French Film Festival Round-Up

Elise Pitt | 27 February 2012

Love, sex, prostitution, no formulaic happily ever afters? It must be French! We’ve rounded up our picks of the national 2012 Alliance Francaise Film Festival. Films with that certain je ne sais quoi …

Declaration of War

The opening film of the festival, this heartfelt story of love and tragedy is based on the real life events experienced by filmmaker Valérie Donzelli and co-star/writer Jérémie Elkaïm. Young Parisian actors Romeo and Juliette (don’t be put off by the extremely obvious and unimaginative reference) fall in love, have a whirl wind romance and make a baby. Tragedy strikes when their little boy, Adam, is diagnosed with a brain tumour and they wage a war against death and despair.

The film was well received in France, opening Critics’ Week at Cannes last year. It was also France’s official entry in the 2011 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, although didn’t make the final short list.

Goodbye, First Love
One for the romantics, this beautifully shot film by young French director Mia Hansen-Løve chronicles the love story of fifteen-year-old Camille and Sullivan, four years her senior. Wide-eyed and open hearted, Camille falls hard for the husky voiced Sullivan and is devastated when he ups and leaves for South America. Four years pass and Camille is studying architecture and is dating her Danish Professor, Lorenz, when Sullivan returns. The soundtrack is littered with folky tunes from the likes of Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling.

House of Tolerance
What would French film be without a little prostitution? A highly stylised visual feast reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, only darker and naughtier, captures the last days of the Belle Epoque (the Beautiful Era) and its grandes maisons and elegantly dressed madams. Set in an early 20th century Parisian brothel, director Bertrand Bonello goes past the opium-washed façade of these corseted courtesans and delves into the grim reality of their daily life. You will see boobs (and lots of them).

Café de Flore
This will be the first time Australian audiences will get to see Jean-Marc Vallée’s beautifully shot, dreamlike flick. Switching between different decades and characters, it simultaneously follows DJ Antoine, who is involved in a passionate relationship with Rose, for whom he has left his wife Carole. Meanwhile, struggling single mum Jacqueline is trying to raise her down syndrome son in 1969 Paris. The indie soundtrack is filled with the likes of Sigur Rós and The Cure. We can’t wait to see this one!

The Look
She’s the gal who inspired Helmut Newton to take his first nude photographs and was Woody Allen’s muse long before Scarlett Johansson was on the scene. Part biographical documentary, part series of musings on life and art, this doco gives a revealing insight into actress, feminist and avant-garde icon, Charlotte Rampling. Well worth a look (pardon the pun).


18 years old and rising
Another tale of forbidden love. Gabrielle, who is from a bourgeois Parisian family, meets Primo, the son of a provincial florist, at a party.

Like mother, like daughter. This off beat musical drama (yes, they sing), follows a mother (Catherine Deneuve) and daughter’s twin misadventures in love.

Juliette Binoche stars in this adults-only drama about a journalist for French Elle whose life is changed after she begins researching a story on student prostitution.


Sydney: 6 – 25 March
Palace Verona, Palace Norton Street, Chauvel Cinema & Hayden Orpheum Cremorne

Melbourne: 7 – 25 March
Palace Cinema Como, Palace Balwyn, Palace Westgarth, Palace Brighton Bay & Kino Cinemas

Brisbane: 14 March – 1 April
Palace Centro & Palace Barracks Cinema

Canberra: 14 March – 1 April
Greater Union Manuka & Arc Cinema, National Film & Sound Archive

Adelaide: 20 March – 8 April
Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas

Perth: 21 March – 9 April
Cinema Paradiso, Luna on SX & Windsor Cinema

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