The Alliance Française French Film Festival — a celebration of French cinema and culture which continues to display admirable growth each year — launches its 2015 event in Auckland this week, with César Award-nominee The Bélier Family (La Famille Bélier) opening the proceedings at Rialto Cinemas. This year’s programme boasts several high-profile French-language selections from the 2014 Cannes (The Blue Room), Venice (The Last Hammer Blow) and Toronto (The New Girlfriend) film festivals, among others, as well as a spotlight on The Great War (La Grande Guerre) following last year’s WWI centenary commemorations. You can find my five most anticipated picks of the programme below, and be sure to check back soon for reviews from the festival.
The 2015 Alliance Française French Film Festival runs from February 19 to March 8 in Auckland, screening at Rialto Newmarket and Berkelely Takapuna cinemas, and makes its way to ten more New Zealand cities through late April. For more details and updates check out the AFFFF website or Twitter.
UPDATE: A Fistful of Culture has secured double passes to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch screenings for you lucky readers — get your entries in below and don’t forget to specify your preferred city.
TERMS & CONDITIONS: This competition is only open to people with a New Zealand postal address. Entries are limited to one per person each day. Winners will be notified via email. Tickets are valid for any regular AF French Film Festival session, including 3D (glasses not included). They are not valid for special events, opening night or on public holidays. Tickets cannot be used for sessions after 5pm on Saturday.
1. GRAND ILLUSION (LA GRANDE ILLUSION)
A restored classic on the big screen is something of a rarity in New Zealand, so when one surfaces during festival season it is cause to celebrate; all the more so when we are talking about one of the greatest films ever made. Jean Renoir’s 1937 anti-war masterpiece is essential viewing for a number of reasons, and while it’s tempting to discuss at length the film’s influence and historic importance, I think this pair of quotes ought to suffice:
“If I had to save only one film in the world, it would be Grand Illusion” — Orson Welles
“A magnificent restoration we should all be grateful for” – Martin Scorsese
Mia Hansen-Løve follows up 2012’s impressive festival darling Goodbye First Love with an ambitious semi-autobiographical drama set during the rise of the ‘French touch’ electronic music scene in the 1990s, which spawned the likes of Daft Punk and Cassius. With a narrative spanning two decades, Eden stars newcomer Félix de Givry as an aspiring Parisian DJ — based on Mia’s brother Sven — with a supporting cast that includes Greta Gerwig, Pauline Etienne, Laura Smet and Golshifteh Farahani.
3. BREATHE (RESPIRE)
Actress Mélanie Laurent (Beginners, Inglourious Basterds) cemented her reputation as a promising directorial talent at Cannes last year with her second feature, Respire. By all accounts an engrossing, beautifully shot and thoroughly unexpected young adult drama, the film stars Joséphine Japy and Lou de Laâge as two very different 17-year-old girls who form an intense bond that soon leads into sinister territory.
4. LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT (LES COMBATTANTS)
Thomas Cailley’s debut feature Les Combattants must have impressed the 2014 Cannes jury greatly during the Directors’ Fortnight, as it won four of a possible five awards (including the FIPRESCI Prize) — besting the likes of Whiplash, A Hard Day, National Gallery, Cold in July and Girlhood. Starring Kévin Azaïs and Adèle Haenel, the film looks to be a fun take on the rom-com — their meet-cute is a test fight at an Army recruitment event (hence the English title’s awful pun) — and no doubt this will be one of the festival’s strongest crowd-pleasers.
5. APOCALYPSE WWI
Produced using over 500 hours of newly colourised and largely unseen archival footage, the documentary miniseries Apocalypse WWI promises to bring The Great War to life like never before, with the help of narration by French filmmaker/actor Mathieu Kassovitz. Note that this is screening in two parts during the festival — Part One will consist of the first two episodes (Fury and Fear), and Part Two will showcase the final three (Hell, Rage and Deliverance) — and Canadian producer Josette D. Normandeau will be present for a special Film Talk Q&A event.
[Also of note: A free discussion on The Great War on Screen at the Auckland Museum]