French film festival sets new record


The attendance figures from the Alliance Française French Film Festival in Australia have just been released, and once again a new record has been set. All up there were 184,713 attendances – a 5.8 per cent increase on the previous year – at the 50 films screened across 23 cinemas.

FrenchfingerThe festival was especially popular in Sydney, where attendances rose by 9 per cent to 57,427, helped in part by the opening of the Palace Central Park cinema complex near Central station. The figures for the other cities are not yet available.

The most popular film was the one that got the festival off to a rollicking start,  C’est La Vie.

It will be interesting to see if the Spanish Film Festival, which has only just ended, achieved similar growth. I suspect it will.



As one festival ends, so another begins: the German Film Festival is on from May 22 to June 10 in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, to be followed shortly afterwards by the Scandinavian Film Festival (July).

Romances languages will be back in focus with the Italian Film Festival (September) and Cine Latino Film Festival (November).

Images from Pixabay.


Rollicking start to French Film Festival


Australia’s biggest foreign language cinematic celebration, the Alliance Française French Film Festival, is under way in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane, and will start soon in Perth, Adelaide and Hobart. There will also be screenings next month in Parramatta and Casula, in western parts of Sydney. All up, there are 50 films to choose from.

I was lucky enough to go to the opening night party in Sydney, at the National Art School, and as always there is a wonderful selection of French food and drink to go with it. I made a beeline for le fromage, purely for photographic purposes, you’ll understand.


The opening night film, C’est La Vie, was fantastic, one of those films in which even the extras have wonderful roles to play, and you get totally absorbed in the quirks and lives of all the major and minor characters. Originally titled Le Sens de la Fête, it was a wedding party film with a difference (the focus was on the caterers) and there were many moments when the audience was laughing out loud. It’s funny and witty, and I highly recommend it – see it if you can. Here is the trailer.

The film scored 10 nominations for the 2018 César Awards, including for best film, best director (Eric Tolédano and Olivier Nakache, who were also nominated for best original screenplay), best actor (Jean-Pierre Bacri), best supporting actors (Gilles Lellouche and Vincent Macaigne), best female newcomer (Eye Haïdara, who was superb in her role), best male newcomer (Benjamin Lavernhe) as well as best editing and best sound. However, it did not win in any category, which just goes to show how strong the competition must have been. C’est la vie, eh?

My favourite character in the film, though, was the lazy, hopeless philandering photographer Guy (played by Jean-Paul Rouve), who kept scoffing all the food instead of working. He reminded me of me! (We underpaid journalists and photographers need all the nourishment we can get.) Here’s another revealing photo I took from the opening night party.


Later his nerdy photographic apprentice taught him how to download dating apps on his phone, with hilarious consequences.

Don’t Miss BPM

The festival is in its 29th year, and last year had a record attendance of 174,500. The good news is that film that dominated the César Awards this year BPM (120 Battements Par  Minute) is included in it, as are other best film nominees Au revoir là-haut (See You Up There), Barbara and Petit Paysan (listed as Bloody Milk in the festival program. These films also scored notable César Awards – details here.


French film festival update: here comes the extended version

ETERNITY_14Great news for Francophiles in Sydney and Melbourne: the 2017 Alliance Française French Film Festival has been extended in both cities until April 5. And if Sydneysiders still can’t get enough, don’t forget there are screenings in the suburbs of Parramatta and Casula from April 6-9 and 8-9 respectively.

Here is the amended schedule. I have included all starting dates, so you can roughly plan ahead for next year too.

  • Sydney (March 7-April 5)
  • Melbourne (March 8-April 5)
  • Canberra (March 9-April 4)
  • Perth (March 15-April 5)
  • Brisbane (March 16-April 9)
  • Adelaide (March 30-April 23)
  • Hobart (March 30-April 8)
  • Parramatta (April 6-9)
  • Casula (April 8-9)

Go here for films and session times: the 2017 Alliance Française French Film Festival.

