Taking place between October 26, 2021 and November 2, 2021, CINEFRANCO is a celebration of French-language Cinema. This year’s Festival includes a mixture of in-person and virtual events and premieres, with COMING HOME kicking-off the Festival and Closing Film VINLAND.
Here are our thoughts on some of the titles we’ve previewed in advance.
Only the French can take the conventions of a typical American Disaster Movie and it make it uniquely their own and original. Whereas TOKYO SHAKING deals with the effects on Tokyo of an earthquake, followed by a tsunami and, ultimately, a nuclear reactor meltdown, this beautifully crafted film deals with human and emotional issues of these terrifying circumstances rather than focusing on the paths of possible massive destruction. Alexandra (a stellar performance from Karin Viard), has recently moved to Japan from Hong Kong to pursue further notches in her already outstanding career belt as an executive at a bank. She has a great rapport with her Congolese intern Amani (Stephane Bak) and her Japanese assistant Kimiko (Yumi Narita), but a somewhat contentious one with her new boss Dominique (Philippe Uchan). When the disasters hit, she not only worries about the safety of her two children that moved with her and deals with constant pressures from her husband still in Hong Kong, she tries to ensure the safety and travel arrangements for everyone working at the bank. Eschewing the standard Disaster Flick clichés, TOKYO SHAKING deals with honour, corporate avarice, strengthening personal and work relationships and ultimately peace and spirituality with enough gentle humour interspersed throughout to lighten the loads. It is a towering, remarkable achievement.
Writer/Director Amro Hamzawi has manipulated the roncom tropes with an original piece of work to highlight the exceptional talents of his sister Nora Hamzawi. In the titular role of ELEONORE, she illuminates the screen and we quickly fall in love with this somewhat depressed, failed author who is working at a publishing house that focuses on erotic literature while dealing with continual put-downs from her mother and younger sister. When the working relationship with her boss Harold (Andre Marcon) morphs into one of friendship and respect, we watch Eleonore transform from a sarcastic young woman who could never commit to anything (dead end jobs, dead end one night stands, dead end family relationships) and blossom into a fascinating person. We root for her and want her to succeed and be happy! Many people erroneously associate movies from France as being mostly stylistically sexy or serious. I am here to tell you that they also excel at comedies (despite their love of Jerry Lewis movies!) and ELEONORE will have you at least giggling and smiling throughout as you traverse the scenic sidewalks of Paris while our cinematic heroine impetuously takes us on a hilarious journey of her own.
TA PLANETE NATALE
I was initially intrigued by the synopsis of TA PLANETE NATALE as I don’t think that I have ever seen a French language movie set in a small rural town in Ontario and was looking forward to an original spin to a story that may have been inspired by Writer/Director Sebastien Higgins growing up in such an environment. Instead, I was treated to an almost oppressively melancholic story with a Cast of characters that (to quote a classic blues song) “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”. Higgins has an ear for authentic dialogue as I loved the throwing of “les mots anglaise” often into the conversations and the Cinematography was gloriously stark. As Nathan and Maripier (Samuel Glaude and Celia Fournier-Cantin respectively), the star-crossed lovers who dream of better lives, the young performers display great chemistry and elevate the Film when it is just these two characters together. They overcome the weaknesses of the Script with finesse.
EFFACER L’HISTORIQUE (DELETE HISTORY)
I tend to gravitate towards absurdist Comedies and when EFFACER L’HISTORIQUE opened with a lead character scratching her derriere against a tree, I knew I’d be in for a treat! What I did not know at that particular moment was just how much this Movie would turn into a delicious, hilarious smorgasbord of hysterical proportions! Marie (Blanche Gardin), Bertrand (Denis Podalydes) and Christine (Corrine Masiero), despite everything else that is going wrong with their lives, all desperate need a hacker to erase negative things from the internet that affect them adversely. Marie needs to have a sex tape erased as she is being blackmailed and can’t afford the cost. Bertrand wants to eliminate a tape where is daughter is being bullied. Corrine wants her many one-star Uber reviews vanished forever. How they go about it, alongside their other unique peccadillos, will keep you in stitches throughout. Look for American Indie star, Denis O’Hare, in a surprising cameo role but, most importantly, look for tissues to wipe away the tears emitted from laughter. EFFACER L’HISTORIQUE is a must-see!
