The fourth annual French Film Festival was held recently in Auckland. Among the films screened were Costa-Gavras’ Eden à L’ouest, which tracks the Odyssean journey of a rootless young man adrift in the world; Ugly Mélanie, a parody/reversal of the immensely popular Amélie in which, Cinderella-style, an ugly duckling is transformed; Caroline Bottaro’s Joueuse, a romantic drama starring Kevin Kline in his first French-speaking role; Jean-François Richet’s two-film examination of the French gangster Mesrine, and Tony Gatlif’s Liberté, a drama about a Gypsy family during World War Two.
2008 | Dir. Fred Cavayé | 96 mins
A taut, slow-burning thriller about a man who goes to great lengths to free his wrongly-imprisoned wife from jail. Vincent Lindon (37°2 le matin, La Moustache) and Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) both give wonderful performances, and the direction—aside from a few miscalculated, Hollywood-style montages and an effusive, genre-typical score—is excellent.
2009 | Dir. Stéphane Brizé | 101 mins.
A builder, seemingly happy in his marriage, is asked by his son’s teacher—the Mme. of the title—to come and talk to the class about his job; a romance slowly develops between the two. Brizé’s camera brings to mind Michael Hanneke’s Caché inasmuch as it exists at a remove from the characters but is at the same time closely observant, catching every important detail. There is little dialogue in the film’s ninety minutes: much of the acting lies in wonderfully-conveyed glances, expressions, body language.
2009 | Dir. Jennifer Devoldère | 80 mins.
A continental rom-com starring the incontrovertibly beautiful Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds, The Beat My Heart Skipped) as a woman who gets her luggage mixed up with that of Justin Bartha, the guy who played Doug in The Hangover. Love—or something like it: a venereal disease maybe?—ensues, and, unfortunately, the film reverts to genre clichés as frequently as T-Pain buys (you) dranks. If/when this is remade in the States, it will star Jennifer Aniston and Bradley Cooper, or maybe Steve Zahn.