This year, the 21st edition of the New Orleans French Film Festival will kick off earlier than usual, beginning on February 23 and running through March 1, 2018, and will spotlight 17 feature films, 5 shorts, a retrospective of the magnificent Agnès Varda, French-themed live music performances prior to screenings, and special lectures, all in the historic Prytania Theater.
“The New Orleans Film Society’s French Film Festival was founded to engage and celebrate the French influence on our beloved city,” said Fallon Young, Executive Director of the New Orleans Film Society. “That’s why, in New Orleans’ tricentennial year, we are especially pleased that the French Film Festival features the world premiere of a uniquely New Orleans story. Created by a local director, cast and crew, the short film Le Grande Remix depicts New Orleans as a diverse and vibrant city with global cultural influences.”
Feature length films include the most awarded and sought after French films of the year: Back to Burgundy (opening night), Double Lover (closing night), 4 Days in France, After Love, All That Divides Us, Catch the Wind, Félicité, Ismael’s Ghosts, Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge, Montparnasse Bienvenüe, Nocturama, Souvenir, This is Our Land, as well as Jean Luc-Godard’s 1960 classic Breathless. The Agnès Varda retrospective includes three of her films, Le Bonheur (1965), The Gleaners and I (2000), and Faces, Places (2017). The shorts program includes Prestige Ingredients, We Are the Freak Show, The Elusive, Retaliation, and Le Grand Remix.
The only female director of the French New Wave and the only female director to ever receive an honorary Oscar, Agnès Varda (born in Belgium in 1928) has occupied a singular and well-respected role within the film industry since her first film La Pointe Courte in 1956. The French Film Festival presents Agnès Varda: A Retrospective, which includes an under-seen example of her early, formally audacious fiction work Le Bonheur (1965), as well as two of her more recent autobiographical documentaries The Gleaners and I (2000), and Faces, Places (2017) which is a nominee for the Best Documentary at the 90th Academy Awards.
The retrospective program includes a free lecture on Varda (on Sunday Feb 25, at 5pm) from Loyola professor Jean Brager, who will speak on Varda’s journey as a female filmmaker in a male-dominated industry as well as the ways in which her aesthetics paved the way for the Nouvelle Vague. The lecture will be followed by the screening of her latest documentary Faces, Places in which she collaborated with the phenomenal French photographer JR in search of the people and their villages that define rural France and make it what it is.
What’s the connection of Congo and New Orleans? Join a free lecture by Freddi Williams Evans on Wednesday, Feb 28 at 7:15pm which will be followed by a screening of the Congo-set film Félicité. Evans will address the not so well known connections between Congo and New Orleans, as detailed in her essay “Enslaved Africans Perpetuated Cultural and Commercial Practices at Congo Square,” featured in the new book New Orleans & the World: 1718-2018 Tricentennial Anthology.
Louisiana musicians Helen Gillet, Bart Ramsay, Bruce Sunpie Barnes, Thibault, Pascal Valcasara, and George Trahanis will be performing French-themed live music prior to select screenings during the French Film Festival. Performances will begin 30 minutes prior to the start time of the related films.
Opening Night: Back to Burgundy | Friday, February 23 | 7:00-7:30 pm | Bart Ramsay
Shorts Program | Saturday, February 24 | 2:00 – 2:30 pm | Bruce Sunpie Barnes
After Love | Sunday, February 25 | 2:00 – 2:30 pm | Thibault
Ismael’s Ghosts | Sunday, February 25 | 7:15 – 7:45 pm | Pascal Valcasara
All That Divides Us | Tuesday, February 27 | 7:30 – 8:00 pm | George Trahanis
Closing Night: Double Lover | Thursday, March 1 | 7:30 – 8:00 pm | Helen Gillet
FILMS AND SYNOPSES
Back to Burgundy, dir. Cedric Klapisch – Opening Night
The latest from French director Cedric Klapisch (L’auberge espagnole) brings together three very different siblings who have inherited their father’s picturesque vineyard in the famous wine region of Burgundy in east-central France. Prodigal son Jean has spent 10 years away in Australia, and he and two siblings, Juliette and Jérémie, are forced to collectively decide if and how to save the family estate. Over the course of four seasons, from harvest through the stages of vinification, they must learn to forgive and trust themselves and one another, blossoming and maturing in step with the wine they make. An absorbing, bittersweet exploration of the complexities of family and winemaking, Back to Burgundy goes down like a fine pinot noir.