The image is from Éternité (Eternity), the first film in the French language from Vietnamese-born director Tran Anh Hung of The Scent of Green Papaya fame. It examines the lives of three generations of an aristocratic family, and stars what Variety calls “an embarrassment of great actresses” (as does the whole festival itself), including Audrey Tautou (above), Bérénice Bejo, Mélanie Laurent and Irène Jacob.

Highlights from the French Film festival – and a Danish gem

In Australia the 2017 Alliance Française French Film Festival is in full swing, and I have been trying to immerse myself in it as much as I can in my spare time. By coincidence or not, I have mostly been cast back in time to the Second World War. I guess it is a period in history that still fascinates, and still nags at our conscience. It produced so many dramatic stories showing the best and the worst of humanity – heroism, cruelty, hate, bravery, love and compassion –  that we can now get to see in the comfort of a cinema, unlike the poor souls who had to live (if they were lucky) through such ordeals.

Here is what I have enjoyed so far.


Planetarium 1

Lily-Rose Depp and Natalie Portman share a sisterly smoke in Planetarium

Planetarium is set in prewar Paris. Lily-Rose Depp and Natalie Portman star as two broke American sisters who hold seances with the dead.  Initially you suspect they are charlatans. But when they conduct a seance for a wealthy movie producer (played by Emmanuel Salinger) it seems someone from the dead wants to strangle him, and nearly succeeds. And he seems to find this erotic, and becomes fascinated with the whole process! And so we venture into the strange world of the dead and the decadent world of the 1930s European elite, until the war looms and things get sinister. Visually, it’s an enthralling spectacle.

The film starts off as a mix of English and French, but as the two sisters (newly arrived from Berlin) get more fluent in the local language, the English fades away.

A Bag Of Marbles

Tournage Un sac de Billes

A lighter moment by the seaside for the young heroes of A Bag of Marbles.

This is a great new film based on Un Sac De Billes, the memoirs of Joseph Joffo – a film of the same name was made in 1975, two years after the book was published. It tells the hair-raising and harrowing story of two brothers Joseph, 12, (played superbly by Dorian Le Clech), and Maurice, 17 (Batyste Fleurial). Being Jewish, they have to flee Nazi-occupied Paris for the demilitarised zone in the south, getting separated from their family in the process, but as the war progresses, so do the perils.

When we came out of the cinema, I heard a mother ask her teenage son what he thought of the film. “It was fantastic, really fantastic,” was the reply. I couldn’t agree more.

Land of Mine


Not so fun times on the beach in Land of Mine.

Still on the Second World War two theme, at the cinema there was also a preview screening of the Danish film Land of Mine, which was a finalist in the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars this year. It too is fantastic, really gripping. Young German prisoners have to stay on in Denmark in the immediate aftermath of the war, clearing all the landmines on the beaches. Explosive stuff. It opens in Australia on March 30.

Don’t miss out

The French Film Festival is Australia’s largest foreign language film festival, and this year is the 28th in its history.

  • Sydney (March 7-30)
  • Melbourne (March 8-30)
  • Canberra (March 9-April 4)
  • Perth (March 15-April 5)
  • Brisbane (March 16-April 9)
  • Adelaide (March 30-April 23)
  • Hobart (March 30-April 8)
  • Parramatta (April 6-9)
  • Casula (April 8-9)

Photographs supplied courtesy of the 2017 Alliance Française French Film Festival and Palace Films.


Say cheese, say French Film Festival, see Audrey, Juliette and Marion

The media launch of the 2017 Alliance Française French Film Festival took place in Sydney during the week, and I was eager to attend, spurred on by the thought that there might be some free food and wine to go with it. Journalists are easily persuaded.

img_0735And my instincts were right. Look what I found.

That’s a plate of cheese (fromage in French).

Or it was. In my hands it soon became a plate of discarded toothpicks, albeit fancy toothpicks with the French flag draped on them. And very tasty cheese it was too.

I even kept some of the toothpicks as souvenirs. Journalists are shameless scroungers!