PROFESSION DU PERE
I have a lot of respect for Writer/Director Jean-Pierre Ameris for tackling a difficult subject of a man suffering from wartime PTSD symptoms alongside the unequivocable love a young boy has for his father with PROFESSION DU PERE. Set in Lyons in 1961, 11 year old Emile (an outstanding performance from Jules Lefebvre) idolizes his dad André (Benoit Poelvoorde) much to the bemusement of his mother Denise (Audrey Dana). André regales his young son with tales of his being a parachutist, a Judo champ, a singing legend, a soccer player and being best friends with a man who is an advisor to President John F. Kennedy. When President de Gaulle starts a war with French Algeria, Andre’s lessons and demands of his child become more fearful and dangerous as together they hatch a plan to assassinate de Gaulle and his political advisors. Through no fault of the exceptional performance by Poelvoorde and Dana, I had great difficulty watching PROFESSION DU PERE as watching children being violently disciplined or placed in dangerous situations, personally distresses me. Whereas the clearer head of the mother ignoring many of the signs are authentic to the times and her actions may have been made clearer at the Movie’s closing scenes, it was a hard watch for me.
French screen legend, Emmanuelle Beart, has her meatiest role in years in L’ETREINTE. In the role of the recently widowed Margaux Hartmann who moves to a small town near Versailles to study German masters at a local university, Beart sears and dominates every scene with a performance that is perfectly modulated, intricate and fascinating to watch as it unfolds. The 50ish year old woman gets along fabulously with her younger fellow students and has the moral support of her older sister who lives nearby. Her failed sexual tryst with one of her professors is compounded with a night where she and her student friends sneak into an indoor swimming pool where she watches from afar as these younger people all strip naked and have sex. This ignites something inside her that was dormant for years. L’ETREINTE switches gears to an almost “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” vibe and Beart attacks these situations with fervour and internalized intensity. Special attention must be paid to the performances from Vincent Dedienne as Margaux’s friend and advisor and from TiboVandenborre as the professor who, unknowingly, initiated Margaux’s transition. L’ETREINTE is sexy and stylish with an unabashed adult sensibility. It is also a most welcomed return of Emmanuelle Beart to the silver screen.
LIVE STORY CHRONIQUE D’UN COUPLE
Quebec Director Jean-Sebastien Lozeau had the unenviable task of making unlikeable characters interesting to watch in LIVE STORY CHRONIQUE D’UN COUPLE.Sebastien Ricard plays Alex, a recently divorced Director, who unabashedly loves his young son to such a strong degree that it is the detriment of wives or girlfriends. He reignites a long-ago relationship with an old flame, Monica (Marilyn Bastien) who is also divorced and has her own issues being a single mother and employment mis opportunities. Their relatively new relationship suffers greatly when Alex starts to live stream their trysts on the internet. The entire movie consists of scenes with arguments, accusations, making out in hotel rooms, shouting matches, insecurities, the occasional lovey-dovey chatters and a few out of nowhere surreal scenes. By the time LIVE STORY CHRONIQUE D’UN COUPLE ended, I felt like I lived in a world with only one television station and all it played for eternity was endless “Dr. Phil” episodes.
Cinéfranco is back in its 23rd edition later this month! The Festival celebrating French Cinema on a Canadian and international scale runs November 20-November 28, 2020.
For the first time ever, fans across Canada can access the Festival which is available on a digital platform. It is comprised of 17 features, 2 shorts programs, post-screening Conversations, and Panels.
Among the Films to premiere at the Festival this year are:
BELLE FILLE (OPENING NIGHT) – When Louise (Alexandra Lamy) escapes her cheating husband in Corsica for a wild night of passion with a man who ends up dead, she’s mistaken for his secret long-time girlfriend by his fearsome and loving mother played by Miou-Miou.
MONT FOSTER (OPENING NIGHT) – Chloe (Laurence Leboeuf) and Matthieu (Patrick Hivon) retreat to their country house to reconnect as Chloe’s fragile mental state deteriorates
QUEBEXIT– When the construction of an interprovincial pipeline results in a successful third Québec sovereignty referendum, a small road at the Québec-New Brunswick border becomes a lightning of conflict between the new Québec military, the Canadian Armed Forces and two indigenous women who cross the border frequently.
