Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 2011

By Clinton Little

This year’s Alliance Francaise French Film Festival has chosen first encounters, discoveries and clashes as its guiding principles.

The selections on offer cover many genres and styles including: ‘Women Behind the Lens’, showcasing the work of up and coming female directors that are enriching the diversity of the culture; ‘All You Need is Love’, for the more romantically inclined; ‘Police & Thieves’ explores the grittier side the Gallic soul and ‘If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It!’ delivers a slice of white-knuckle terror.

With several hundred films produced annually, France has a rich film culture and the 2011 festival brings 46 of them to Perth, offering a window into contemporary French life, which would alternatively be available from the shelves of local boutique DVD stores.

What sets French film culture apart is attitude. When a producer in Hollywood is looking to green-light a film he or she may ask the director if the characters are likeable, in France they might ask if they are interesting. This key difference within their film culture separates it from much of the cinematic fare that Australian audiences are typically exposed to.

There is much on offer to satisfy the connoisseur, however these sometimes challenging, always interesting films, are worth checking out for those new to French cinema.

The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival runs from 23rd March – 10th April at Cinema Paradiso and Luna on SX.

The following are just four of the featured films:

All That Glitters

All That Glitters is a coming of age buddy movie about Ely and Lila, two best friends who live in Paris, but having dropped out of high school, are stuck in soulless service industry jobs, dreaming of the glamour and excitement that lies at their doorstep.

Both seek to escape their boring suburban existence, but what each is willing to do for a life less ordinary tests their friendship to its limits. As they

break into the upper classes, Lila lies and trades on her looks while Ely finds herself being treated like staff by her sophisticated new friends.

While this film offers a fascinating glimpse into a Paris most foreigners never see, it’s difficult to care whether or not these characters achieve their goals, as they often (Lila particularly) behave so atrociously.

On Tour

Joachim is a has-been. When he returns to France from America as the tour manager for a Burlesque troupe he hopes it will be his Parisian come-back. But as his band of performers, (best described as a hybrid of performance art, strip tease and drag) travel through small regional theatres his hopes of a triumphant return to Paris begin to fade.

One of his stars is Mimi, an American performer who looks like a tattooed Marilyn Monroe and brings a similar mixture of beauty and sadness to her performance, is the emotional core of the film.

Much of the fun here comes in watching the wild and trashy troupe lurch its way around the French countryside unmonitored by Joachim as he scrambles off to Paris to ensure his triumph. ‘On Tour’ is a little like witnessing a garden of exotic flowers going off the bloom, beautiful but sad.

Just a Beginning

In a bold educational experiment Parisian kindergarten teacher Pascaline has been teaching philosophy to her students since the age of four. Following the ritual lighting of a candle Pascaline guides the children as they engage in passionate discourse on subjects ranging from love, freedom, friendship, race, gender, and sexuality.

With the aim of teaching the children to think for themselves the ensuing debates serve as the impressive result of her technique. The children are remarkably articulate and the conflicts that arise make for thought provoking entertainment.

This is a fascinating documentary that tracks the lives of the children in the classroom and explores their home environments to investigate the role of the parents in this process, unveiling a unique portrait of a modern multi-cultural society.

Bus Palladium

‘Lust’ are a young band on the verge of making it big on the early 1980’s Paris rock scene. When signed to a record label it looks like they are on a sure path to rock and roll glory, but tensions arise in the band when singer Manu and lead guitarist Lucas compete for the attentions of the beautiful Laura.

As Manu spirals into addiction the band continues its rise and the elixir of fame lies ever present on the horizon, its presence colouring every facet of the bands’ lives.

Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll is not exactly a new theme for a film and ‘Bus Palladium’ bares some striking resemblances to Cameron Crowe’s ‘Almost Famous.’ However, in some ways this tale of doomed dreams is the superior, as it manages to capture what very few music films achieve; the essence of cool.

You can’t fake it, it just is, and Bus Palladium has it in spades.

Originally Published in Metior Issue 1, 2011