The French Film Festival is Australia’s largest foreign language film festival, attracting some 160,000 patrons. This year, the 28th year in its history,  the festival will be screening in:

  • Sydney (March 7-30)
  • Melbourne (March 8-30)
  • Canberra (March 9-April 4)
  • Perth (March 15-April 50
  • Brisbane (March 16-April 9)
  • Adelaide (March 30-April 23)
  • Hobart (March 30-April 8)
  • Parramatta (April 6-9)
  • Casula (April 8-9)

Here is the official festival trailer, plus trailers of some films that will be featured. Looks good!

Here’s one for those who like snorkelling, scuba diving and Audrey Tautou.

Here’s one for those who like period dramas, loopy families and Juliette Binoche.

Here’s one for those who like Mr Wrongs, Mr Rights and Marion Cottilard.

The French film festival est arrivée!

Belle-sebastian-the-adventure-continues (5)

The adventures continue for big shaggy dog Belle and Sebastian (Felix Bossuet) in the splendid French countryside, and this time they have Gabriele (Thylane Blondeau) to help.

À vos marques, prêts? partez! The Alliance Française French Film Festival 2016 starts today in Australia, so here’s a look at more enticing offerings to add to the great films I’ve already mentioned.

Alpine adventures

A really enjoyable film at the festival a couple of years ago was Belle et Sébastien, a gripping story of the French resistance, dangerous alpine crossings and survival during the second world war, based on the popular novel of the same name by Cécile Aubrey. This year you can see the sequel Belle et Sébastien, l’aventure continue (Belle and Sebastian: The adventure continues). Rather than a battle to outwit the Nazis, this time it is a plane crash in the Alps that triggers the action. If you are a dog lover you must see this (cat lovers, you too!).

Writer’s block and shock

One thriller I will definitely be going to see is Un homme idéal (A Perfect Man). For one thing, it stars the hottest French actor of the moment, Pierre Niney, who won the César Award for Best Actor in 2014 for playing the title role in Yves Saint Laurent. For another thing, it involves a topic close to my heart, creative writing. Niney plays a loser, Mathieu Vassuer, who stumbles across a completed novel manuscript and passes it off as his own and becomes an overnight sensation.

A-perfect-man 3

Ouch, that hurt! Mathieu (Pierre Niney) inspects the damage.

But perhaps stealing someone else’s work wasn’t such a good idea after all – someone might seek revenge. Mathieu becomes more bloodied and bruised as the film progresses, and his world starts to crumble. Plus he has to come up with a second novel. Good writing isn’t easy!

I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles on it, but if you don’t understand French, at least the one below will give you some idea of the mounting suspense.


A waiting game

It’s always good to see Juliette Binoche on the big screen and she is back in L’Attente (The Wait). She plays Anna, who lives in a beautiful Sicilian villa, and gets a surprise when her son’s supposed girlfriend Jeanna (Lou de Laage) pitches up at her door, having apparently been invited to spend Easter there by her beau. But where is the son, Giuseppe? I guess we will have to wait to find out.

Long live foreign language films!


This year the festival will feature 48 films in the following places:

  • Sydney, March 1-24
  • Melbourne, March 2-24
  • Canberra, March 3-29
  • Brisbane, March 11-April 3
  • Perth, March 16-April 7
  • Adelaide, March 31-April 24
  • Casula, April 7-10
  • Parramatta, April 7-10
  • Hobart, April 28-May 4

Film stills provided courtesy of the French Film Festival.

Farcical frolics, infamy and fortune – it’s French film festival time

Marguerite 4

Frot to trot! Catherine Frot is superb as ever in the sumptuous Marguerite.

The first of the big foreign-language film festivals in Australia is due to begin shortly and judging by some of the advanced screenings I have seen for members of the press, the  line-up for the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2016 looks fabulous.

Top of the list of films to see are Marguerite and My Golden Days, both of which have garnered 11 nominations in the 41st César Awards, which will honour the best French films of 2015 – the winners will be announced on in Paris February 26.

