Alliance Francaise French Film Festival
ALLIANCE FRANCAISE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL
March 8 – 27, Palace Chauvel, Verona, Norton St, and Hayden Cremorne Orpheum
[On Tour/ Tournee]
Anyone wanting an insight into the ‘New Burlesque’ should see On Tour, by charismatic actor and sometime-director Mathieu Amalric. This dramedy follows a week in the life of a troupe of American burlesque divas, on tour in France with their shady ex-Parisian manager, Joachim (Amalric). On Tour, which won the Best Director gong at Cannes 2010, is pretty much what you’d expect from Amalric, based purely on his body of work: a bit mad, a bit sleazy, chaotic and colourful, and brimming with energy. The divas are played by real-life burlesque stars – the best-known of the bunch perhaps being Julie Atlas Muz, former Miss Exotic World. Besides Muz you have the voluptuous sauce-pot Dirty Martini, pianist Kitten on the Keys, blonde bombshell and pin-up queen Mimi Le Meaux, and the more demure and classic Evie Lovelle.
These ladies look like they’re playing themselves, in what might almost be a documentary on the itinerant life of a travelling entertainer. There is, however, a romantic through-line, as sexual and romantic tension bubbles between Mimi and Joachim – both wounded but optimistic. This is a visually engrossing film, with some beautifully poignant scenes – not to mention seeing Mimi work her fan dance, a climactic scene that should convert anyone still resisting the New Burlesque. – Dee Jefferson
[Two In The Wave/ Deux De La Vague]
Godard and Truffaut – are there any other names in movies that inspire such reverence and passion? As the defining members of La Nouvelle Vague – the surge of form-changing films that emerged from France in early 1960s – their assuredness and inventiveness changed cinema and created a generation of cinephiles.
In Two in the Wave, Emmanuel Laurent superbly mashes archival footage, movie clips and newsreels (Bernard Herrmann’s jaunty newsreel music from Citizen Kane even appears) and crafts a portrait of Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Trauffaut’s friendship, creative and personal, through to its final dissolution shortly after the release of the latter’s Day for Night in 1973. At that time, Godard – the more political and iconoclastic of the two – wrote his contemporary a critical letter attacking his lack of political nuance. This prompted a 20-page reply from the infuriated Truffaut. They would never meet again.
The film doesn’t delve into what happened next, the movement’s influence or Hollywood’s eventual film-brat response in the late ’60s and early ’70s, instead restraining itself to a study of the now-mythical visionaries and their work, especially the pivotal 400 Blows and Ћ bout de soufflО (Breathless). One of the many ideological differences that would strain their relationship came from frequent collaborator, actor Jean-Pierre LОaud, who starred as Truffaut’s alter ego, Antoine Doinel, in Blows. With his significant influence, Laurent could have titled his film ‘Three In The Wave’, to no lesser effect. – Joshua Blackman
[Of Gods And Men]
Having not actually seen this one yet, it’s an automatic must-see purely by dint of its pedigree: made by critically acclaimed filmmaker Xavier Beauvois (who won the Cannes Jury Prize in 1995 for his second feature), featuring a heavyweight cast that includes Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale and Olivier Rabourdin – and winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes 2010. Based on a real story from the French-Algerian war, in which seven monks were taken hostage by guerrilla soldiers, this film comes with a warning: bring tissues. We reckon it’s going to be worth it. – DJ
[The Princess Of Montpensier]
Bertrand Tavernier is a bona fide cinema legend – not only for his films, which span almost four decades, but for his pioneering work in film criticism, distribution and publicity. In collaboration with noted cinephile Pierre Rissient, Tavernier is responsible for shaping Parisian film culture of the 50s, and giving rise to the new wave. While The Princess of Monpensier may not match his best-known fare (such as Life and Nothing But and Coup De Torchon) it is top quality escapism, made by someone who lives and breathes the cinematic storytelling mode.
Tavernier is an acknowledged master of period drama, and has a track record of exploring history’s nastier corners. Princess is set in 16th Century France, during a period of savage religious warfare between the Catholics and the Protestant Huguenots. At the centre of this story is the radiantly beautiful and ‘savagely innocent’ Princess of Montpensier (MОlanie Thierry), and her four lovers. Freshly married to an unremarkable young prince, she pines for her childhood sweetheart (the animalistic Gaspard Ulliel), admires veteran warrior-turned pacifist and tutor Chabbanes (Lambert Wilson – also in Of Gods and Men) and is disconcerted by the attentions of the King’s Brother, the Duke of Anjou.
It’s heady stuff, but Tavernier’s touch is very light, leaving the audience to draw parallels between the exigencies of love, war and religious faith. – DJ
[L'Amour Fou/ Crazy Love]
The first two scenes of this documentary hook you: the first is footage from Yves Saint Laurent’s statement to the media in 2002, in which he resigned from his eponymous fashion house; the second is footage of his lover and business partner Pierre Berge’s speech at Laurent’s funeral, in 2008. The first neatly encapsulates Saint Laurent’s incredible career – from 15-year-old assistant to Christian Dior, to Director of that iconic fashion house, at the tender age of 21, and through his drug abuse, and ongoing depression. The second is simply a man saying goodbye to his soul mate. Berge describes the moment he met the young Yves. “Who could know that, 50 years later, I would be standing here, saying goodbye.” These two scenes encapsulate the two reasons to see this film: to find out more about the history of Yves Saint Laurent, and his era – and to take a peek into an amazing an unusual partnership. Just one caveat: for the fuller, less glossed story behind this icon, independent research will be required! – DJ