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May 9, 2021

French Film Festival returns to Byron Bay

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Those two legends of Australian cinema, Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton, have brought their distinctive ‘je ne sais quoi’ to their roles as patrons of this year’s Alliance Française French Film Festival, which opens at Palace Cinema on April 9.

Beloved by movie aficionados throughout the country, Margaret and David were given ‘carte blanche’ to select their favourite French films to screen at the festival, with Margaret selecting 3 Hearts and Far From Men, and David choosing Diplomacy and The Blue Room.

‘Benoît Jacquot has created a sublime, if painful, romance with fate intervening in the lives of a taxman, played beautifully by Benoît Poelvoorde, and two sisters – sublime performances by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni’ says Margaret of 3 Hearts (3 Coeurs). ‘To add to that duo of fine European women, Jacquot has cast iconic Catherine Deneuve as their mother. Mainly set in a provincial town south of Lyon, the coincidence of two sisters falling for the same man in a ‘coup de foudre’ is both bizarre and yet totally understandable. The ramifications of that situation lead to a powerfully emotional film that references great romances of the past. This a moving, unmissable movie experience.’

Of Diplomacy, (Diplomatie), David declared ‘Volker Schlondorff’s intense adaptation of Cyril Gely’s 2011 play unfolds during the night of August 24-25, 1944 in the Hotel Meurice, the Paris hotel that serves as the headquarters of General Dietrich Choltitz, the German governor of the occupied city. The Allies are at the city gates and, following Hitler’s orders, Choltitz is prepared to destroy the city and its monuments – until an intervention from Swedish diplomat Raoul Nordling, who, during an intense and emotionally charged argument, puts forward the case for saving the city. Niels Arestrup as Choltitz and André Dussollier as Nordling, give commanding performances in this totally gripping drama.’

Presented by the Alliance Française, this is the festival’s 26th year in Australia and its second year in Byron Bay, where a program of 18 exceptional French films is set to captivate northern rivers audiences from April 9 to 14.

Launching the Festival will be Gemma Bovery, a beguiling romantic comedy-drama from renowned director Anne Fontaine (Coco Avant Chanel), which had its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Starring the incomparable Fabrice Luchini alongside the delectable Gemma Arterton, the film tells the story of an English couple named Gemma & Charles Bovery, who move to a small, picturesque Normandy town. Local baker and resident Gustave Flaubert fan Martin Joubert can’t believe that here are two real-life figures who seem to be replicating the behavior of his favourite fictional characters, right before his eyes…and becomes a man obsessed.

For the festival’s closing night, the modern French classic Paris, Je T’aime will take audiences through the arrondissements of Paris, with 20 superb short films inspired by the subject of love from acclaimed directors such as Olivier Assayas, Bruno Podalydès, Gus Van Sant and Ethan and Joel Cohen.

Other festival highlights include Girlhood (Bande de Filles), a story of female empowerment set in the tough neighbourhoods of Paris and The Blue Room (La Chambre Bleue) for which acclaimed actor Mathieu Amalric, in his second directorial feature, has turned to crime writer Georges Simenon’s novel about a passionate, yet illicit, small-town love affair. Saint Laurent, France’s entry in the 2015 Academy Awards, is a spectacular celebration of the famous and flamboyant designer Yves Saint Laurent at the zenith of his celebrity, exploring his relationships, neuroses, addictions and insecurities.

The Bélier Family (La Famille Bélier) is an uproarious box office smash-hit about family ties, the joy of music and breaking free. In the Beliér family, everyone is deaf, except dutiful 16-year-old Paula, who acts as an indispensable interpreter for her parents and younger brother, especially in the running of the family dairy farm. In Samba, the writing-directing duo Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache reunite with The Intouchables star Omar Sy to tell this thought-provoking, cross-cultural romance, set against the backdrop of France’s immigration challenges. Samba is a Senegalese dishwasher who dreams of being a chef. Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is his immigration caseworker and his only hope of staying in France. Together, they might find a future, but the path will not be an easy one.

Programs and tickets for the Alliance Française French Film Festival are now available at Palace Byron Bay Cinema, or online at www.palacecinema.com.au.


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