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

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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.

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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.