With almost 50 movies on offer — most of them Australian premieres — it’s shaping up to be one of the festival’s most exciting years ever. Of all those titles, we’ve selected five that you absolutely owe it to yourself to see.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Lea Seydoux (Blue Is the Warmest Colour) and Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) star in this sumptuous adaptation of the classic French fairy tale. An enormous French-German co-production, the film’s trailer is absolutely packed with gorgeous visuals, and appears to have a darker edge than the animated Disney version we all know and love. The last couple of years have seen a bunch of big budget Hollywood “reboots” of fairy tale stories, most of them not very good. Here’s hoping the French (and the Germans) can get it right.
Aged just 36, writer-director Celine Sciamma first caught our attention with Tomboy, a tender coming-of-age story about a 10-year-old girl pretending to be a boy. Her follow-up, Girlhood, belongs to a similar genre, although this time her protagonists are a little older. The film explores the dynamic between four reckless teenage girls as they struggle to pave a future for themselves in one of the poorer parts of Paris. The film has received a ton of buzz on the international festival circuit, and we can’t wait to check it out.
THE NEW GIRLFRIEND
When it comes to sexually provocative cinema, no one does it better than director Francois Ozon. The man behind such films as In the House and Swimming Pool, Ozon has made a career out of titillating pulp, and his latest film looks to be absolutely no exception. A story of death and deception with some cross-dressing thrown in, The New Girlfriend has been described as a mix of Hitchcockian thriller and Almodóvar-style sexual comedy. It should probably go without saying, but this one’s for adults only.
Last year saw the release of Yves Saint Laurent, the first in a pair of competing biographical dramas about the legendary French fashion designer. Unfortunately, that film was pretty bloody awful. But we’re holding out hope for this alternate version, which competed for the Palme d’Or at last year’s Festival de Cannes and got much kinder notices from critics.
Finishing off our list with something a little lighter, romantic comedy Tokyo Fiancee has drawn comparisons to Amelie — and presumably not just because their protagonists have the same name. The film concerns a young French woman obsessed with all things Japanese, who decides to book herself a one-way ticket to Tokyo. Once there she finds work as a French tutor, only to begin a relationship with one of her students. The film is one of the favourites of festival patrons David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz. And really, who are we to argue with them?
The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival is on around Australia in March. Catch it in Sydney from March 3-22, Melbourne from March 4-22 and Brisbane from March 13 - April 1. Check the festival website for the full program.