The IFI’s French Film Festival started on Monday which means that an array of independent, award-nominated French films are being shown daily from the 13th-24th of November at the Irish Film Institute. This means that it’s your lucky day if you speak French, like wearing a beret and telling people you’re cultured and prefer films with subtitles. There are several French films on per day, so even if you actually had the time to go and see one every day it would be impossible for you to see them all, so we’ve sorted through them all and picked out some highlights for you. If the call of this cultural experience wasn’t enough to tantalise the inner cinema buff in you, the cinema is running a 5 films for €50 and 10 for €90 deal as part of the festival’s promotion which can be purchased at the cinema box office. It’s also probably worth mentioning that you must be 18 years old or over to attend any of these screenings.
La Belle Epoque
La Belle Epoque refers to a period in French history which was particularly optimistic, prosperous, artistically flourishing and that people look back on nostalgically as “the golden age”. This hopefully gives enough context for the main character’s state of mind at the beginning of the film where he finds himself disillusioned and nearing his seventies in a marriage that is falling apart, wondering where it went wrong. When a family friend offers him the chance to try out a new service that allows him to time travel to any period in time, he asks to return to his own belle epoque, the day he met his wife. The film is witty and sharp, full of sarcasm and definitely keeps you on your toes. A beautiful celebration of enduring love, memory and French humour.
Director: Nicolas Bedos
Length: 115 minutes
Oh Mercy! / Roubaix, Une Lumière
Roubaix, the setting of this movie, is a crime-ridden town in France where the police mainly find themselves occupied by crimes of arson and theft. This Christmas time is no different. However, when an old woman is found murdered in her bed, a tense investigation grips the town and turns the lives of two women upsidedown. Desplechin’s adaptation is of a TV documentary about his hometown, Roubaix, which arguably gives it that extra flavour of realism and charged atmosphere. Be sure to check out this tense and masterfully composed French film.
Director: Arnaud Desplechin
Length: 120 minutes
Director Stephane Batut’s film and winner of the 2019 prestigious Prix Jean Vigo award can be described as a surreal ode to love and death. Our main character Juste (Thimotée Robart), who straddles both our world and the afterlife, is charged with the lonely purpose of guiding people from this life to the next. Usually, no one can see him but when he finds himself in a star-crossed relationship with someone from his past, a surreal and dreamlike romance unfolds.
Director: Stéphane Batut
Length: 106 minutes
Arab Blues is about a young and determined woman called Selma who returns to her cinematic hometown in Tunisia after many years of living Paris to start a psychotherapy business – a profession very much in its infancy in the country. This debut masterpiece by French-Tunisian writer and director Manele Labidi Labbé provides a portrait of a woman coming back to her roots and of her country. A sophisticated and colourful comedy about homecoming and taboos, Arab Blues reflects a troubled modern-day Tunisia after the 2011 revolution and delves into psyches of those affected by it.
Director: Manele Labidi Labbé
Length: 88 minutes
Who You Think I Am
When Claire (Juliet Binoche) becomes obsessed by the idea that her lover, a much younger man, could be engaging with other women she creates a fake social media profile to spy on him. However, when she begins an online relationship with her lover’s assistant under the disguise of Clara, a beautiful, fictional 24-year-old, she finds herself falling deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole towards this parallel and completely unsustainable fictive world. Framed through conversations with her therapist, Claire’s deceptions lead her towards dangerous territory.
Director: Celle Que Vous Croyez
Length: 101 minutes
Screening – 1.15, 16.10
Alice And The Mayor/ Alice Et Le Maire
There is something very moving about the gentle touch of this film, nuanced with careful wit and the importance of true platonic bonds. The story follows Paul Theraneau (Fabrice Luchini), the Mayor of Lyon who is still completely devoted to his city but seems to be losing his innovative spark and so young Alice Heimann (AnaÏs Demoustier) is hired to help him with his ideas. Their interactions are humorous, touching and witty and guide you through an exploration of how similar yet different two generations can be.
Director: Nicolas Pariser
Length: 103 minutes
Joan Of Arc / Jeanie
Who doesn’t love a little bit of Joan? This thrilling piece lead by incredible actress Lise Leplat Prudhomme, who portrays young Joan of Arc, tells the story we all know where Joan of Arc leads the King of France’s army, believing God has chosen her. However, this is no historical retelling but an unconventional and mysterious take on the vision of the interior world of Joan.
Director: Bruno Dumont
Length: 137 mins
Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collections/ Celebration
This documentary is a tribute to the late fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent which was filmed in the final phase of his career, where he was frail and fading, but still very much the glistening and focused man that made his career. The direction contains rare behind the scenes footage from catwalks and glimpses of the workshop, sketches and final collections. There is an eerie ghost-town feel that transmits through the screen, perhaps produced through the immersive sound or design of the editing. The film was initially shot with the consent of Pierre Bergé but he later banned its release during his lifetime. This newly re-edited version is the first glimpse behind-the-scenes, a decade after his passing.
Director: Olivier Meyrou
Length: 74 Minutes
Also On: Particles
Oh, Les Filles! / Haut Les Filles
Rooted in the legacy of Edith Piaf, this documentary offers alternating footage and interviews with iconic French female rock stars from the ‘60s to the present day with the likes of Françoise Hardy, Brigitte Fontaine, Vanessa Paradis and Charlotte Gainsbourg, to name a few. The doc vividly portrays the female rock scene whilst talking about the meaning of femininity, feminism and gender in the context of the past and society today. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with co-screenwriter Bayon.
Director: François Armanet
Length: 79 mins
Described as a “calming and healing film” by The Guardian, Amanda is about a young Parisian David (Vincent Lacoste) who finds his life turned upsidedown upon the sudden death of his sister which lands him as the guardian of his young niece. The touching portrayal of how solidarity and relationships can help us navigate through pain and loss makes this heartwarming French film a must-see.
Director: Mikhaël Hers
Length: 106 minutes
The Girl with the Bracelet / La Fille Au Bracelet
When 16-year-old Lise Bataille ( Melissa Guers) is accused of the murder of her best friend Flora Dufour, she is placed under house arrest with an electronic bracelet (yes, it’s not as fancy as the title suggests). Now at 18, Lise’s trial is about to start. Told from the point of view of the courtroom observers, the palpable strain on the parent-child bond is the very core of the film, as the trial changes their relationship forever.
Be Natural: The Untold Story Of Alice Guy-Blaché
This insightful documentary follows the rise and disappearance of the illustrious 20-year career of a woman that some consider to be the very first person to tell stories in motion picture. Alice Guy-Blaché founded her own studio and wrote, directed and produced more than 1,000 films. This documentary is a journey through her work and an insight into family, friends and colleagues. Accessed through archives, rare footage of televised and audio interviews – some of which are being aired here for the very first time – this documentary is the perfect way to round off the IFI’s French Film Festival.
Director: Pamela B. Green
Length: 105 minutes