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Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 2017

This year sees 45 formidable films on offer, from the Audrey Tatou-starring Jacques Cousteau biopic to Venice Film Festival highlight Planetarium.
By Sarah Ward
February 07, 2017
By Sarah Ward
February 07, 2017

When your last festival screened 48 films to 168,000 people around Australia, what comes next? It's a problem many events wish they had, however, in their 28th year, the Alliance Française French Film Festival is on the case. With the massive celebration of Gallic cinema continuing to draw huge crowds, the beloved annual festival is offering up more of the same. The lineup has changed, of course, but the eclectic nature audiences have come to expect of the event is back.

Kicking off on March 7 in Sydney before touring to Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Parramatta and Casula until April 9, the 2017 program begins and ends with a bang — or, with two very different journeys. In pole position at the start of the fest sits The Odyssey, an adventure-filled biopic focused on famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, and co-starring Audrey Tautou as Cousteau's wife Simone. Then, after running through the bulk of its 45-film selection, the fest comes to a close with maternal comedy A Bun in the Oven, featuring The Bélier Family's Karin Viard as an unexpectedly expectant 49-year old.

In between, the AFFFF delivers on two fronts: stars and a vibrant array of big screen stories. There's plenty of both. The former includes 2017 Oscar-nominees Isabelle Huppert and Natalie Portman, with Huppert showing up twice — playing a woman with a secret past in the rom-com Souvenir, and a philosophy professor in Things to Come and Portman joining forces with Lily-Rose Depp (yes, Johnny's daughter) in Planetarium. Depp also stars with French singer-actress Soko in The Dancer, while Marion Cotillard does double duty too in romance From the Land of the Moon and the Xavier Dolan-directed family drama It's Only the End of the World. Inglourious Basterds actress Mélanie Laurent co-directs environmental doco Tomorrow, the great Gérard Depardieu takes a road trip in Saint Amour, and one of the last roles played by Amour's Emmanuelle Riva, as an elderly aunt in Lost in Paris, also features.

Elsewhere, the 2017 fest tells the tale of the first popular Afro-Cuban artist of the French stage in Monsieur Chocolate starring The Intouchables' Omar Sy opposite James Thierrée (aka Charlie Chaplin's grandson), examines the real-life circumstances surrounding a pregnant nun in The Innocents, dives into coming-of-age affections with Being 17 and gets ghostly with the haunting Daguerrotype. Or, viewers can catch Juliette Binoche at her most slapstick in farcical detective effort Slack Bay, and enjoy the kind of moral dilemmas the Dardenne brothers explore so well in The Unknown Girl.

Looking back as well as forwards, a two-movie retrospective steps into the court of Versailles courtesy of the Marie Antoinette-centric Farewell, My Queen and music drama Mozart's Sister. Plus, if all of the above isn't enough for the most eager film buffs, dedicated cinephiles can take A Journey Through French Cinema for 191 minutes of movie history.

The Alliance Française French Film Festival screens at Melbourne's Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth, Kino Cinemas and The Astor Theatre from March 8 to 30.

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