French film festival – oui oui!

Cinephiles and romantics rejoice!

The Alliance Française French Film Festival in Byron Bay opened last night and promises a tantalising line-up of 14 films that make a French ‘affaire’ essential.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the festival in Australia and the directors have organised a spectacular program to celebrate its 25th birthday, transporting audiences to a nation awash with colour and romance.

The opening-night film at Palace Byron Bay Cinema last night was The Finishers.

THE-FINISHERS_Picture-1-copy[1]Filmed in the mountains of Nice during the 2012 Ironman competition, The Finishers is an emotionally charged, superbly crafted drama starring Jacques Gamblin and Alexandra Lamy, playing characters inspired by a true story.  It follows the incredible journey of an embittered, former Ironman champion and his disabled son, who join forces to compete in a triathlon.

The Alliance Française French Film Festival is recognised as one of the biggest events in the world for the promotion of French cinema, and this is its first year in Byron Bay.

Founded in 1883, the Alliance Française is devoted to the promotion of the French language, arts and culture, and launching the festival last night was Jacques Bounin, director of the Brisbane Alliance Française.

The festival continues until April 28, screening films that run the gamut from hilarious to thrilling, inspiring to eccentric.

On closing night the festival will honour one of France’s most beloved directors, the comic genius Jacques Tati, screening his classic and much loved film Mon Oncle.

Other festival highlights include:

Bright Days Ahead  – director: Marion Vernoux, starring Fanny Ardant, Laurent Lafitte, Patrick Chesnais, Jean-François Stévenin.

A tender and frank romantic comedy about taking control and enjoying your life at any age – even if it means breaking the rules and subverting expectations.

JAPPELOUP_Picture-11Jappeloup – director: Christian Dugay, starring Guillaume Canet, Daniel Auteuil, Marina Hands, Lou De Laâge, Tchéky Karyo, Jacques Higelin.

Jappeloup is the inspirational true story of one man and his horse, who together achieved one of France’s greatest Olympic victories. This triumphant tale of determination will have you cheering the pair on all the way to its rousing climax.

11.6 director: Philippe Godeau, starring François Cluzet, Bouli Lanners, Corinne Masiero, Juana Acosta, Johan Libéreau.

Based on an incredible true story, the title of 11.6 refers to the staggering amount of millions in euros stolen in this tense heist thriller like no other.

Security van driver Toni Musulin (Francois Cluzet of The Intouchables) leads a structured, normal existence. Or so it appears.

Boredom with his partner, frustration with his routine and resentment towards his employers simmer beneath the surface. Gradually he sets out to enact an improbable act of revenge – disappearing with the contents of his own van.

With fascinating and gripping detail, the nerve-wracking plot follows Toni’s meticulous preparation. Why exactly is he doing this? And why does he not seem concerned with being caught or spending his loot?

In real life the driver became a kind of folk hero in 2009 for his actions when the reputations of banks were at their lowest. His story is now this audacious thought-provoking and thrilling modern film noir.

Folies Bergère director: Marc Fitoussi, starring Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Michael Nyqvist, Pio Marmaï.

Fifty-something Brigitte lives a good life with her husband in regional France.  But the departure of their children has thrown her world into flux and she dreams of something more.

With her unrest building, she impulsively makes an excuse to set off for Paris, where she meets a charming Danish gentleman whose attentions flatter her.

IT-BOY_Picture-1IT Boy director: David Moreau, starring Virginie Efira, Pierre Niney, Gilles Cohen, Charles Berling, Amélie Glenn.

A hilarious look at sexual politics in the world of Parisian publishing.

Beautiful, capable but uptight Alice suddenly finds her career chances improve when a series of misunderstandings label her with a ‘cougar’ persona.

Belle and Sebastian director: Nicolas Vanier, starring Tchéky Karyo, Dimitri Storoge, Margaux Chatelier, Félix Bossuet, Andreas Pietschmann.

Set high in the snowy Alps during World War II, the resourceful Sebastian is a lonely boy who tames and befriends a giant, wild mountain dog – even though the villagers believe her to be ‘the beast’ that has been killing their sheep.

At the same time, the Germans have arrived in the peaceful village looking for resistance members who are helping Jewish refugees escape into Switzerland.

Through danger and adventure, Belle and Sebastian forge an indestructible friendship.  Set against breathtaking scenery and a dramatic time in history, this moving story will be enjoyed by the whole family.

WRESTLING-QUEENS_Picture-12Wrestling Queens director: Jean-Marc Rudnicki, starring Nathalie Baye, Audrey Fleurot, André Dussollier, Isabelle Nanty, Marilou Berry.

Seeking to reconnect with the estranged son she had as a teenager, 30-year-old Rose decides to capture his attention by appealing to his number one obsession: wrestling.

Enlisting three fellow supermarket checkout clerks, she forms a troupe and the Wrestling Queens are born.  This outrageous, laugh-out-loud comedy with expertly choreographed wrestling sequences (fought by the actors themselves) is sure to put your funnybone in a figure-four leglock.

Violette director: Martin Provost, starring Emmanuelle Devos, Sandrine Kiberlain, Olivier Gourmet, Catherine Hiegel.

Set against the heady intellectual atmosphere of 1940s Paris, this is the compelling tale of novelist Violette Leduc and her struggle to find her voice as a writer.

Scarred by both a childhood trauma and a loveless marriage, she finds a complex mentor in Simone de Beauvoir, and subsequently gains entry into the world of literary giants.

Tickets and programs available at Palace box office or online at

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