Friday, 7 March 2008

Families, Feuds and Fun: French Film Festival 2008

Glasgow francophones and cinephiles, get thee to the GFT. The French Film Festival is in town. Sandra Dupuy gives us the shakedown on the best of the fest.

The French Film Festival currently taking place all over the UK is coming to our Glasgow screens this afternoon. The 29 films shown at the GFT over two weeks have been split into three main categories, Preview for the forthcoming UK releases, Panorama for classics or works made by well-established directors, and Discovery for first features or successful follow-ups. Boldly starting with Bled Number One and Those Who Remain, the GFT selection’s (and the Festival’s) keynotes are indeed family, love and politics, the ultimate French combination.

The 2008 vintage tackles strong themes such as the Algerian War legacy in France, and politics in general, with the forthcoming 40th anniversary of “Mai 68”. Bled Number One, Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche’s follow-up to his well regarded 2001 debut Wesh-Wesh (What’s Going On), is the latest in a flurry a French-produced movies dealing with Franco-Algerian cross-currents and questioning the place of a prominent Algerian culture in post-colonial, contemporary French society.

One of the most moving films of the selection is Summer of 62. The French title, Cartouches gauloises, is more polemic and refers both to the famed French cigarette brand and French bullets. Mehdi Charef’s 1987 debut Le thé au harem d’Archimède was a hit tackling the issue of France’s diverse and conflicting cultures. 20 years after, the autobiographical Cartouches gauloises brutally depicts the last days of French colonial occupation in Algeria through the eyes of 11 year old Ali (Hamada).

Two other films, Mon Colonel (directed by Laurent Herbiet and co-written by Costa-Gavras) and Florent-Emilio Siri’s Intimate Enemies are dedicated to the same theme. The first recalls how French soldiers used systematic torture on Algerian civilians and fellaga (freedom fighters) while the second focus on relationships within the French Army at that particular time.

A mini-section entitled Mai 68 Retro gives the opportunity to watch or re-watch Louis Malle’s 1989 classic Milou en mai/ May Fools, centred around a family gathering for their matriarch’s funeral, as well as Mai 68, a rare documentary filmed by Jean-Luc Magneron during the eponymous riots. Other political films are on offer, like Serge Bozon’s unexpected musical war drama La France, beloved actor and FFF guest Jean-Pierre Darroussin’s first directed feature The Premonition or Claude Miller’s highly prized and praised A Secret.

The family and its complex mechanics are also featured, with the Doillon clan strongly present. Boxes, Jane Birkin’s long-awaited directorial debut, is an autobiographical drama in which a menopausal woman, having recently moved to Brittany, leafs through boxes, unleashing ghosts from the past. Veteran director Jacques Doillon’s ex-partner’s theatrical meditation also stars their daughter Lou Doillon.

Lou’s half-sister Lola Doillon hasn’t been outdone, as she will present her first feature Just About Love at the GFT on the 8th of March at 8.30pm, and will stay for a Q&A session. Her comedy offers a fresh outlook on love, youth and first experiences, well summed up by the French title “Et toi, t’es sur qui?” (literally “What about you, who are you on?”).

Still within the family theme, Hunting and Gathering, a charming comedy drama, celebrates veteran Claude Berri’s return after his 2005 L’un reste, l’autre part, which starred Charlotte Gainsbourg and Daniel Auteuil. Berri has once again gathered an impressive cast ranging from France’s brightest young actors Audrey Tautou and Guillaume Canet to “grandes dames” Danièle Lebrun and Françoise Bertin. Berri’s film has won critical acclaim while being a French box-office success. At the opposite end of the family spectrum is Don’t Worry, I’m Fine, director/actor Philippe Lioret’s intimist drama about a 19 year old girl (amazing newcomer Melanie Laurent) searching for her twin brother.

Let’s not forget Conversation With My Gardener, Jean Becker’s new venture. The veteran and FFF guest is better known in the UK for his riveting psycho-thriller L’Eté Meurtrier/ One Deadly Summer (featuring undisputed 1984 César winner Isabelle Adjani) and his Vanessa Paradis/ Gérard Depardieu drama Elisa (1995). In Conversation…, leads Daniel Auteuil and Jean-Pierre Darroussin form an amazing and moving duo at the heart of this bittersweet comedy drama.

Last but not least, a few well-chosen comedies brighten up the selection. Priceless, which premiered at the recent Glasgow Film Festival, is a definite crowd-pleaser, as well as an astute and sarcastic comedy depicting a superficial and wealthy world in which everyone’s for sale. Gad Elmaleh and Audrey Tautou’s unlikely association works well and the two glamorous stars are reminiscent of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in their comedy hey days.

The wonderful Sandrine Bonnaire, whose directorial debut, Her Name is Sabine, is also screened in London for the FFF, reveals her unsuspected comic talent to Vincent Lindon in Pierre Jolivet’s romcom Could This Be Love. And if, unlike one of my revered colleagues, you haven’t had enough of 2008 BAFTA, Oscar and César winner Marion Cotillard, she’s back in Fair Play, directed by FFF guest Lionel Bailliu and also starring heartthrob Benoit Magimel.

All in all the 2008 French Film Festival selection, despite its common themes, is ambitious, challenging and extremely varied. Don’t forget to check out previews of The Story of Richard O, Priceless and Second Wind, as well as reviews of Boxes, La France, In Your Wake, Poison Friends and Before I Forget. Happy Festival! Sport your best beret, grab a glass of wine, and enjoy!

For more details on the FFF 2008, go to

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