Double Lover, dir. François Ozon – Closing Night
Director François Ozon, French cinema’s “bad boy,” returns to his wild days with this erotic thriller, which screened in competition at Cannes in 2017. The film centers around Chloé, a beautiful young woman at a vulnerable time in her life, who begins therapy with Paul, an attractive and mysterious psychologist. Their charged conversations lead to an inevitable romance, and several months later Chloé is in love and living with her new partner. But she gradually comes to suspect that her lover is not exactly the man she thought he was. Starring Marine Vacth and Jeremie Renier, Ozon continuously deceives and mesmerizes in this this sensual and provocative film about identity, trust, and passion. (Not recommended for younger viewers.)
Le Bonheur, dir. Agnès Varda
Though married to the good-natured, beautiful Thérèse (Claire Drouot), young husband and father François (Jean-Claude Drouot) finds himself falling unquestioningly into an affair with an attractive postal worker. One of Varda’s most provocative films, Le Bonheur examines, with a deceptively cheery palette and the spirited strains of Mozart, the ideas of fidelity and happiness in a modern, self-centered world.
Faces, Places , dir. Agnès Varda
Varda, at 89 years old, hits the road in a van with superstar French photographer JR, 55 years her junior, in search of the people and their villages that define rural France and make it what it is. They travel the countryside, inviting villagers to pose for JR’s camera, and the massive prints he produces in the back of the van are then affixed to various buildings.
The Gleaners and I, dir. Agnès Varda
This delightful documentary is really a self-portrait of Varda, finding her fully embracing the freedom of digital video to craft a personal, political, and casually profound celebration of “gleaners”: those living on the margins of French society who scavenge for its leftovers–taking everything from surplus in the fields, to rubbish in trash cans, and oysters washed up after a storm.
4 Days in France, dir. Jérôme Reybaud
On a seemingly ordinary night in Paris, Pierre takes a last look at his lover Paul’s sleeping body, then steals away into the morning light. Where he’s headed, neither of them know. Pierre’s only guide is his Grindr app, leading him on a series of encounters with an indelible cast of characters across the French countryside. Paul sets out after him, using his own phone to track Pierre’s movements in a strange and wonderful game of Grindr cat-and-mouse. A sly and sophisticated take on romance in the 21st century.
After Love, dir. Joachim Lafosse
Bernice Bejo (Oscar®-nominated for The Artist) and director-turned-actor Cedric Kahn star in this intimate family drama from acclaimed Belgian filmmaker Joachim Lafosse. After 15 years together, Boris and Marie have fallen out of love. After Love depicts the couple’s struggle to divide their assets and sort out custody of their two little girls, a task complicated by the fact that they aren’t married. Bejo and Kahn give unforgettable naturalistic performances in this intelligent and compassionate film.
All That Divides Us, dir. Thierry Klifa
A bourgeois family in a mansion in the middle of nowhere clashes with slum-dwellers residing in the projects in this engaging film noir starring acting heavyweights Catherine Deneuve and Diane Kruger. Intermingled in the mystery are a possible kidnapping, blackmail, and impossible love. Deneuve plays a mother trying desperately to save her daughter (Kruger) from a questionable relationship. Director Thierry Klifa created “authenticity of place” by shooting the film on location in region of Occitanie.
Catch The Wind, dir. Gael Morel
Edith, a 45-year-old textile factory worker, sees her life turned upside down by the company’s downsizing measures. Estranged from her son and without any other ties—and desperate to avoid unemployment—she decides to leave her life behind and follow the factory which has been relocated in Morocco. What follows is a revelatory story of immigration told from a new perspective, as Edith leaves France in search of opportunities in Northern Africa. Starring Sandrine Bonnaire from Agnès Varda’s seminal film Vagabond.
Félicité, dir. Alain Gomis
Félicité is a proud, free-willed woman working as a singer in a bar in the Congo. Her life is thrown into turmoil when her 14-year-old son gets into a terrible accident. To raise the money to save him, she sets out on a breakneck race through the streets of electric Kinshasa, a world of music and dreams. From French director Alain Gomis, Félicité was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival and has been shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Ismael’s Ghosts, dir. Arnaud Desplechin
The Opening Night selection at Cannes last year, Ismael’s Ghosts stars French screen regular Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) as a film director whose real life develops into a complex, Hitchcockian plot. He’s romantically involved with Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg) but still grieving the loss of Carlotta (Oscar® winner Marion Cotillard), an old flame who disappeared mysteriously twenty years prior. When Sylvia attempts to leave, he must choose between the two and find an ending to the story.
Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge, dir. Marie Noëlle
Polish actress Karolina Gruszka stars in this sweeping biography of the legendary scientist Marie Curie. Curie courted controversy with her challenging of France’s male-dominated academic establishment with her unconventional romantic life. A pioneer in the study of radioactivity, Curie spent her life setting precedents: she was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and the first person to win it twice. Director Marie Noëlle conjures her epic story in turn-of-the-century Europe in beautiful detail.
Montparnasse Bienvenüe, dir. Léonor Serraille
Thirty-something Paula has been dumped by her boyfriend after ten years together. Refusing to accept the role of the passive victim, she finds herself on an odyssey through Paris to recapture her independence and composure—a journey filled with rage, a fluffy cat, false identities, and a string of bizarre encounters. Recipient of the Caméra d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Montparnasse Bienvenüe is both unexpected and funny, while relying on an incredible, explosive performance by Laetitia Dosch.
Nocturama, dir. Bertrand Bonello
Paris is being stalked by a hidden menace. You’d never recognize them. They have no religion, no affiliation, no shared skin. But they’re there, young and angry, drifting through the streets and subways hunting for weakness. And when they find it, they’re going to bring the city to its knees, and drink champagne and dance until the dawn. A film of daring politics, ravishing style, and sublime soundtracking, Nocturama offers up a grim fantasia of terror and excess that will stay with you for weeks.
Souvenir, dir. Bavo Defurne
Liliane (Isabelle Huppert) lives a modest and monotonous life. By day, she works in an industrial pâté factory, and by night, she sits on the couch and watches TV. One day, a new worker in the factory named Jean (Kévin Azaïs) arrives, and he grows increasingly convinced that he recognizes Liliane from a European singing contest he saw as a child. Was it her? Souvenir is a touching portrayal of a relationship between two people from different generations, coming together to make a life-changing comeback.
This Is Our Land, dir. Lucas Belvaux
This Is Our Land is a film for our times. Not so loosely based on French politician Marine Le Pen, the plot follows Pauline, an apolitical nurse frustrated by local politics, who is targeted by a far right-wing group to run for office. As her political star rises, inner turmoil sets in as she becomes increasingly dominated by the political machine. Probing issues of immigration and populism, the film is an incisive look at how the Front National political party operates and how it is perceived by the French.
Breathless, dir. Jean-Luc Godard
There was before Breathless, and there was after Breathless. Jean-Luc Godard burst onto the film scene in 1960 with this jazzy, free-form, and sexy homage to the American film genres that inspired him as a writer for Cahiers du Cinéma. With its lack of polish, surplus of attitude, anything-goes crime narrative, and effervescent young stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, Breathless helped launch the French New Wave and ensured that cinema would never be the same.
French Short Films
This 100-minute program includes 5 short films representing bold, new cinematic voices.
Prestige Ingredients (26min | France | dir. Danielle + Adrian Rubi-Dentzel) A stifled, young Hollywood actress slips into a world of mouthwatering delicacies, sweet heartache, and bitter tears when she takes an unlikely job with an inspired rebel chef in Paris.
We Are The Freakshow (10 min | Canada | dir. Fanny-Laure Malo, Philippe Lupien), A bingo game. An allegorical, wild, and humorous portrait. An homage to eccentricity and entertainment, to those things that remain unchanged.
The Elusive (18min | Belgium | dir. Ely Chevillot), A complicated mother-son relationship becomes even more complicated when he acts inappropriately with another kid at the pool.
Retaliation (26min I France, Benin I dir. Ange-Régis Hounkpatin) When her father is murdered in Benin, 18-year-old Awa is shaken by the brutal actions taken in her community to avenge his death.
Le Grand Remix (17min I USA I dir. Austin Alward) Faced with not being allowed back into America if she leaves the U.S. to attend her sister’s wedding, a young African teacher at a French immersion school in New Orleans attempts to dance away her troubles to music is provided by a teenage Vietnamese-American DJ.