I saw Marguerite last week and was enthralled. There is a role in it I was born to play myself – someone who can’t sing in tune! Set in 1919, it features sumptuous sets, superb acting by a great cast – words deceive yet the facial expressions reveal so much – and although it largely focuses on the world of opera and musical theatre, there is a good look at the craft of literature, journalism and photography, as well as at the foibles of the upper classes and contemporary politics. As satires go, it’s pretty vicious, and all the elements of voyeurism and narcissism in it reminded me of modern social media. The technology has changed but people are as peculiar as ever. Basically, though, it is a film about loneliness.

Marguerite 8

When Madame sings, you need ear plugs!

The film, directed by Xavier Giannoli, was partly inspired by the story of  Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy American soprano and socialite who was ridiculed for her dreadful singing abilities (Meryl Streep plays Florence in a biopic due out this year). It stars the excellent Catherine Frot, whom some of you may remember playing François Mitterrand’s private chef in Haute Cuisine (see “Sydney goes Gallic, hear those Fraussie accents“). Here’s the trailer.

Variety has an excellent review of Marguerite, I urge you to read it.

My Golden Days (The French title is Trois Souvenirs De Ma Jeunesse – Three souvenirs of my youth) is Arnaud Desplechin’s prequel to My Sex Life, or How I Got Into An Argument. It is among many other things a story of young love.


Quentin Dolmaire (left) and Lou Roy-Lecollinet in My Golden Days.

Here is the trailer.

Another film that I have seen and can recommend is Microbe & Gasoline – the nicknames of two boys who don’t fit in at school or even in their own homes. Microbe, played by Ange Dargent, is tiny and timid and sometimes mistaken for a girl, whereas Gasoline (Théophile Baquet) is as bold as brass and often reeks of petrol.

Microbe & Gasoline 1

Theophile Baquet (left) and Ange Dargent in

It’s a road movie with a typically French difference – the two boys run away in a home-made house on wheels.



This year the festival will feature 48 films and the Alliance Française and organisers are hoping that that attendances will break the 160,000 mark (the record 157,000 set last year. The dates are

  • Sydney, March 1-24
  • Melbourne, March 2-24
  • Canberra, March 3-29
  • Brisbane, March 11-April 3
  • Perth, March 16-April 7
  • Adelaide, March 31-April 24
  • Casula, April 7-10
  • Parramatta, April 7-10
  • Hobart, April 28-May 4


You can see the full programs and venues on the Festival’s official website. Film stills have been supplied courtesy of the French Film Festival.

Film festivals: now you see them, or – oops! – now you don’t


Some of the films in the 2015 French Film Festival

Some of the films in the 2015 French Film Festival

Quel imbécile je suis! About a month ago I saw adverts starting to appear in Sydney for the 26th annual Alliance Française French Film Festival, and I thought, “Oh great, it’s festival time again, I must see what’s on.”

Then what happened? I forgot about it. For a month. Today I remembered. So I go online and what do I find….?

2015 french film festival

The Sydney leg of the festival is past the halfway mark already, ditto for Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra. But people in Brisbane, Perth, Byron Bay and Hobart have a lot to look forward to. For the programs etc, go here.

You may be thinking, that Bernard, quel imbécile! Il est très oublieux... (very forgetful) but the truth is on top of my normal job I am editing an 180-page magazine (the 2015 edition of How Busy Women Get Rich, no less), it’s due to go to press just after Easter – on sale from April 27 – and I don’t have time to think about anything else apart from women’s finances! In my opinion, ladies, speaking as a finance guru now, any subscription to a foreign language film festival is a worthy investment. I doubt I will make it to even one French film in Sydney before the festival ends on March 22, but Hobart from April 16-21 looks tempting (I have never been to Tasmania).

So, what other film festivals am I in danger of missing?

Oh look at this….

spanish film festival

Tickets and programs for the Spanish Film Festival will be available on March 19 (that’s this coming Thursday) from Palace Cinemas.

