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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Film Alert 2014 Number 4 - (Edited Highlights), Barrie Pattison on the French Film Festival, Forthcoming Sydney Screenings


Supercinephile Barrie Pattison writes on the 2015 French Film Festival currently racking up big audiences and massive box office all round the country.
As always I’ll never really know about this lot. Fifty titles at those prices makes an impossible target. There are times when you wonder are these really the pick of the year’s offering? I was well on the way to regarding the event as a way to throw fifteen dollars a movie into the void. Then it came good. I got two exceptional films in the same day.

Loin des hommes/ Far from Men starts off predictably with Vigo Mortensen as the Post WW2 Algerian school teacher saddled with the job of taking local murderer Reda Kateb (Zero Dark Thirty) to the gendarmerie, a day’s march down the desert road. Oh no – more growing mutual respect! Well they do go that way but, as they fill in the two central characters and the pair get involved with local militias and the French army, it becomes clear that this is something more thoughtful and impressive than we are used to. Great ‘Scope images. Angela Molina doing a walk-on.

Then they slapped on Diplomatie/ Diplomacy, the enduring Volker Schlondorf’s film of the hit play about the Swedish Consul Nordling talking General Dietrich von Choltitz, German occupation commander, out of leveling Paris, as the Krauts lose WW2. This delivers two great parts to André Dussolier and Niels Arestrup, who come through brilliantly. Factually suspect but dramatically superior, introducing elements like the story of Abraham and Dussolier’s rousing hypothetical. All the reviewers seem to have forgotten René Clement’s 1966 version Is Paris Burning? The actual “Paris brûle-t-il?” ‘phone call doesn’t even figure here.

Benoit Jacquot’s 3 Coeurs/ Three Hearts looked like a safe bet with Benoît Poelevoorde, Charlotte Gainsbourg , Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve, but it’s a mis-judged and uninvolving account of frustrated passion. Mlle Deneuve struck out again in the once great André Techiné’s equally ambitious L’Homme qu’on aimait trop/ French Riviera treating a celebrated, inconclusive murder trial. Guillaume Cantet and Adele Haenel get involved in Casino politics at ponderous length.

Melanie Laurent is staking out relationship cinema with her second feature as director Respire/Breathe covering a teenage school girl friendship that goes South in soft ‘scope close-ups. David Bailey, Amitiés particuliaires and the current stressed family cycle swirl around. It takes a while for any narrative to form and the ending is a lurch into melo but Laurent is feeling her way towards something substantial.

Someone must have thought that if people were prepared to watch decadence for 142 min. in La grande bellezza, they could take a hundred and fifty of Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent, glamour with a sprinkling of nudity, luxury historical reconstruction - with actuality and fashion in a split screen.  You’ve got to wonder about a film where the clothes are the best element. Gaspard Ulliel and Jeremy Renier deserve better.

Lisa Azuelos’ polished Une rencontre/ Quantum Love /Chance Meeting is determinedly female and determinedly escapist. Mature author Sophie Marceau and lawyer Francois Cluzet get along a treat, leading to a variety of fantasies of which the most striking has them naked together in the bed he is sharing with Azuelos, doing double duty playing his wife. Beautiful people, beautiful homes and locations - the Paris bridge with the lovelocks, London red buses. After you realize it’s all froth, attention wanders.

In Tu Veux out tu veux pas/ Sex Love & Therapy relations councilor Patrick Bruel hires Sophie again, to sit in on his sessions and we get a lot of will they or won’t they. I was thinking of setting up cloud funding to buy her new underwear after she turned up a second time in those same black scanties.

Welcome relief came with a germphobic (think Danny Kaye in Up in Arms) Danny Boon in his own Superchondriac, a very funny farcical piece placing him again opposite Kad Merad and our first glance of the winning Alice Pol. Think The Interview without the edge but funnier gags.

Also a word of praise for that nice film maker interview promo trailer. ......For more of Barrie’s writing go to Sprocketed Sources
Screenings around Sydney                                                            
The Art Gallery of NSW has put together one of its more interesting selections to accompany its major new exhibition showcasing Australian photography. Titled Brought to light: Troublemakers, boat-rockers, trailblazers and whistleblowers,  it features a selection heavily weighted towards local shorts and documentaries with a selection of classic features topping up the season. It starts on Sunday March 29 and runs through each week until early June. Free admission. Full details  are here.

The second of a series of six FREE screenings taking place at AFTRS commencing at 6.00 pm on Wednesday evenings will be Abbas Kiarostami’s Close Up (1990). For some good background you can go to a piece by Godfrey Cheshire in the online Slant Magazine. Cheshire also did the liner booklet that accompanies the Criterion DVD of the film. This is a rare, for Sydney anyway, public screening of not just this film but any film by Kiarostami. A quick check of the Sydney Film Festival website draws a blank from the search engine which suggests, to the naked eye at least, that the SFF has never shown a single title by this most revered figure. I had a feeling the SFF screened the recent Shirin but nothing came up. MIFF has not only screened his films but had the great man as a guest a few years ago now. So be grateful.  Close Up (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 1990, 98 minutes), AFTRS Theatrette, EQ, Moore Park, at 6.00 pm on Wednesday March 25 introduced by Bridget Ikin.

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