French Film Festival Round-up

It’s that time of year again when the great and the good who coordinate the national French Film festival unleash their wares on those Francophiles among us. Taking in four Scottish cities (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen) this three week programme works on the principal of exposure to the new. Like its predecessors this year’s selection is largely made up of films that do not yet have distribution in this country. The one noticeable exception to this is the opening gala Paris, je t’aime, a kind of cinematic love letter to Paris made up of 18 short films by filmmakers as brilliant and disparate as Joel and Ethan Coen, Olivier Assayas, Gus Van Sant and Sylvain Chomet. The latter will be on hand to introduce the film.

Above and beyond that the festival is rich in named and unnamed talent. If it’s thrillers you seek then you really can’t go wrong with the great Greek filmmaker Costa Gavras’ The Axe, an adaptation of Donald E Westlake’s dizzying mystery novel about corporate revenge served cold. France’s leading Hitchcock acolyte Claude Chabrol’s tale of legal shenanigans Comedy of Power starring the mighty Isabelle Huppert is also worth checking out. If it’s a heist flick you seek then Jacques Bral’s Springtime in Paris is breezier, jazzier yet more seamlessly plotted than most. Also worthy of your attention is Jerome Cornuau’s thoroughly watchable mob fighting epic Tiger Brigades based on the cult French TV series of the same name.

Laughs aplenty can be found in OSS 117: Cairo - Nest of Spies (pictured), a gleeful parody of the popular French secret agent who appeared in seven films from 1956-1970. In intention this is equal parts early Bond and Austin Powers but the brilliant retro production design, editing, camerawork and superb performances from Jean Dujardin and the beautiful Bérénice Bejo put this in a league of its own. For those with a penchant for the surreal Emmanuel Carrére’s existential facial topiary farce The Moustache is also worth a close shave with.

A retro strand presenting a mini retrospective of the work of intense societal dissector Christian Vincent (The Separation) is also well worth dropping in on. Vincent’s work brings to mind Gore Vidal’s comment that ‘France is a nation devoted to the false hypothesis on which it then builds marvellously logical structures.’ Apprécier mes enfants!

French Film Festival UK is at GFT, Glasgow, Filmhouse, Edinburgh and Vue Ocean, Edinburgh from Sun 15 Apr.

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