The German Film Festival will follow shortly after…

german film festival

Look out for the Arab Film Festival too …

arab film festival

The Italian Film Festival and Windows On Europe Film Festival usually take place in the second half of the year, as does the Greek Film Festival. and the Latin American Film Festival.

Fun, fear, frivolity, a fling and a foetus: the winning French films are revealed

The ceremony for the French film awards, known as the Césars, has just been held, and Les garçons et Guillaume à table picked up five awards, including best film and the best actor award for Guillaume Gallienne. Here is the trailer with English subtitles. Gallienne plays the role of Guillaume and also his mother. He originally did the piece as a play, for which he won many awards too.

The French title would be translated as “The boys and William at the table” but the film has been given the English title of “Me, myself and mum”.

Another fun-looking film is 9 mois ferme, for which Sandrine Kiberlain won the best actress award. I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles, but you don’t really need an English translation to know what it’s all about: she is a busy judge aged 40 and single who has a one-night stand …. well, actually it’s a five-minute stand near the garbage bins after an office party … and gets pregnant. She then has to find out who the father is and, quelle horreur! – he turns out to be a thuggish petty criminal!

Incidentally, “ferme” does not mean “pregnant” in French, it means “firm” as in strict, but in a legal sense it indicates a jail sentence without remission. In other words, in this film the main character (a judge) has to endure the full nine months (of punishment). The English title that this film has been given is 9 Month Stretch. Which is not exactly alluring.

Some of the limelight at the ceremony in Paris was deflected from the podium to a member of the audience – actress Julie Gayet made her first public appearance since the allegations that she and French President François Hollande were having an affair. She was  nominated as best supporting actress for her role in Bertrand Tavernier’s political farce Quai d’OrsayHowever, that award went to Adèle Haenel.

Here are the major winners, in French of course 🙂

  • Meilleur film: Les Garçons et Guillaume, à table!, de Guillaume Gallienne
  • Meilleur réalisateur: Roman Polanski, pour La Vénus à la fourrure
  • Meilleure actrice: Sandrine Kiberlain, dans 9 mois ferme
  • Meilleur acteur: Guillaume Gallienne, dans Les Garçons et Guillaume, à table!
  • Meilleure actrice dans un second rôle: Adèle Haenel, dans Suzanne
  • Meilleur acteur dans un second rôle: Niels Arestrup, dans Quai d’Orsay
  • Meilleur espoir féminin: Adèle Exarchopoulos, La Vie d’Adèle chapitres 1 et 2
  • Meilleur espoir masculin: Pierre Deladonchamps, dans L’Inconnu du lac
  • Meilleur film étranger: Alabama Monroe, de Félix Van Groeningen

Many of the above-mentioned films, including Les garçons et Guillaume à table, will be shown at the French film festival taking place around Australia this month. More details of the festival can be found on this post here.

Here is another version of the trailer to Les garçons et Guillaume à table, with some slightly different scenes.

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.


  • Sydney goes Gallic, hear those Fraussie accents – follow this link.
  • Dark moments in Lisbon, lighter ones in Paris – follow this link.
  • Let’s chat up French people and have fat mornings – follow this link.
  • Allo, allo, where are the Francophones anyway? – follow this link.
  • In pursuit of the hirsuite – follow this link.
  • Renaud’s unforgettable ode to idiotic brothers-in-law – follow this link.
  • Hellish fury of a Frenchwoman scorned – follow this link.
  • Some basic French (les noms et les articles) – follow this link.
  • Chansons from the fairer sex – follow this link.
  • Stromae takes France by Storm – follow this link.
  • Four of the best from France and Belgium – follow this link.
  • The haves and have nots in French, Italian and Romanian – follow this link.
  • Being French and even more French – follow this link and that link.
  • Chansons for melancholic mates – follow this link.
  • Be happy, you’ve got all the ‘be’s in your bonnet – follow this link.
  • Sounds from France via Africa, Maître Gims – follow this link.