Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
review, French Film Festival 2013, French, Film, Festival, 2013, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews



By Jack Richardson
4th March 2013

March sees the nation-wide tour of the Alliance Française French Film Festival, ready to sweep away your post-Oscars doldrums with a heady infusion of chic seduction and cigarette smoke. The Festival, now in its 24th year, is dedicated to immersing audiences in the magic of French language and culture, and features some of the finest and most anticipated examples of French cinema. This year, that includes Xavier Dolan’s ‘Laurence Anyways’ and the adaptation of ‘Farewell, My Queen’, starring Diane Kruger.

While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the smorgasbord of delectations on offer, never fear – SWITCH has your back. We’ve put together a handy cheat-sheet of highlights to help with you plan your festival, and keep you up to date around the water-cooler tête-à-têtes...

'The Man Who Laughs'
This lavish retelling of Victor (‘Les Miserables’) Hugo’s eponymous novel sits in the shadow of the 1928 silent classic, most notable for Conrad Veidt’s ghoulish grin (a visage notable itself for inspiring the iconic look of Batman’s arch-nemesis, The Joker). Gerard Depardieu plays Ursus, a showman and wandering charlatan who takes two abandoned orphans into his care: the blind Dea (Christa Theret), and Gwynplaine (Marc-Andre Grondin, ‘C.R.A.Z.Y’), whose face has been cut into a permanent grin. Together, the trio performs ‘The Man Who Laughs’, a vaudevillian phantasmagoria to the freaks and outcasts of Paris’s Poor Quarter. But a secret lies in Gwynplaine’s past, and he is soon catapulted from the slums into the spotlight of society, with tragic results. Director Jean-Pierre Ameris attempts to inject a Burton-esque sensibility into the fable-like story of love and monsters (especially with its carnival setting and Danny Elfman-lite score), but it lacks both the horror and melodrama of the silent-era original, as well as Hugo’s sweeping social conscience and immaculate detail. The end product, while occasionally ravishing, is a bloodless, emotionally distant, if diverting missed opportunity.

'Farewell, My Queen'
Historical fiction plays on the idea that history is invisible to those in middle of historically significant events. As in historical novels, cinema based on these events often views them through the eyes of an independent third party – an observant spectator, like the audience, removed from the monumental events around them. Like Griet, the maid immortalized in ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’, ‘Farewell, My Queen’ views history through the eyes of Sidonie, the personal reader to Marie Antoinette – and like the former film, it fails to create an avatar as rich, engaging, or as interesting as the real people around their periphery. Diane Kruger (‘Inglourious Basterds’) is gorgeous (if fleeting) as the passionate Queen, but Lea Seydoux’s Sidonie is a cypher, a psychological blank whose voyeurism and unexplained obsessions come across as creepy and weird. Compounded by her unreliable point of view, forced lesbian elements (absent from its source novel), and director Benoit Jacquot’s aggressive, empty vérité camerawork, the film wastes a fascinating premise with empty erotica, a plodding pace, and a plot that amounts to egregious slash-fiction.


'The Invisibles'
Sebastien Lifshitz’s meditative documentary focuses on the literal and figurative “invisibles” of gay culture: the vortex of middle age, and what it means for a community commonly preoccupied with the trappings of youth. It also illuminates the realities of living in a European post-war society that rarely, if ever, acknowledged the existence of homosexuals and homosexuality. In a cyclical series of wide-ranging interviews (farmers to urbanites, abortionists to civil rights campaigners), Lifshitz examines the minutiae of his subjects, all aged in their seventies and eighties. Their experiences are as unique as they are universal – unrequited love, ostracism and isolation, exhilaration and earth-shaking passions – and the great interest of the film is how these disparate stories amount to reveal a telling portrait of France and its evolving ideals – and not always for the better. While the subjects themselves are fascinating, the two-hour running time becomes a repetitive chore, with too many pretensions towards lingering, static art. But such indulgences aside, ‘The Invisibles’ is an important chronicle of gay history, as enlightening as it is charming.

'Camille Rewinds'
From ‘Freaky Friday’ and ‘Big’ to ‘Suddenly 30’ and ‘17 Again’, the body swap/inexplicably youthful wish fulfillment story is the kind of film Hollywood has perfected over innumerable years and incarnations. The beats are exacting: dissatisfied adult finds themselves transported (often through magic portals, and almost always around the holidays) into a life “do over”, where the mistakes of their present can be remedied in their past. Lessons are learned, revelations are made, and life is reset back in the future. ‘Camille Rewinds’ is no departure from the predictable story beats, but it lacks the knowing, self-referential fun of the conventional Hollywood version, and does little to replace it with a charm of its own. Noemie Lvovsky plays the titular Camille (she also serves as director and co-screenwriter), and brings suitable hedonism to her older self. But there’s a disjointed, strangely flat quality to her interactions once she ventures to the past, brought about by inconsistent time-travel rules and a lack of consistent logic. Ultimately, the film never transcends its premise, and succeeds entirely on your engagement and investment in the character of Camille and her love of 80s fashion.

'Louise Wimmer'
This sporadically impressive, if relentlessly miserable drama stars Corinne Masiero as Louise, a middle-aged woman who exists on the fringe of French society, and often below the poverty line. Struggling to maintain her job and living out of her bomb of a car, Louise faces a series of insurmountable hurdles in her effort to secure subsidised housing. Over time, we learn how her decisions have led her to this life, and how they may continue to shape it. Cyril Mennegun, a former documentary director, brings an unhurried, observational eye to the drama, always erring for cinematic control over gritty realism. His scenes unfold in unobtrusive languor, and for the most part, these claustrophobic touches add an uncomfortable sense of despair to Louise’s downward spiral. But like every film about inherently sad subjects, it runs the risk of being too miserable for its own good. Although the plight of Louise is admirably portrayed, and perhaps closer, in truth, than many would care to acknowledge, Louise’s joyless life makes for uneasy viewing, despite an unsatisfyingly saccharine denouement.

The Alliance Française French Film Festival runs throughout the month of March in all capital cities (excluding Hobart). Visit to view the full program, book tickets, and discover special events and guest appearances happening in your city.

© 2011 - 2019 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Disclaimer | Contact Us