I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of the Alliance Française French Film Festival in Sydney. It is, according to the president of the local Alliance, the largest of the 10 foreign language film festivals held in Australia. The Italian Film Festival and the Spanish Film Festival are pretty big too, as is the Greek festival. In the past couple of years there have been a couple of Portuguese and Brazilian film festivals too (albeit mini ones but they have been a welcome edition to the local scene) and you sometimes see Brazilian films at the rather sporadic South American or Latin American film festivals we have here. We definitely don’t have a Romanian film festival! The major film festival is the Sydney Film Festival where you can see films from many countries. In Australia we are also lucky that we have some channels (SBS and World Movies) dedicated to multiculturism and foreign films.
More than 40 films will be screened at the 2013 French film festival, in six of our capital cities (Hobart and Darwin are the two capitals that miss out). If I make a real effort and go to about half a dozen films at the festival I can usually dream in French for a couple of nights afterwards. (Alas this year I won’t be able to see many films). I was surprised to learn that there are 30 Alliances Françaises in Australia.
The opening night film was called Haute Cuisine in English, but its French title is Les Saveurs du Palais (the savours of the palace). It was based roughly on some episodes in the life of Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch, who was a private chef of the former president François Mitterrand. Danièle was a speaker at the screening, but because she had to divide her time between three cinemas she didn’t really have time to say much. As a film Haute Cuisine was more of a light meal than something satisfying: it was basically food porn. You never really got to know the characters and their motivations (although Catherine Frot, who is a splendid actor, was really good in the main role, for which she was nominated for a César award), and there was a rather muddled link to Australia (Spanish-born actress Arly Jover plays an Australian journalist and makes a real hash of doing the Aussie accent. She looks like a younger version of former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and her accent was more Kiwi than Australian. Why didn’t they get an Australian actor to play the role?). But the behind-the-scenes look at the bureaucracy and the pomp and ceremony of modern day politics were amusing, and some of the scenes focusing on humankind’s fragilities (notably the battle of a woman in a man’s world) were moving. Mitterand was made to look a bit like an idiot, but at the same time his desire to escape the complicated, modern world and go back to a simpler time (his grandmother’s kind of cooking) will probably resonate with many people in the world today.
If it is French film festival time in Sydney it also means it’s time for another release of the So Frenchy, So Chic compilation CDs. From what I heard during the trailers at the festival, this year’s two-CD set sounds really good. The series is a great introduction to contemporary French music. Here is the information on the 2013 offering at the Sanity online music store and below is the official video of one of the tracks, La Forêt, by a sultry Frenchman who goes by the name Lescop. The words are easy to hear and the English translation is provided on screen. For those who like labels, he is apparently part of the ‘pop noire’ or ‘cold wave’ genre.
- Australia’s ’embarrassing’ gay film ban (smh.com.au)