Friday, November 27, 2009

InFrenchWithEnglishSubtitles: French fest at FIAF offers nine new mainstream films!

That's right, readers -- and this fest looks hot indeed! Why? Because it offers New York-
ers who love French film the opportunity to see a bunch of new and deci-
dedly more mainstream movies than usual. Aside from the very occasional thea-
trical release of a relatively new French film (cur-
rently it's the Anne Fontaine/Audrey Tatou Coco Before Chanel) or something fun from IFC On-Demand (check out French Gigolo!), for most Americans, even us "sophisticated" New Yorkers, the pickings are lean. Although we usually have to wait until March of each new year to revel in the FSLC's Rendez-vous with French Cinema series (this year saw 19 -- count 'em! -- movies), we did get a preview of things to come via a five-film French series at BAM earlier this month.

Now, out of the blue, comes something new and quite different: A film fest offering nine recent movies that are current and not, shall we say, overly intellectual. In one case, even family friendly. What are the French themselves watching and enjoying these days?
We're about to find out.

Over the past month one of the biggest hits on French cin-
ema screens was Le Petit Nicolas (above), based on a now classic French children's book. That one, part of this fest, proved so immediately popular that its sole screening sold out and another had to be added. The opening night film Tomorrow at Dawn (Demain dès l’aube, above) by Denis Dercourt (The Page Turner) tackles a current French societal phenomenon about people who, for a weekend, go and live another life. The film is set in contemporary France but its main character is drawn to follow his brother into another century, at the time of the Napoleonic wars. (Does this not sound a bit like certain folks in our country who spend their weekends re-fighting The Civil War.)

TrustMovies is breaking his usual policy of covering only what he has actually seen because of the immediacy of this fest (one week from today), its short time span (one-time showings of nine films in only 2-1/2 days) and the fact that no press screenings or DVD screeners are available.

Consequently, he plans to attend as many of the films as possible and report on them soon after. Here's the link to the entire festival, which is very cleverly titled In French With English Subtitles and which begins its weekend run next Friday, December 4, through Sunday, December 6 at FIAF's (the French Institute Alliance Française) Florence Gould Hall, located in the center of Manhattan on 59th Street between Park and Madison (55 East 59th Street).
To learn how all this came about, TrustMovies had a lengthy inter-
view with the two women in charge of the new festival, which they hope will become an annual event: Catherine Laleuf, festival director (shown above), and Alexandra Creteur, press officer. Since InFrenchWith
was the brain-
child of Laleuf, we asked her most of the questions -- to which she very graciously responded:

TrustMovies: How did this festival happen? What inspired it?

Catherine Laleuf: My first connection came through Alexandre Chemla , President of Altour. I used to work with him on another fest, one in a more suburban location. He kept asking me to come and do a festival of this type in Manhattan. I always said, “Well, I’ll think about it.” So this year, I decided not to do that fest in the suburbs anymore, and so he said, “Good, come with me and do the fest in Manhattan.”

I am also a friend of Patrick Gimenez, who distributes French films in the US and also produces films. He does a French film fest in Florida, where he lives, in two locations: Miami and Boca Raton. So I spoke to Patrick also and asked what he thought a new French ought to provide. Now, there is already a wonderful French festival in Manhattan -- the Rendez-vous with French Cinema, put on by the FSLC. So we thought, “Well, why don’t we try to do another festival at a different time of year, one that does not compete.”

I already had a group of people I work with, and I asked them about it, and they all said, “Yes, let try it.” So we decided to do it. This is our first year. I also wanted to do something for a good cause, and as I am already a member of entraide francaise, which is an organiza-
tion that helps French citizens and also people whose relatives are French. These people may be in a difficult situation – the loss of a job, sickness, death etc. So this group will now benefit from our festival.

Where did you get your title? It's very functional -- and funny.

At the time I was just not sleeping well at night – you know how it works when you are thinking about billions of things. What to name this festival was at the top of the list. The most frequent question we are asked by most people is, “Is this movie in French? And we answer, “Yes but there are English subtitles!” So we used this as our name. But you know what? People still ask: “Will there be English subtitles?”

Why this particular set of nine films?

