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What's new in french cinema this year?

En français 

In your annual date with French cinema, the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival is coming to Melbourne from 2-24 March 2016. After 27 years, the oldest of the foreign film festivals held in Australia set record attendance levels last year with nearly 160 000 attendees, 50 000 in Melbourne alone.

Is this a record that will be hard to beat? Don’t be so sure: the 48 films included in this year’s festival are excellent. We’re not lying, we’ve been struggling to choose between them for months and you could say the choice has been heart-breaking. And because we here at Alliance Française have hearts of gold, we have decided to present to you with our favourite coups de coeur.

Rosalie Blum : a modern fairy tale

For a directorial debut, this film is a masterstroke. Yet to be released in France, the Australian public will see it first in a world-wide exclusive, with the film opening the 2016 Alliance Française French Film Festival on 2 March 2016 at the splendid Astor Theatre.

Rosalie Blum (Noémie Lvovsky) is an ordinary woman keeping a deep secret. Her chance encounter with an average hairdresser turns his life upside down and pushes Rosalie to make a decision she has postponed for too long. 

Rosalie Blum is told in three parts, each taken from the perspective of one of three characters in a plot that will link each to the other two. Funny and mysterious at the same time, the film plays out like a complex police investigation, focusing on a group of people whose lives appear ordinary and seem limited to resignation. They do not count on meeting Rosalie Blum, a woman who has been through a lot and who will reignite their spark for life.

Noémie Lvovsky is quite simply splendid in the role of Rosalie Blum. Kyan Khojandi and the young and promising talent Alice Isaaz (who can be recognised from her work in One Wild Moment, alongside Vincent Cassel) are moving in their sincere performances. The film also announces the return to the big screen of the stunning Anémone; French actress and icon of the golden period of French cinema of the 1970s and 80s. In a tailor-made role she plays a manipulative mother and misanthropist, and a complete lunatic.

Rosalie Blum has the ability to make ordinary people extraordinary.

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Papa ou Maman: Bitingly funny

It’s the French comedy that was a Box Office smash in 2015. Carried by the electrifying acting duo of the fearless Marine Foïs and stunning Laurent Lafitte, this cadenced film sweeps over concepts of education and morality with a casualness that is inherently French. In a declaration of war against political correctness, Papa ou Maman blows up the rule book on which modern family values are founded, making even the most ideal images of family look illusionary. Everyone, parents and children alike, are hauled over the coals.

With situations that are each more comical than the last this film should not be taken at face value, being much more complex than it at first appears. Does the end suggest that the story was just a bad dream and by doing so make viewers lose their bearings? And what if Papa ou Maman is nothing more than a consequence of the worrying by-products of our liberal society, strongly shaped by individualism and regressive behaviour?

You decide! But if your children are difficult, rush and take them to see this film if only so they realise how lucky they are to have you as their parent!

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The Divine Marguerite !

Catherine Frot is today the only French comedian capable of building the reputation of a film based on her name alone and guaranteeing its public and critical success and we see this once more with Marguerite, a bitter-sweet comedy directed by Xavier Giannoli. 

It is difficult to describe Catherine Frot, the comedienne is unique in the world of French cinematography. We could say she is a modern version of Bécassine, the famous French comic strip character of a Breton housemaid, “round and naïve (to avoid saying foolish)”, whose adventures were first published prior to World War I. With her clear-sightedness and tenacity, however, Frot is Bécassine crossed with Miss Marple. Add an inkling of elegance, a touch of glamour, shake … et voilà! You have Catherine Frot. Like the characters she portrays, she is a unique mix of obstinate intelligence, of candour and time-honoured refinement.

And yes, her character Marguerite is clear-sighted despite the opacity of the wall that the dominant class of which she is a part has constructed around her. Marguerite is rich and recognises and encourages talent, even the most avant-garde. As a result of her obstinacy, she commands the respect of those who are excluded from her world, a world from which, and not without courage, she frees herself. Marguerite has everything necessary to make of herself the icon she dreams of becoming, but there is a small misunderstanding which could put a stop to her plans. For Marguerite dreams of a destiny in which she is a grand operatic soprano but she cannot sing in tune, and if she has one failing it’s that she cannot hear her own voice.

Marguerite is based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, an American. Transposed to the wild Paris of the roaring twenties, Giannoli's film is a philosophical tale of duplicity, and the true nature of lying. It is also a highly entertaining film that will satisfy lovers of extraordinary stories.

Coincidentally, a British-American biopic on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins is scheduled for release in 2016. Directed by Stephen Frears, it features Meryl Streep in the lead role. Have fun comparing the two films - as you will see, it’s all about style !

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The Alliance Française de Melbourne goes under the spotlight

Since you love cinema, we wanted to extend our French Flm Festival to two workshops designed to put the spotlight on several major movements seen in cinematic art since its inception. 

During the Easter holidays, our team will be presenting a program dedicated to the history of French cinema. To be conducted in English, this program was developed by Vincent Hanon, a Franco-Australian journalist, music critic and expert in the history of cinema.  As we are very good at finding talented people, he is naturally a part of our team of teachers. 

From the birth of cinema to the explorations of the contemporary jeune cinéma français, you will discover the experiments of the Surrealists and the trials and tribulations of the French New Wave, through a combination of commentary and French film extracts with English subtitles.

This session will give you the keys to understanding the aesthetics and theories of the various manifestations of French cinema that have enabled it to establish its global reputation.


And for those who favour the competition over theory, the flash of cameras and the heady perfume of celebrity, the Festival of Cannes with its brilliant concentrate of all that sparkles the brightest in the world of cinematography is unrivalled. In the second trimester, a weekly workshop conducted in English over five weeks will make you an expert in everything Cannes!

Until we see you again this autumn, we wish you an excellent end to your summer, and most importantly, an excellent French Film Festival! 

Michel Richard

For the Alliance Française de Melbourne

Translated from French by Lea Andrea Giry and Fleur Elisabeth Heaney students in the Master of Interpreting and Translation Studies at Monash University.