Le Hérisson and La Petite Chambre among highlights of French Film Festival 2010

Le Hérisson and La Petite Chambre among highlights of French Film Festival 2010

Pierre Etaix also presents his own Le Grand Amour

France has one of the most prolific film cultures in the world yet for every A Prophet, Heartbreaker and Carlos there are countless fine films that never see the inside of a British cinema. The raison d’etre for the annual French Film Festival (FFF) is to provide audiences with a rare chance to see what we might be missing. The 2010 programme is rich in premieres, unfamiliar classics and new features from auteurs with compelling track records like Christophe Honoré, Bertrand Tavernier, Daniele Thompson, Costa-Gavras and Rachid Bouchareb.

The cancellation of Andre Téchiné’s visit due to health problems is a blow for the festival, but one clear highlight is a personal appearance from multi-talented circus clown, music hall veteran and filmmaker Pierre Etaix, an indefatigable 82-year-old whose work has earned him comparisons with Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis. Etaix recently appeared in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Mic-Macs but legal battles have prevented a whole generation from seeing any of his melancholy comedies. Several of his best films have now been restored, and Etaix will introduce screenings of the 1969 Le Grand Amour (The Great Love) in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

French cinema has an enviable ability to generate mainstream crowd-pleasers whilst simultaneously supporting the personal vision of independent filmmakers. There are superior examples of both types of film on display from the lush romantic wallow of the Daniel Auteuil vehicle Je L’Aimais (Someone I Loved) to the tender, low-budget La Petite Chambre (The Small Room) which charts the bond between an elderly man and his carer.

The festival is also notable for a number of vivid literary adaptations including Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog) (pictured) a charming version of the Muriel Barbery’s bestseller The Elegance of the Hedgehog set in a Parisian apartment building, and Le Petit Nicolas (Little Nicholas), a nostalgic version of the comic books charting the misadventures of a Just William-style schoolboy in 1950s France whose life is shattered by the news that his parents are expecting another child.

Mademoiselle Chambon provides a perfect example of a French film that deserves to find a British distributor. Elegantly acted by Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain, it is a wistful, delicately observed tale in the manner of Brief Encounter.

Going against the tide of cutbacks in the arts, the FFF is a testimony to the event’s ability to adapt and innovate. ‘This year the festival has made an effort to embrace other French language cinema,’ explains director Richard Mowe. ‘There are films from Switzerland, Belgium, and Quebec to add to the rich mix of Francophone and this will help us grow.’

French Film Festival, GFT, Glasgow; Filmhouse, Edinburgh and various venues, Thu 11 Nov–Tue 7 Dec. www.frenchfilmfestival.org.uk

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