Monday 16 March 2015

The French Film Festival - Film Alert Correspondents Tell All..... or at least a little more

Following on from Barrie Pattison's exclusive report below three more correspondents have sent in their reactions.
Max Berghouse writes:
Far from Men (David Oelhofffen, 2015, 115 minutes) was beautifully shot in Morocco, standing in for Algeria and very well acted and to some extent compelling. Compared by some critics to 3: 10 to Yuma which is a fair comparison, it is very well performed but the central conceit of the protagonist, the schoolteacher, behaving as he does is unconvincing.

Diplomacy (Volker Schlondorff, 2014, 84 minutes) is sufficiently opened out to mostly seem like a film, rather than play being filmed, but is memorable only for the performances of its 2 leads. They are both excellent but I think real pleasure would be gained only by those people who had absolutely no knowledge of the true historical events.

Last Diamond (Eric Barbier, 2014, 108 minutes) is a predictable but rollickingly good fun caper movie and the fun generally pastes over the artificiality.

I found French Riviera (Andre Techine, 2014, 116 minutes) a failure but the director (whom I clearly respect) does not seem to me to have simply been negligent or made a mistake: his exegesis was deliberative from beginning to end but struck me as showing a back story for 90 odd minutes while the real interesting story was simply referred to.

The rest of our viewing will be bibs and bobs towards the end of the week.

I really am not sure whether this whole exercise was for me justifiable because traditionally the French film Festival is reduced to multiple DVDs which are purchasable some months after the festival itself. Maybe that practice has been continued.”
Travis Cragg writes:
I have been to 22 French films so far. As well as FAR FROM MEN, I would also highly recommend LES COMBATTANTS (Thomas Cailley, 2014, 98 minutes) (given the really horrible English title of LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT, presumably to draw more people in) and L'HOMME QU'ON AIMAIT TROP (given the bland English name of FRENCH RIVIERA). I would also recommend against seeing THE LAST DIAMOND - an uninspired script which wants to use every heist film cliche it can, and then throws in some nonsensical plot twists in the last third.

David Young writes:
I agree with Barry on his reports on Loin des hommes/Far from men and Diplomatie/Diplomacy; both superb films. 

Might I add that La chambre bleue/The blue room is also a nice little piece of work. Director Mathieu Amalric plays the slightly befuddled lover of Delphine (who, like Mandrake, has the power to cloud a man's mind) and is drawn into a situation which will end badly for him. like the best of the 1950s b-pictures, a lot happens in the (surprisingly short by today's standards) 76 minutes the film runs for.

And speaking of Catherine Deneuve, she completed a hat trick of duds as far as iIwas concerned with Dans la cour/In the courtyard (Pierre Salvadori, 2014, 97 minutes). Salvadori couldn't decide whether to make a comedy or a tragedy so he threw in a lot of each. the catalogue described it as "charmingly poignant" but to me it was depressing, both in subject matter and the fact that the great Deneuve could be associated with such material.

the retrospective, such as it was, was also a highlight of the festival. Bertrand Tavernier's Capitaine Conan is probably unique in locating his world war one story in the Balkans, and is probably also unique for being that rare beast - a cerebral action movie.

And for me, the festival ended on the sublime note of a screening of Jean Renoir's La grande illusion. it was a restored print (no doubt 'digitally presented') which looked fantastic on the big screen (in the correct format, too). What else can one say about perfection?
 Now you know!



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