by Joana Simmons
Revered French director François Truffaut once said: “The cinema is a perfect mix of truth and spectacle.” For the 31st Alliance Francaise French Film Festival (AF FFF) this year, this is proving true. The media night gave a rundown of a few of the 49 films in the program, highlighting that there are more socially charged themes, and the ever loved rom-coms are being given more of a farcical as well as meta, sci-fi twist. The feature for this evening was Nicolas Bedos’ La Belle Epoque, which received a seven minute standing ovation after the premier at Cannes Film Festival, and was an intriguing delight that had me on the warm and fuzzy edge of my seat from start to finish.
The film follows struggling cartoonist Victor (Daniel Auteuil, AF FFF19, Rémi, Nobody’s Boy), as his marriage, career and life is dissolving. His wife Marianne (Fanny Ardant, AF FFF16, Chic!) a psychoanalysis and lover of Freud who is as unhinged as her patients loathe him. As his life is unraveling, Victor meets Antione (Guillaume Canet, AF FFF19, Sink or Swim; and also starring in In the Name of the Land and directing We’ll End Up Together at this year’s Festival), the creative director of a company that recreates to the delightful detail any period in history for clients; whether it is to experience a time they wish they had been alive, or revisit a time and find redemption. Victor chooses to relive 1974, the time when he met Marianne. And so the film delightfully darts between the present day and the hazy 70’s, as through various ways, Victor finds meaning in this time, himself and his relationship.
The film is a splendid blend of cinematic suspension of disbelief, and the hilarity that is raw human existence, which was evident in the chuckles that hung over the audience. There is a complementary soundtrack in the classical and modern style, that suits both the ‘Frenchness’ of the film and the time periods. As viewers, we wish for the catharsis of time travel and resurgence of nostalgia, created by the delightful detail in the design and the way the plot weaves and follows the plight of the complex characters.
La Belle Epoque is a whimsical and warm watch that offers lessons on love and life in equal measure.
Screening as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival at Palace Theatres and affiliate locations, in Melbourne from 11th March to 8th April. Details at http://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/