The French Film Festival in Israel has come of age in its ninth year.

It runs from March 17 to April 5 and will be held at the cinematheques in Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Sderot, Rosh Pina, Ashdod, Holon and Herzliya.

And there will be real star power this year. Actress Charlotte Rampling will visit Israel and appear at the festival. Rampling will present the documentary The Look, about her own career. Acclaimed as a sex symbol in such films as the exploitative The Night Porter, about a former concentration camp inmate having an affair with an ex-Nazi in the 1970s, in recent years she has been recognized for her acting talent. She has worked with important directors, including Woody Allen in Stardust Memories and Sidney Lumet in The Verdict (opposite Paul Newman). In the last decade, she has worked intensively in France, notably with French directors such as Francois Ozon and Laurent Cantet.

Several of her films from the past few years will be screened at the festival, including Lemming, Sous le sable and Embrassez qui vous voulez.

These films, both comic and dramatic, show Rampling at her best, and showcase her as a gorgeous woman who remains sensual without trying to look like a 20-year-old.

Other guests of the festival include Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, who will present the opening-night film Intouchables, about a disabled aristocrat and a young man from the projects. The film won the Grand Prix at the Tokyo International Film Festival; and the lead actors, Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy, shared the top acting honors there.

There will also be a selection of the most critically praised recent films from France, including Ismael Ferroukhi’s Les hommes libres. Set in Paris in 1942, it’s about an unexpected friendship between a Jewish refugee and an Algerian immigrant who has been unwillingly working with the Gestapo.

Maiwenn’s Poliss won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes last year for its unflinching depiction of the work of the Juvenile Police Unit.

Directors Marjan Satrapi and Vincent Patronnaud are best known for their animated drama Persepolis, based on Satrapi’s graphic novels about growing up in Iran before and after the Islamic Revolution.

Their latest film, Chicken with Plums, a live-action movie starring Mathieu Amalric, Edouard Baer, Chiara Mastroianni (Marcello and Catherine Deneuve’s daughter) and Isabella Rossellini (Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini’s daughter), is about a dying man in Iran in the 1950s looking back over his life.

L’art d’aimer is a comedy about different couples dealing with love and marriage and stars Julie Depardieu (Gerard’s daughter).

Another comedy, a tongue-incheek film noir, Poupoupidou, tells the story of a mystery novelist suffering from writer’s block who goes off to a small town and gets involved with a real mystery and a local Marilyn Monroe lookalike.

Actress Melanie Laurent is best known for her role as Shoshana in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Her directorial debut, Les adoptés, is a family drama that she stars in herself.

Another one of France’s biggest stars, Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche, has the lead role in Elles as a writer researching why two young students turned to prostitution and discovers that she is not so different from them.

At one time, French films were best known for their love stories, especially depictions of intense young love. Mia Hansen-Love’s Un amour de jeunesse returns to that tradition in a story of a young woman about to settle down with a sensible man when her first love returns and turns her life upside down.

In Declaration of War, Valerie Donzelli deals with a young couple named Romeo and Juliet who fight the system fiercely after their child is diagnosed with cancer. She also stars in the lead female role.

Mathieu Kassovitz’s L’ordre et la morale is a political drama about a rebellion in a French colony.

Kassovitz stars in this film, which has generated controversy in France.

All Our Desires is another serious film about a young judge who dedicates her life to fighting injustice after she is diagnosed with cancer.

Phillippe Lefebvre’s Une nuit is a gangster film about about how white-collar crime and street gangs intersect. It stars Sara Forestier, who appeared in the recently released comedy Le nom des gens.

A number of the films will be released throughout Israel soon, but others will only be shown in the festival. It’s a popular festival and tends to sell out, so order early if there is a film you are especially interested in.

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