Preview: French Film Festival 2013
French Film Festival
Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Timaru, Tauranga, Havelock North, Palmerston North, Hamilton, Nelson and Arrowtown
February 21 to April 21
The French Film Festival, the country's prime French cultural event and one of the largest festivals of its type in the country, opens in Auckland next week will be seen in 11 cities and towns from February 21 to April 24.
After successfully tripling attendance figures last year, the festival is confident of further growth this year. Sponsored by L'Oréal Paris and Alliance Française, it features a comprehensive programme of French cinema at its best.
The ambitious selection is a mix of hard-hitting contemporary works, period dramas and comedy, alongside spectacular animations and a special category introducing French-language films from countries other than France, such as Switzerland, Canada and Belgium.
Jacques Tati’s timeless Mr Hulot’s Holiday will be screened as part of the programme 60 years after its first appearance on the silver screen.
Shown on the Rialto channel last year, it is one of several Tati films with a distinctive and quirky style of Gallic humour.
Hulot’s Holiday follows the generally harmless misadventures of a lovable, clumsy Frenchman, Monsieur Hulot (played by Tati himself), as he joins the then new holiday class of Frenchmen going on an August vacation at a modest seaside resort in Brittany.
While holidaymakers from the city are unloading their luggage, Monsieur Hulot, behind the wheel of his clanking old jalopy, shatters the summer quiet. To the children’s great delight, he’ll offer the hotel residents a vacation like they’ve never known before.
He plays tennis in dance-like form, wrecks a boat while fishing and has an unfortunate run-in with a supply of fireworks. He is a resident at odds with those around him and involuntarily sows discord as he certainly does not fit in this small circle of very serious holidaymakers.
Gerard Depardieu seems to be in every second French film, and here he is again with Jean-Pierre Améris, director of Romantics Anonymous, and a gloriously theatrical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, The Man Who Laughs.
Gwynplaine (Marc-André Grondin) has a scar on his face which gives him an almost permanent smile.
Abandoned by the Comprachicos, who had kidnapped and slashed his face a few years earlier, he is taken in by Ursus (the indomitable Depardieu), together with a beautiful blind girl, Déa (Renoir’s radiant Christa Théret) and they move from village to village, performing a show whose star is the now grown-up Gwynplaine.
Everywhere he goes his smile evokes laughter and emotion in audiences that adores him. Life goes on until it is discovered this scarred man is the heir from a large and noble family.
Giddy with his sudden wealth and the carnal passions of a duchess, he distances himself from the only two people who have ever loved him for what he is.
It is a touching film contrasting the poverty of the vast majority of the population and the rarified nobility, with Gwynplaine making a passionate plea and sending warning to the French Parliament (of nobles) to no avail.
Renoir is set on the Côte d’Azure in 1915. The painter is in his twilight years, tormented by the loss of his wife, the pains of arthritic old age and the terrible news that his son Jean (a future major film director) has been wounded in action in World War I.
But when a young girl miraculously enters his world the old painter is filled with a new, wholly unexpected energy. Blazing with life, radiantly beautiful Andrée will become his last model, and the wellspring of a remarkable rejuvenation.
Back at the family home to convalesce, Jean, too, falls under the spell of the new, red-headed star in the Renoir firmament.
In their Mediterranean Eden – and in the face of his father’s fierce opposition – he falls in love with this wild, untamable spirit … and as he does so, within weak-willed, battle-shaken Jean begins to grow.
The film is a visual delight, with Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Ping Bing Lee (In the Mood for Love) sensitively capturing the Mediterranean light and landscapes.
Coupled with a beautiful musical score by Academy Award-nominated composer Alexandre Desplat, Renoir takes an appreciative look at Andrée’s impact on the lives of the great painter and his son.
For more details, visit www.frenchfilmfestival.co.nz