French Film Festival 2009 Wrap Up

I could only see five films again at this year’s French Film Festival because there’s so much going on at the moment. Hopefully, things will quieten down a bit in a month or so.

The festival was pretty good and from what I hear there’s a few movies which I really should have seen. I think the festival organisers need to look at how they bill the films. Both this year and last year suffered for woefully inadequate and in some cases completely misleading film blurbs.

Here’s the low-down of my festival:

Coupable (Guilty): Complete rubbish. There is really nothing to recommend this film at all. Why on earth was it included in the program? Imagine all the magic realism of Amelie but, instead of being about the innocent and love-lorn, it concentrates with close-ups that hang around forever on the pathetic and desperate. The tag line, which is proclaimed on the movie poster in huge letters much bigger than the actual title is “sans péché, point de sexualité et sans sexualité, point d’histore” (without sin there is no sexuality and without sexuality there is no story). Maybe this was intended as a warning because as a description of the film it’s 100% correct on both counts.

Nes en 68 (Born in 68): A long film which reminded me, both stylistically and in terms of its treatment of the subject, of all those Kennedy-Miller mini-series about Australian history. It follows a bunch of students who join the worker riots in Paris in May 1968. They survive the mess and have kids who grow up to hate their hippy parents. I guess the message of the film is that each generation resents their parents for the state of the world passed down to them.

For me, the best thing about this film was chatting (in French, of course) with the woman sitting next to me who (I thought was putting the moves on me until she) said she was there in 1968. Wow. In the riots? No, she was there but was too scared to participate because they were really violent events and that she was too concerned with passing her uni exams.

Cash (Cash): An overly-complex caper film that doesn’t take itself too serious and is an awful lot of fun. There’s plans within plans, wheels within wheels. None of them make too much sense and possibly none of them should. This is a film which plays with audience expectations and knowledge of other caper film while managing to remains fairly tight and stylish and keeping the audience interested in the quirky characters. Well worth a look although it’s generally been panned by critics in the English-speaking world.

Un Coeur Simple (A Simple Heart): Very different to expectations. From the blurb, I expected a film about class-struggle and a battle of wills between two strong and determined women, one living upstairs and the other downstairs. What I got instead was a very nuanced character piece about dealing with grief. Her-Upstairs is cold but not calculating while Her-Downstairs is simple-minded but with a seemingly unlimited capacity for endurance. They both deal with lost loves, dead children, unsupportive family, social approbation, decline in health. Definitely not a film for everyone but very, very good.

JCVD (JCVD): Oh! My! God! Best film EVA!!1!!OMGBBQ! Ok, I agree that was a little over the top. This is only the second greatest film ever made (The first and greatest is, of course, Casablanca). Again, this is not a film for everyone. It’s very Brechtian in its approach using such theatrical techniques as replaying the same scene from the point of view of different characters, breaking out of the action and speaking directly to the audience, showing a character’s vision of what should happen(ed) followed by a look at what actually happen(s/ed). I guess it should be obvious that the film plays with the image of Van Damme as determined by his films compared with the “true” Van Damme as a person with real, important and pressing personal problems. And finally, fuck me, the man can actually act.