A Feast of Film

My year of movie-watching started with the little-known YAH (Young at Heart)  festival, followed by the fantastic Alliance Française French Film Festival. Here are some of my favourites:

Catherine Deneuve features twice: in the magnificent new print of Buñuel’s 60’s masterpiece ‘Belle Du Jour’, first as the bored housewife Séverine who fulfils her erotic fantasies by secretly becoming a prostitute, and secondly as the ageing ‘Claire Darling’, an octogenarian with a death wish, released 60 years after ‘Belle Du Jour’. Deneuve shines in both films, displaying an amazing range of thespian talent. Her beauty through the years is undiminished, as we see her at each end of her long life. It’s poignant to see her acting alongside her real-life daughter Chiara Mastroianni in Julie Bertuccelli’s ‘Claire Darling’ (La Dernière Folie de Claire Darling).

Another ‘Blast from the Past’ was the magic and mysterious ‘Last Year at Marienbad’, in a beautifully restored version. Directed by Alain Resnais in 1959, this surrealist black and white movie has lost nothing of its magic in half a century, leaving this viewer as if woken from a dream.

Other highlights for me were the satiric ‘Man in a Hurry’, (un Homme Pressé) which played wicked games with French spelling, when its star, the whimsical Fabrice Luchini, learns to speak again after a stroke, and ‘Family Photo’, again directed by a woman, Cécilia Rouaud. Its humour had a bitter edge, perhaps too close a reminder of the invisibility and neglect of our aged family members.

Two films starring the ever-versatile Juliette Binoche were highly entertaining: ‘Non-Fiction’ (Doubles Vies), a drama satirising the flaws and foibles of the French literati, and ‘Who You Think I Am’ (Celle que vous croyez), a romantic thriller with a twist. Binoche plays quite contrasting  roles in these two movies, ever believable, always compelling.

My favourite film was ‘Memoir of War’ based on the 1985 novel ‘La Douleur’ (also the film’s French title) by Marguerite Dumas . Mélanie Thierry plays Margeurite in this searing exposure of life in Nazi-occupied France. We share in this woman’s agonising wait for her lover to return to Paris from a concentration camp for political prisoners. It is a powerful movie, directed by  Emmanuel Finkiel, and made me want to read again the Dumas’ original work.

All images courtesy of the Alliance Française 30th French Film Festival Program, Sydney 5 Mar – 10 April.

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