Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MY FRENCH FILM FEST debuts -- online! Ten new features & shorts; extras, too. Thompson's BUS PALLADIUM at FIAF

French film lovers -- and there are a lot of us throughout the USA -- have yet another reason for glee. In addtion to the annual Rendez-vous With French Cinema that graces the Walter Reade Theater each March, and the more mainstream (shorter, too) three-day fest, In-French-With-English-Subtitles at FIAF in November, here comes the first online French fest with a wealth of fine titles you can download at a very low cost: My French film, beginning this Friday, Jan. 14, and continuing through Saturday, Jan. 29.

Included in the new fest are films of all types -- mysteries, dramas, comedies -- some from quite new young filmmakers destined, I think, for very large careers. One of of these, Axelle Ropert, has given us a film (The Wolberg Family, shown above) that is among the best of last year, except that it did receive any kind of release in the USA until now, so it' ll have to wait, I suppose, to be the best of this year. (See my earlier review of Ropert's film here.)  Another of these interesting movies -- The Other One -- features a dynamite, award-wining performance from Dominque Blanc (below), who nails the jealous lover character as you've seldom seen her. One of the major treats of this festival is the new film, Bus Palladium, from actor/writer Christopher Thompson -- his first as director -- that offers just about everything: laughs, tears, intelligence, music and a wonderful young cast.

You can find the entire My French Film Festival program here. (Click on each red/bold title to learn more about the individual films.) Right now, because FIAF is presenting a one-night theatrical screening of Bus Palladium -- titled (and badly) in English The Last Summer Tour -- followed by a Q&A with its writer/director, I'll concentrate on that movie first, and come back to some others in the fest, as I see each of the films. I'll also have a short interview with Christopher Thompson posted here in the days to come, after I've spoken with him later in the week. You can order tickets for the film/Q&A here.


TrustMovies is used to seeing the work of M. Thompson, shown at right, in tandem with that of his mother, noted writer/director Danièle Thompson (Avenue Montaigne and La Code a Changé), with whom he often collaborates. He is also the grandson of famous French actor/writer/director Gérard Oury and actress Jacqueline Roman, so artistic provenance and collaboration would seem to be in the family's bones. Working alone, as he now has on Bus Palladium, he's chosen a decidedly youthful story to tell, which covers a few years in the life of five friends who form a rock group that takes off rather splendidly until it finally, all-too-soon, crashes. This is told upfront, as we see old footage of the group, then find ourselves at a funeral, before bouncing back three years.

Thompson's camera (his cinematographer is Rémy Chevrin: Love Songs, Live and Become) is often in a roving mood, and some of this movement is wonderfully handled: We're with these energetic kids -- hearts and minds -- all the way. When the occasion calls for quiet intimacy, Thompson captures that, as well. We learn haltingly about each of the five, with the lion's share of interest going to Manu and Lucas, played respectively by Arthur Dupont (above) and Marc-André Grondin (below).

Interestingly, this film marks at least the second major movie in which M.Dupont has starred as a sexy and troubled young musician. In 2006 he made his mark on audiences in One to Another (Chacun sa nuit). Here he is less charismatic but equally good as the one musician in the group who gives the most trouble yet holds the pack together. M. Grondin has the quieter, more subtle role, and he, too, impresses.

Thompson's writing is fine, as ever. He nails the speech of the guys, and occasionally lets fly with a terrifically quotable line, as this one, a description of the band by its slightly goofy manager: "Little white guys with a black soul, grounded in the Delta mud."  If only. The filmmaker has constructed his story as a flashback in which we see the characters striving for success, even as those little interferences of life  -- army service, love, OD-ing -- rear their troublesome heads. The love comes from two sources: a very sexy, lithe and beautiful newcomer Elisa Sednaoui (above, right), and the industry woman who gives the group its big break, played by a blond-tressed Géraldine Pailhas (below).

Class differences are shown but not overstated -- the rich girl who acts as groupie, muse and destroyer; the mother (played by the indispensible Dominique Reymond) who expects her son to follow in the correct footsteps.  Finally, Thompson manages to give us yet more of a venue and characters of which we've already seen ample, yet he makes his seem fresh and new. If we are not surprised by much of what we see, we are still, I think, delighted and finally quite moved by the experience.

If you can't get to FIAF for Thusday's screening, no worries. will run for a full 15 days.
So download away!

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