VACARME – Thirteen-year old Émilie placed in a group home is subjected to the bad influence of her roommate and chafes against the strict rules. Choosing to escape she learns the art of resilience and confidence in this social drama that breaths fresh air to the theme of children under youth protection.
NADINE BUTTERFLY (CLOSING NIGHT) – Olympian Katerine Savard stars as Nadia, who decides to retire from pro swimming after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to escape a rigid life of sacrifice.
Our George Kozera had the pleasure of previewing some of the Festival’s key titles. Some of his favourites below.
What does a woman do when not only does she finds out that her husband is having an affair, she also has a hugs fight with her rebellious teenaged daughter who want to play house with an older guy? In Cinéfranco’s opening night film, BELLE FILLE, Louise (a luminous Alexandra Lamy) leaves her home and flies to Corsica, where she meets hunk-du-jour, Florent (Thomas Dutronc who also composed this Movie’s Score). Their initial meeting and shared dinner turns into an alcohol and drug-fuelled, sexually-uninhibited raucous and rambunctious night. In the morning, Louise is very hungover and Florent is very, very dead. Not only is the detective assigned to the case Florent’s brother Anto (a wonderful low-key performance from Jonathan Zaccai), the boys’ mother Andrea (French megastar Miou-Miou) is convinced that Louise is Florent’s fiancée.
Director Meliane Marcaggi skillfully keeps this comedy of errors moving briskly and believably while incorporating the stunning vistas of Corsica and its countryside and keeping maudlin sentimentality to a bare minimum. BELLE FILLE is a joyous romp. Bravo!
LA BELLE EPOQUE
If you missed this critically-acclaimed and audience favourite at TIFF ’19, here’s your chance to bask in the glory that is LA BELLE EPOQUE. It is a high-concept Comedy about revisiting one’s glory days. Time Travellers is a service that immerses clients in whatever moment they wish to to relive, whether it be historical, fantasy or personal. Long-time married couple Victor and Marianne (the legendary Daniel Auteuil and Fanny Ardant) have reached the end of the rope and separate. Victor decides to use Time Travellers, run with dictatorial fervour by Antoine (an excellent Guillaume Canet) to return to Lyons 1974 when he first met Marianne, who will be played by actress for hire Margo (Doria Tllier).
LA BELLE EPOQUE is fiercely original and tackles a myriad of themes and topics with insight, humour and intelligence. Does love prevail? Do daily technological advances help or hinder or overwhelm us and stifle our innate creativities? I enjoyed LA BEEL EPOQUE equally, if not more, the second time around.
LA BELLE EPOUSE
Set in the late ’60s when Paris was rocked by students uprising and revolution was thick in the air, there were still schools in smaller towns that focused singularly on turning young teenaged girls into the perfect, subservient wife. One such institution is run by Paulette Van De Beck (Juliette Binoche), her sister-in-law Gilberte (Yolande Moreau) and Marie-Therese (Noemie Lvovsky) who happens to a nun. LA BELLE EPOUSE (HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE) is a Comedy rife with Sapphic alliances, death by asphyxiation, re-establishing bygone love affairs, some fun recipe ideas, tips on how to be the perfect wife if you lived the decade of “Leave it to Beaver”, rifle-toting nuns and even a choreographed song and dance routine. One rarely sees Binoche’s fun freak flag fly and watching her immerse herself into this outlandish character is enjoyable.
In ENORME, Claire (Marina Fors) is a world class concert pianist whose career is managed by her husband Fred (Jonathan Cohen). Claire is even more self-absorbed than she is talented to the point that Fred offers to take her debit card to buy himself a birthday present from her as she forgot his 40th birthday. Happily childless, Fred’s paternal instincts furiously ignite after participating in an emergency childbirth on a plane. After substituting Claire’s birth control pills and sweeteners until the day his dream and her nightmare come through…she’s pregnant!
Unlike the French, I have never been a fan of the Jerry Lewis style of Slapstick Comedy, but I was completely invested in this zany and madcap film. Fors and (especially) Cohen’s comedic timing are sheer gold.