Just today someone asked me if I could quickly describe these, and if they had a common theme so that they could choose among them. Actually, all have a common theme except one: Le Petit Nicolas. The films are all about some time in your life, when you must leave yourself, or change who you really are. Some are about changing your identity in order to escape something. Others are about inventing yourself and having another life in order to protect yourself or escape. When we selected these, this idea had nothing to do with our selection. But that is how things turned out. This kind of thing must be the flavor of the month in France

The Friday, opening night, film -- Demain dès l’aube -- deals with playing a role different from your own life. This is societal phenomenon studied by the director Denis Dercourt, who met with these people who, for a weekend, go and live another life. His film is set in contemporary France but main character is drawn to follow his brother into another century, the time of the Napoleonic wars. The movie was selected at Cannes for Un Certain Regard. Vincent Perez, the star, as well as the director, M. Dercourt, will be on hand for a Q&A following the film, led by Jerry Carlson of CUNY-TV.

On Saturday we're showing Adieu Gary: a drama that won Cannes' Critics Week award. The leading role is played by Jean-
Pierre Bacri. It’s about the sad-
ness of being in a town with factory workers who have no aims or goals, so one character invents himself as the son of the late American actor Gary Cooper.

Incognito is a comedy about a young artist who a has roommate who disappears. When the artist finds some music of his that is very good, he sells it as his own. The actor who plays the thief is a famous popular singer in France.

In Romaine par moins 30, a young woman (Sandrine Kiberlain) who always wants to please people and never shows who she is goes to Canada with her fiancé. While there, she blows a fuse and decides to live. The comedy mixes the French with the French Canadians. Pascale Elbé, one of the actors, will do Q&A, and he is also presenting closing night.

Tellement proches is a comedy as well, but with a dramatic angle that asks the question: When you marry, do you also marry your wife’s family? Vincent Elbaz with be present for Q&A, which John Farr will moderate.

The festival ends Sunday with four films: Une
semaine sur deux (Alternate Weeks), which is a typical French rom-com about a divorce, but this time seen from the point of view of the young children.

Then we have Le Petit Nicolas, at two showings, which is currently the biggest hit in France. Based on a very famous cartoon book by Sempé from the story by Goscinny This is a classic that all little boys love, with everything happening back in the 50s. It deals with a gang of young friends, in the center is Nicolas. The style of film is very of-the-minute, just like the book. This was a huge popular hit. Sandrine Kiberlaine also stars in this one.

Le Dernier pour la route (One for the Road) is based on a book that was huge success in France: the true story of someone who realizes that his alcohol addiction is so bad that it’s destroying him. This drama stars François Cluzet, who won a Best Actor César for Tell No One.

Quelque Chose a te dire is about a family secret that you think will never come out – but does, and it's a comedy offering some drama, too, along with satire and philosophy. It’s very French. The mother is played by Charlotte Rampling, in an amazing role, with Patrick Chesnais and Pascale Elbé -- the latter of whom will do a Q&A with Jerry Carlson.

What’s the goal of the fest?

We want to bring even more French films to America. We believe that the French cinema is the most prolific movie industry in Europe. Each year we have over 200 movies released – which is a lot. But very few of these are seen abroad, especially in US. The ideal thing for us is to bring more popular films over here. We don’t want to bring in movies that are too intellectual. These are more of what you might call the flavor of the month in France.

Who is paying for the festival? You, its spon-
sors, FIAF…?

We go and see our possible sponsors, and though we are very frustrated, we believe in what we do, so our sponsors follow us in the adventure. Our major sponsors are Altour, American Airlines, LVMH, American Express and Michael Page International. We also have a big party after the screening and Q&A, which is hosted by Maitres Cuisiniers de France.

We are also partly sponsored by the FIAF -- and each screening will be taking place in the Florence Gould Hall of the FIAF at 55 E 59th Street.

Finally, we are under the high patronage of the CNC the Centre National de la Cinematographie.

How do get ticket for the festival?

Tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster: just type in the name of our festival. Or click on the link at our festival’s own site. You can also purchase tickets in person at the FIAF box office. The original showing of Le Petit Nicolas is already sold out, and a new screening has been added on Sunday morning, Dec. 5, at 10am. Other films may follow suit fast, so if you want to be sure of getting tickets, order ASAP!

No comments: