Bright days ahead as Australia’s French film festival turns 25

On Tuesday night I was treated to a preview screening in Sydney of one the films in the 2014 French Film Festival, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. I was a guest of Rail Europe and French Travel Connection, two of the national sponsors of the event, which is organised through the good old Alliance Française and runs from March 4-23 in Sydney. But it is a national event – the largest French festival outside of France apparently – and there will be showings in Melbourne (March 5-23), Canberra and Brisbane (both March 6-25), Perth (March 18 to April 6), Adelaide (March 20 to April 8) and even four days in Byron Bay on the NSW north coast (April 24-28). The organisers are hoping to beat the record attendance of 133,000. For more details, here is the festival website.

Photo by Bernardo (camera in one hand, glass of champagne in the other, haha).

Photo by Bernardo (camera in one hand, glass of champagne in the other, haha).

The film we saw this week was Les Beaux Jours, or in English, Bright Days Ahead (a more literal translation of the title would be The Beautiful Days). It is the story of un amour fou or crazy love., and features great performances by the ever radiant Fanny Ardant and Laurent Lafitte as the two lovers, and Patrick Chesnais as the cuckolded husband. Some of my companions at the showing complained the film was a little slow (it was, after all, dealing with the traumas of a retired dentist trying to beat her boredom!) but, as is often the case with French films, its strength is the perceptive analysis and sympathetic treatment of people’s real-life traumas and emotions – turning the ordinary into the extraordinary when it is done well. Here is the trailer, or bande-annonce, in French.

Normally to coincide with the French film festival, a two-CD compilation of recent trendy French music is released under the moniker So Frenchy, So Chic. The 2014 edition is available now, I will do a post on it once I am more familiar with it. The previous year’s one was great, it introduced me to the sounds of Lescop, among others (listen to his track Le Forêt here)

The seafront in Dunkerque (Pic: Wikipedia)

The seafront in Dunkerque (Pic: Wikipedia)

In the meantime, those of you who like soothing piano music should investigate the soundtrack to Les Beaux Jours, featuring pianist and composer Quentin Sirjacq. The music was superb and somehow suited the ‘constrained on the outside, wild underneath’ emotions of the characters in the film, and the windswept scenery of Dunkerque and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, where it was filmed. As an avid traveller, I always yearn to know what locations are used in the film, and I have a rather perverse liking for European beach resorts in the bleak winter weather when the tourist hordes are gone, and the summer circus is over. The soul of the place seems more exposed at these times, they are perfect settings for solitary introspection. You can listen to snippets of the soundtrack  here on the Amazon music site and here on iTunes.

The French film festival has always been a treat for me. I arrived in Australia in 1989, the year the festival first started, and it was always a great way to immerse myself in French language and culture for a couple of weeks, something I could rarely do in the English-language speaking countries that I grew up in in Africa. The only times I have ever managed to dream in French has been during the festival (in my bed, not during the film screenings, haha).

French festival (2)A lot has changed since 1989 – thanks to the internet and other digital media, we now have easy access to films, music, television, radio stations and other content from all over the world. Because of this, it is all too easy to take our ‘real world’ opportunities for granted. I had vowed when I arrived in Australia to go to see every French film that screened in the Sydney, but since then I have become more choosy or, to tell the truth, just lazy. (Note to self: j’ai besoin d’un coup de pied aux fesses – see my post on the F words for an explanation). The point is, we learn languages to be able to converse and socialise, and it is more fun to learn a language alongside other people, be it in a class or in a cinema, than it is sitting at a computer, so if you have these opportunities, take them!

According to the French embassy website, The Alliance Française has 26 centres in Australia, listed here, and of course there are many all over the world.

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