They usually put the best films at the start of these events to keep the punters coming and by this standard the current French Film Festival hasn't fallen behind.
Mind you they had to cast a wide net. The splendid The Sister's Brothersis a US-France-Spain-Romania-Belgium co-production shot in Spain in English and The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir is an English speaking Canadian effort. Even better and also Canadian is Denys Arcand's La Chute de l'empire americain.
I've been on Denys Arcand's case since 1973 when I wrote up his then new Montreal gangster piece Réjeanne Padovani with enthusiasm, to the scorn of my English colleagues.
Now the rest of Canada's new wave - Don Owen, John Trent, Claude Jutra, Michel Brault, and Gilles Carle (whose work I used to enjoy) - have faded away and Arcand has just delivered what we can think of as the third part of his "American Empire" series. It's exceptional.
We kick off as we mean to go with the breakup of philosophy graduate Alexandre Landry become delivery guy and his long standing single mother bank teller squeeze, because he's "trop intelligent" dismissing the philosophers, artists and politicians their culture reveres. It's not long before his intellectual stance is put to the test when an armed robbery goes wrong leaving successive bandits dead and two bags full of money on the street. He loads them into his truck and drives off before the cops arrive.
Apart of putting a few notes into the hands of the charity cases he works with and the rest in a storage unit, he has no idea how to deal with his sudden wealth. He phones round the call girl services and rejects the one who advertises her deep throat speciality in favor a girl whose alias is a reference to Racine. Good choice as she turns out to be show stopping Canadian TV personality Moriper Morin who arrives with a shaven headed Asian "Personal trainer" and a panic button activated when the police duo show up.
Our young lead knows he's out of his depth and noticing the release of jailed biker Sylvain 'The Brain' Bigras (the only real link with the earlier films is the presence of now even more weathered Rémy Girard) when he leaves jail alone with his possessions in a paper bag, Landry recruits the hard case as technical advisor. An uneasy trust develops between the two. We notice that seventy-year-old Girard has no trouble in downing his decades younger associate.
The film becomes a semi-documentary on the nature and misuse of money, a companion to the event's En Guerre which also uses the argument about the C.E.O. making two hundred and seventy-five times his worker's salary. We hear about police being eager because they get to keep half any wealth recovered to finance operations and the elaborate way money men have managed to overcome laundering regulations.
It is also a unique account of the regeneration of the leads redeemed by Landry's benevolent philosophy - which Girard is in his element explaining to the uncomprehending gunman left crippled by gang torture and the homeless associate fearing the oncoming winter who can't believe he has been saved.
There's the nice climax when they put in place the physical money distribution with the wife/customer slapping her spouse when he starts to count a million dollar pay out and a government official circumventing his own regulations. The entire operation is made to evaporate before the eyes of a vindictive police raid.
This gets us to a very Arcand moment when the cop stands looking over the Montréal sky line vaguely understanding that the money he wants to recover is within sight without him being able to touch it.
The unfamiliar leads and Girard are particularly winning and the film making is masterful, giving plausibility to situations we've seen in hundreds of other films without believing them.
This one is an early contender for film of the year. I plan to see it again.
Alex Lutz is a personality who has a following in his French home market. His work hasn’t reached me yet and as a writer-director-star his talent seem stretched in Guy another bogus cinéma vérité docu drama in which he plays a past his use by date seventies singer-idol who is launching another tour to be adored by his granny audience. We see a middle aged woman fan stop him and express her admiration on a Paris street.
This is to be covered in a documentary made by Tom Dingler playing the star's unbeknownst son, product of an overnight affair with his mum at the peak of his fame. Lutz' acknowleged son fits in a rushed cafe meeting to celebrate the son’s birthday. They film Lutz recording, touring, chatting and horse riding in Aix-en-Provence with a fall that could render him liable for the cost of the tour. He becomes irritated with the "Caméra de con" documentary.
To give the piece more resonance, half recognisable performers (Dani from La Nuit Americain/Day for Night), Brigitte Roüan and real life TV interviewers crop up and there are bogus old small screen Scopitone videos with made up Lutz and younger versions of his co-stars to compare with his current output.
I'm not convinced about M. Lutz and I feel I’ve seen enough of these already.
Romain Gavras’ Le monde est à toi/The World Is Yours is being compared to the Guy Ritchie action movies and it does have the same break neck pace and comic tone but the younger Gavras is doing something more interesting here, dissecting the Euro-trash criminal world and managing to throw in come outrageous comments on the immigration crisis and Islamic terrorism.
If you look hard you can find a plot about podgy Karim Leklou trying to get the North African Mr. Freeze franchise despite the fact that his career criminal mum, a well preserved Isabelle Adjani, has blown the family fortune in dodgy schemes with her shop stealing gang. Hope lies in a trip to deliver dope for the Arab hard man whose goons come along while Lecklou takes fat pre-teener Gabby Rose to her heavy Narco Tourist dad.
When he gets to the beach resort, the English recipients treat our hero derisively ignoring his pistol they know isn’t loaded. His bikini girl childhood sweet heart Oulaya Amamra is losing interest and his ice lolly option is running out. The only thing to do is call for help from mum who rallies her former lovers including a ravaged Illuminati obsessed Vincent Cassel and a transformed, shaven headed, English speaking François Damiens to pull a con so complicated that it will take two viewings to work out.
The most flamboyant material concerns Adjani whose glamour photos they let us glimpse just to remind us whom we’re dealing with. She’s the one who's all for cutting off one of Rose’s fingers to make the ransom deal more plausible (shot of her framed in a glass door pane with a knife) and she plays the climax in a burkini. The nicest scene is Rose and Leklou comparing the indignities their criminal parents have subjected them to.
OK scaled down happy ending which goes with all the scungey activity that leads up to it.