The Alliance Française French Film Festival launched their 2013 programme earlier this month, boasting a fine assortment of tantalising French-language cinema for Francophiles and providing New Zealand audiences with our first film festival of the year. Opening in Auckland on February 21 with Christian Vincent’s Haute Cuisine and the following week in Wellington and Christchurch, the festival will make its way to eleven cities over the course of two months. Following a huge year for French-language films, in which Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist dominated the 2012 Oscars, Michael Haneke’s Amour earned widespread acclaim and Cannes’ top honour (Palme d’Or), Leos Carax’s Holy Motors topped many year-end lists (including my own), and The Intouchables broke all sorts of international box office records, there is clearly a growing international demand for French cinema and it’s a safe bet to assume that this year’s line-up will be a hit. While the festival may not entirely represent the best French-language cinema of the past year — Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone, Olivier Assayas’ Something in the Air, Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, and Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen are all conspicuously absent — it does a great job of condensing the diverse range into 20 selections that feature something for everyone. The line-up includes an Academy Award nominee (War Witch), a César Awards frontrunner (Camille Rewinds), some of France’s biggest stars (Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Amalric, Cécile de France, Gérard Depardieu), and a few encores from last year’s NZ International Film Festival (Sister, The Painting, Journal De France) for those who missed them. You can find my five most anticipated picks of the programme below, and I will be posting reviews throughout the festival.
The 2013 Alliance Française French Film Festival opens in Auckland on February 21, running for a little over two weeks and screening at Rialto and Bridgeway cinemas. Head to their website for further details, and check out my picks from the programme below.
In retrospect, one of my biggest regrets of last year’s NZ International Film Festival was missing Ursula Meier’s Sister, which follows two siblings (Léa Seydoux and newcomer Kacey Mottet Klien) as they struggle to survive at the base of the Swiss Alps. After winning the Berlin International Film Festival’s Silver Bear award, the film went on to become one of the most buzzed about of 2012 among critics and was selected as the Swiss entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. I can’t wait to finally catch it this month and see what all the fuss is about.
Watch the trailer for Sister (L’Enfant d’en haut) below.
2. War Witch
Another French-language film that originates from outside the Motherland, Kim Nguyen’s War Witch was Canada’s submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar and surprised many when it made it through to the final five ahead of several more hyped films on the shortlist. The film stars first-time actress Rachel Mwanza as a teenage girl who is abducted from her African village by rebels and forced to fight as a child soldier. She soon gains status as a “war witch” after she begins to see ghosts in the forest. This promises to be a breakout film for both the filmmaker and his fourteen-year-old star, and I’m curious to see what Oscar voters found so appealing.
Watch the trailer for War Witch (Rebelle) below.
3. The Painting
Jean-François Languionie has crafted a seemingly marvelous animated parable on colonialism and prejudice, portraying a kingdom divided into three castes: the Alldunns, who are entirely painted, the Halfies, who lack a few colours, and the Sketchies, who are only sketches. A pair of star-crossed lovers and their friend go on an adventure to find the Painter and convince him to finish the painting and therefore restore harmony. Languionie appears to ask some interesting existential questions not usually associated with animated fare, and the kaleidoscopic worlds that pay homage to iconic painters — including Marc Chagall, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse — look imaginative and unique in the trailer and stills.
4. Mr Hulot’s Holiday
Jacques Tati’s second feature Mr Hulot’s Holiday introduced the world to the pipe-smoking, well-meaning but clumsy character of Monsieur Hulot — who would later appear in Mon Oncle, Playtime and Trafic — and this landmark film will be charming audiences all over again as it celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
Watch the trailer for Mr Hulot’s Holiday (Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot) below.
5. Journal de France
Photographer and documentarian Raymond Depardon has been a respected name in France for decades, but he is not exactly well-known to the rest of us. That should change with Journal de France, which is part travel diary — following him on a six-year journey around the French countryside as he photographs the landscapes — and part retrospective, as his long-time partner and collaborator Claudine Nougaret unearths a wealth of unseen footage from his archives, including footage his time in Chad, Venice and Cannes as well as key historical figures such as Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Jean-Luc Godard and Nelson Mandela. It looks to be a fascinating and revealing portrait of both Depardon and the extraordinary events he has documented over his storied career.
Watch the trailer for Journal de France below.
Also of note:
Noémie Lvovsky’s César Award-nominated rom-com Camille Rewinds (Camille Redouble) looks to be a fun French take on Peggy Sue Got Married; You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet! is the latest (and perhaps final) film from legendary New Wave director Alain Resnais, starring Mathieu Amalric, Sabine Azéma, Michel Piccoli and more as themselves; Bruno Podalydès promising farce Granny’s Funeral (Adieu Berthe) premiered to a warm reception during the Director’s Fortnight section at Cannes; Belgian provocateurs Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern return with an oddball anarchic comedy, The Big Night (Le Grand Soir), starring Benoît Poelvoorde as the “oldest punk in Europe with a dog” opposite his conformist brother (Albert Dupontel); and Xavier Giannoli’s reality TV satire Superstar stars Kad Merad, and reunites The Singer filmmaker with his wonderful lead actress Cécile de France.