where he will almost certainly be found guilty of murder and executed. Loosely based on The Guest, a short story by Albert Camus, Far From Men is an exploration of moral dilemmas, which unravel in a spectacular western landscape. The soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis adds enormously to the atmosphere of this David Oelhoffen film.
The Last Hammer Blow (Le Dernier Coup de Marteau)
If you remember Alix Delaporte’s debut film Angèle et Tony, you will be impelled to see her second feature, in which the stars Clotilde Hesme and Grégory Gadebois occupy centre screen once again. The connecting link in their relationship is their son Victor (Romain Paul), a young new comer who delivers an electric performance, and who won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor at the 2014 Venice International Film Festival. Victor lives with his mother, who is suffering from an unknown disease, in a trailer park at the edge of the sea. He’s a talented young soccer player, and his coach sees his potential. His estranged father is a famous conductor who is visiting the nearby town of Montpellier to present a Mahler symphony. Victor’s attempts to deal with his mother and connect with his father are the heart of this terrific film. Delaporte has subtext down to a fine art. Her scenes are subtle and incredibly moving.
Volker Schlondorff’s intense adaptation of Cyril Gely’s 2011 play unfolds during the night of August 24-25, 1944 in the Hotel Meurice, the Paris hotel that serves as the headquarters of General Dietrich Choltitz, the German Governor of the occupied city. The Allies are at the city gates and, following Hitler’s orders, Choltitz is prepared to destroy the city and its monuments – until an intervention from Swedish diplomat Raoul Nordling, who, during an intense and emotionally charged argument, puts forward the case for saving the city. Niels Arestrup as Choltitz and André Dussollier as Nordling, give commanding performances in this totally gripping drama.
The Blue Room (La Chambre Bleue)
For his second feature film as Director, Mathieu Amalric has turned to a book by crime writer Georges Simenon about a passionate small-town love affair that ends in death and retribution. Amalric himself plays Julien, a married man who embarks on a clandestine affair with Esther (Stéphanie Cléau). Lovers of well-made thriller and tasteful eroticism will be amply rewarded by Amalric’s stylish and intelligent treatment.
This film recounts the experiences of Amélie, a Belgian girl who attempts to make a life for herself in Japan. Stefan Liberski’s version of Amélie Nothomb’s eponymous novel gains enormous benefit from the charming central performance by Pauline Étienne, whose love of all things Japanese quickly develops into a passion for Rinri (Taichi Inoue), a rich youth who pays for her to give him lessons in French.
Grand Illusion (La Grande Illusion)
Jean Renoir’s timeless 1937 anti-war classic stars Jean Gabin as a French POW during World War I. The screenplay, by Renoir and Charles Spaak, is based on a true story, and the film is memorable because of Renoir’s approach to friendship and the loyalties forged by class, so that the aristocratic French prisoner (played by Pierre Fresnay) has more in common with the German camp commandant (Erich von Stroheim) than with his fellow countrymen.
Proudly presented by the Alliance Française in association with the Embassy of France in Australia, and with the gracious support of Peugeot, the Festival’s 26th season will screen across eight cities at a selection of Palace Cinema venues from early March until mid-April, as follows:
Sydney: 3–22 March, Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona, Chauvel Cinema, Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace.
Melbourne: 4–22 March, Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth & Kino
Adelaide: 5–24 March, Palace Nova Eastend
Canberra: 6–25 March, Palace Electric Cinema
Brisbane: 13 March–1 April, Palace Barracks & Palace Centro
Perth: 19 March–7 April, Cinema Paradiso, Luna on SX & Windsor Cinema
Byron Bay: 9–14 April, Palace Byron Bay
Hobart: 16–21 April, State Cinema
For more information visit the Festival website: http://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org