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Rendez-vous with French Cinema preview

The chance to see upcoming French films before they hit cinemas later this year

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Rendez-vous with French Cinema preview

Delicacy

Now that The Artist has cleaned up at the Oscars, attention can turn to other French films that will be released in the UK during 2012. The Rendez-vous with French Cinema event, which runs in London until Sat 24 Mar and at Edinburgh's Filmhouse from Fri 23–Sun 25 March, allows audiences to have an advance look at several diverse films from across the Channel, all of which will be released later in the year.

The pick of the programme is Mia Hansen-Love’s Goodbye First Love (Un Amour de Jeunesse), the follow-up to her widely acclaimed The Father of My Children. A former actress and Cahiers du Cinéma critic, the 31-year-old writer-director has already earned comparisons to the young Francois Truffaut. In its outline, her latest work would appear to be a familiar coming-of-age story, charting the joys and pains of a profound teenage love affair. Lola Creton from Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard plays the 15-year-old Parisienne Camille, who falls hard for a commitment-wary young man Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky). Five years later Camille has become a promising architecture student and the live-in lover of a middle-aged professor (Magne-Harvard Brekke), when Sullivan unexpectedly re-enters her life. It turns out to be a poignant and gracefully constructed film, which illustrates the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard’s observation that, 'Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards'/.

Ismael Ferroukhi (Le Grand Voyage) returns with Free Men (Les Hommes libres), which revisits Paris in les années noires of the German Occupation during World War Two. Starring A Prophet’s Tahar Rahim and the always watchable Michel Lonsdale, it tracks an immigrant Algerian black marketeer, who following the notorious Vel d’Hiv raid of July 1942 (the subject of last year’s The Round Up and Sarah’s Key) becomes a fully fledged résistant. Like Rachid Bouchareb’s Days of Glory, Free Men illuminates the sacrifices of French North Africans to liberating a motherland, which shamefully treated them as inferior citizens.

Those in the mood for a lightly stylised romantic comedy can sample Delicacy (La Delicatesse), which has been adapted by the writer David Foenkinos from his own best-selling novel (both David and his brother and co-director Stephane will be on-hand for a post-screening discussion). Audrey Tautou is the beautiful young widow Nathalie, who buries herself in her office job, until a wallflower Swedish colleague, played by Heartbreaker’s Francois Damiens, turns out to be an unlikely Prince Charming. As the bashful suitor explains to the gamine Nathalie, 'It’s as if Liechtenstein went out for coffee with the USA'.

Last, but not least, Tales of the Night (Les Contes de la Nuit) from animation maestro Michel Ocelot (Princes and Princesses), offers up half a dozen silhouetted fables, which are conjured up in 3D by an elderly technician and two young thespians. Expect an array of exotic locales, plenty of wild creatures (including werewolves, dragons, and mongooses), and lots of cinematic magic, reminding us that the cinematic pioneer George Méliès was himself French.

Rendez-vous with French Cinema, various venues, London, until Sat 24 Mar; Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 23–Sun 25 Mar.

Goodbye First Love (Un amour de jeunesse)

  • 2 stars
  • 2011
  • France/Germany
  • 110 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Mia Hansen-Løve
  • Cast: Lola Créton, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Magne-Håvard Brekke
  • UK release: 4 May 2012

Vain, drippy, lugubrious teenager Camille (Créton) falls in and out of love with dumb puppy Sullivan (Urzendowsky). Lots of nice shots of breasts and landscapes don't alter the fact that this is about unlikable people exchanging faux-profundities. Might work as aversion therapy for people who think they miss being young.

Tales of the Night (Les contes de la nuit)

  • 3 stars
  • 2011
  • France
  • 84 min
  • U
  • Directed by: Michel Ocelot
  • Cast: Voices of Julien Beramis, Marine Griset, Michel Elias

Animated feature in which an elderly writer and a young actress dream up and perform six stories about a young hero's attempts to win the hand of a princess. The old-fashioned imagery is highly distinctive, and the sedate pace and dialogue-heavy storytelling allow the viewer to appreciate the beauty.

Delicacy (La délicatesse)

  • 3 stars
  • 2011
  • France
  • 108 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: David Foenkinos/Stéphane Foenkinos
  • Cast: Audrey Tautou, François Damiens, Bruno Todeschini

Recently widowed Nathalie (Tautou) contemplates a union with clumsy workmate Markus (Damiens). Perhaps only French cinema values beauty so highly that an entire film can be drawn out of the prospect of a not-that-good-looking man getting it on with Audrey Tautou; despite considerable charm, there’s little else to hold on…

Free Men (Les hommes libres)

  • 3 stars
  • 2011
  • France
  • 99 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Ismaël Ferroukhi
  • Cast: Tahar Rahim, Michael Lonsdale, Mahmud Shalaby

Younes (Rahim) is a young Algerian working in WW II Paris when the Germans enter; the authorities give him the choice between prison, or spying on a mosque suspected of smuggling out Jews disguised as Muslims. Ferroukhi's film is worthy, but lacks dramatic tension and a properly fleshed-out protagonist.

Elsewhere on the web

GOODBYE, FIRST LOVE - Official HD Trailer

Festival 2011: FREE MEN Trailer

DELICACY - official US Trailer - A film by the Foenkinos Brothers starring Audrey Tautou

Les contes de la nuit / Tales of the Night - TRAILER (with english subtitles)

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