Festival of French life in the reel world

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WE won’t disappoint our readers. Yes, Gerard Depardieu will appear in The 24th Alliance Française French Film Festival, returning as the enormous Obelix in the kids’ film “Asterix and Obelix in Britain.” Believe it or not, Catherine Deneuve plays Queen Cordelia of England, complete with corgis.

It’s not exactly the film that the Alliance Française’s new director-general, Isabelle Faure, would choose to highlight, but it does serve to demonstrate the scope of this, the biggest French film festival in the world outside France, with 43 films this year.

The festival has been curated by Emmanuelle Denavit-Feller, French cultural attaché in Sydney, who says the program embraces “such subjects as love, power, the ties that bind and many other themes that shine a light on day-to-day French life as it changes and grows.”

Madame Faure praises her selection of the top 2012 French movies, believing the festival will offer “dynamism, innovation and style to the city’s discerning audience”. Proof of that discernment is that once again we’ll get to see the full program.

If Depardieu and Deneuve are French clichés, then so is food, so it’s no surprise that the opening night offering is the “deliciously appetising” comedy “Haute Cuisine”, (Les saveurs du palais) based on the true story of Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch, private chef to President François Mitterrand, who will be here for the opening.

For closing night, what better than a restored version of Marcel Carné’s 1945 period romance, “Les enfants du paradis” (Children of Paradise), “ the greatest French film of all time”.

A scene from the French film "Les enfants du paradis"
A scene from the French film “Les enfants du paradis” (Children of Paradise).
Among the several Australian premieres are “A Gang Story” (Les Lyonnais), the fourth action-packed film from French policeman-turned-director Olivier Marchal and Olivier Assayas’ “After May” (Après mai), a drama about a young French artist caught up in a whirlwind of politics, art and sex during May 1968.

Dazzling female performances are seen in “Another Woman’s Life” (La vie d’une autre), where Juliette Binoche, playing Marie, wakes to find she has skipped a decade of her life and “A Lady in Paris” (Une Estonienne à Paris), with Jeanne Moreau stealing the show as an elderly Estonian woman living in Paris.

This year the festival is moving to the chic new Palace Electric Cinemas in NewActon, where a special cabaret-style reception on March 14 will precede a 3-D screening of “Feu de Christian Louboutin”, a collaboration between French cabaret Crazy Horse and Louboutin, designer of the world-famous red-soled shoes.

The 24th annual Alliance Française French Film Festival, at Palace Electric Cinema, NewActon, March 7-26. Opening and closing nights will be preceded by elegant French receptions. Bookings to palacecinemas.com.au or box office open daily from 11am to 8.30pm.

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