Alliance Française French Film Festival

54 must-see films screen in Australia

By Lois Maskiell

The largest line-up to date will screen across selected Australian cinemas to celebrate the 30th Alliance Française French Film Festival. 54 films, which captured the critics’ attention at the international film festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Venice, feature on the programme with the vast majority previously undistributed.

“This edition will be literally plugged to the history of cinema through genres with the western, the science fiction and the horror film, even the Bollywood film makes an appearance,” says artistic director Philippe Platel.

Platel, also the Cultural Attaché at the French Embassy in Australia, curates the festival for the fourth consecutive year in collaboration with Alliance Française and Unifrance Films.

Comedy fans can prepare to be spoilt for choice: the festival launches with the explosively witty The Trouble with You (En liberté) and features a selection of achingly funny films. Directed by Pierre Salvadori The Trouble with You is “a poetic take on comedy at the intersection of many genres,” says Platel. “It’s a comedy, romcom, thriller and cop film with tarantinoesque effects.”

Sink or Swim (Le grand bain)
by Gilles Lellouche is “the big success for this year with 4 million spectators in total in France,” he says.

Box-office hit Dumped (Larguées) pivots on a simple plot: two daughters take their recently single mother to an island resort where she recovers on a diet of cocktails and an unexpected love affair. “It’s sweet and salty, it’s a margarita for your brain,” says Platel.

The Night Eats the World 5 (1)
The Night Eats the World (La nuit a dévoré le monde) | Winner for Best effects, Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival 2018

For the serious cinephile, the key film on their radar is pioneer auteur Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book (Le livre d’image). At 88 years Godard never ceases to polarise the critics’ praise with his strikingly contemporary work, “he is so innovative, he reinvents cinema every time,” says Platel. Now it’s your turn to cast the verdict.

Claire Denis’ highly anticipated science fiction High Life starring Juliette Binoche will also appeal to the film buff, as will Virgil Vernier’s Sophia Antipolis and Jacques Audiard’s western Sisters Brothers (Les Frères Sisters) featuring John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix and Jake Gyllenhaal.

For a spectacularly visual experience, Alain Resnais’ 1961 Last Year at Marienbad (L’Année dernière à Marienbad) is not to be overlooked with costumes by fashion icon Coco Chanel. “It’s an amazing film and it’s a very central piece in the line-up because the restoration is incredible,” says Platel.

Actress Vanessa Paradis leads in Yann Gonzalez’s spin on the slasher movie, Knife+Heart (Un couteau dans le coeur), which has already attained cult status since its Cannes premiere. “Paradis plays the role of a lesbian producer of gay porn films in the ’80s, facing a serial killer killing all of her cast,” he says. “It’s very fashionable with a trendy soundtrack by M83.”

Backing this variety of films are prominent industry patrons including Australia’s foremost film critic David Stratton and leading Australian producer Rosemary Blight. “Since 80% of our audience is Australian, we’re definitely an Australian cultural event,” says Platel. “It made sense that we have this entourage of Australian patrons from the industry.”

The festival’s enduring popularity affirms Australians’ affection for France’s unique brand of cinema, and what better way to celebrate this birthday edition than with a superb range of films in which to escape, explore and discover.

“There is a very strong appetite for French culture in Australia,” says Platel. “I’m amazed by this very sincere Francophilia found everywhere.”

The 30th birthday edition of the Alliance Française French Film Festival screens 5 March – 18 April 2019 across selected cinemas in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Hobart, Adelaide, Avoca Beach, Paramatta and Byron Bay.

To purchase tickets and view the complete program see the official website.