The Closing Night film, NADIA, BUTTERFLY is Quebec director Pascal Plante’s unique rendition of the lives of Olympic athletes. Starring real-life Olympian Katherine Savard as Nadia is a detailed account of her last days swimming at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as she plans to retire from competitive swimming immediately afterwards. The swim meets are thrilling to watch and it must be ingrained in us to rot for the Canadian teams even if the competition is fictitious! Plante’s strength is that he doesn’t paint these young athletes as boring with only one goal in mind. They are also young party people who swig from tequila bottles, take drugs and have indiscriminate sex. Though a few scenes go on way too long (did we realize have to watch two characters lip synch to Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” in its entirety?), when his camera concentrates of the faces of these young people as they face their future with doubt and uncertainties, NADIA, BUTTERFLY succeeds.
The annual Cinefranco Film Festival is the Mecca for all those, like myself, who love and gravitate towards French language cinema and don’t have many opportunities to see them on a big screen with English subtitles. Founded 22 years ago by the charismatic Marcelle Lean, the festival offers outstanding movies from France, Quebec and Morocco to name just a few. I recently had the honour of having lunch with the dynamic Ms. Lean to discuss this year’s fest and see some of the films that will be showing this year from November 22-30 at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.
Marcelle Lean’s enthusiasm and knowledge of cinema is infectious and hearing the issues attaining rights for films to be screened at Cinefranco (such as this year’s offering of the Cannes winner by the Dardenne brothers, LE JEUNE AHMED) fascinating. When asked if there was theme for this year’s Festival, Ms. Lean replied that many movies centered on the concept of family. She fought diligently, and succeeded, to get the rights to films she was impressed with and spoke passionately about some of the movies that be at this year’s Festival, which include the Closing Film from Quebec, ANTIGONE, the funny coming-of-age Comedy VENISE N’EST PAS EN ITALIE from France and MADE IN CHINA, also from France.
Lean with George
From what I have seen so far, and those that I definitely want to see during the fest, CINEFRANCO 2019 offers an outstanding array of French language diverse gems that will appeal to all with francophone sensibilities!
UN AMOUR IMPOSSIBLE
Spanning five decades and narrated by the daughter of the lead characters, Rachel and Philippe (played brilliantly and ferociously by Virginie Efira and Niels Schneider respectively) this unabashed love story transcends the genre. Romantic and sensual then shocking and heartbreaking, it is powerful and evocative. And it’s a must-see.
Set in 1897 against a background of Parisian architectural glories (the Moulin Rouge, Le Comedie Francais), this charming, madcap romp about the creation of the classic play Cyrano de Bergerac is wildly funny and entertaining. The performances by everyone in EDMOND is captivating and letter A perfect as is the glorious cinematography. You will be hard pressed not to be in tears by the end of this Movie and applaud as vigorously as the audience does in this movie when Cyrano ends. I loved it.
L’ADIEU A LA NUIT
Showcasing Catherine Deneuve’s best performance since 8 WOMEN and featuring a primarily all Arab cast, the compelling drama touches on a variety of themes that include religious extremism and rhetoric as well as unwavering faith and familial love. Set on a horse farm, replete with cherry blossom trees, the visuals (which include La Deneuve wearing flannel plaid shirts!) are stunning and the story line is brisk and persuasive.
A rarity, as it is a French language movie set in Toronto, the Film’s Creator, Jean-Marc Lariviere, effectively and efficiently tackles a number of thought provoking issues (that include the recent war in Syria and refugees) in its scant 27 minute running time. This is a respectable achievement.
Set in the Montreal area, this contrived and, at times, overwrought family melodrama that include a mysterious death of a parent and two teenaged girls coping with various issues may stretch the limits of interest, but there is no denying the commendable, naturalistic performances by all involved.
LE MYSTERE HENRI PICK
When a novel, allegedly written by a dead pizza maker with no history of writing, becomes a bestseller, television literary critic becomes obsessed of uncovering what he feels is a conspiracy to fool the public. It is a standard issue mystery movie laced with comedic incidences but watching veteran actor, Fabrice Luchini, with his OCD ticks is sheer joy.
More on Cinefranco 2019here including line-up and how to get tickets.