La vie on film

This year’s French movie festival is a star-studded event both on and off the screen.

Audrey Tautou in ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Audrey Tautou in ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Mais oui – if it’s spring, it must be the French Film Festival.
Israel’s eighth festival celebrating the best of contemporary and classic French cinema will take place from April 2-16 at the cinematheques in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Sderot and Rosh Pina. It will be a star-studded event, and Isabelle Huppert (pictured on the cover)– one of the world’s greatest actresses and a leading light of French cinema for nearly 40 years – will be a guest.
Huppert will attend the Israeli premiere of her latest film, Copacabana. It stars Huppert as a free-spirited mother who tries to settle down to avoid embarrassing her grown daughter (who is played by Huppert’s real-life daughter, Lolita Chummah).
In addition to this premiere, there will be a retrospective of the actress’s work, and some of the best of her 100 – yes, 100 – films will be screened, including Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (for which she won the second of her two Cannes Best Actress Awards) and Claude Chabrol’s Merci pour le chocolat.
Among the festival’s other distinguished guests will be Mathieu Amalric, another highly acclaimed actor who has appeared in such diverse films as the James Bond film Quantum of Solace, in which he played the villain, and Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, where he played a cynical journalist who learns to cope when he becomes paralyzed. He is also a renowned director, and his latest work, On Tour, in which he also stars as the director of a burlesque troupe, will be shown at the festival. The film’s producers, Yael Fogiel and Laeitia Gonzalez, will take part in the festival as well. The team produced the award-winning The Tree and the Israeli film Jellyfish.
Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz is now acting in France often and will appear at the festival as well with her latest film, Les mains libres. She stars as a documentary filmmaker making a film in prison who falls for an inmate.
Film critic Michel Ciment will attend the festival and be present at the screening of a documentary about his work, entitled Michel Ciment Le Cinema en Partage. The author and filmmaker Michel Houellebecq will take part to celebrate the publication of his latest book.
The festival’s opening attraction, Potiche, features an all-star cast led by Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu. Directed by Francois Ozon (who made such films as Under the Sand and Swimming Pool), it is set in the 1970s and tells the story of a factory owner’s wife (Deneuve) who has to step in to run the show when her husband is taken hostage in a Third-World country. She proves to be very capable, but things get complicated when she has to negotiate with a union leader (Depardieu) who is a former lover.
Readers who loved the bestselling novel Sarah’s Key will want to see the film, which stars Kristin Scott Thomas. She plays a pregnant journalist investigating the round-up of Jews in Paris in 1942 and learns some unexpected truths about her own life. The film is both a survival story and a kind of thriller, filled with all kinds of twists.
Other films include Bertrand Tavernier’s latest film, La princesse du Montpensier, a historical drama starring Melanie Thierry. Based on a novella by Madame de Lafayette, it tells the story of a romance set against the backdrop of the Catholic/Protestant wars that raged in France during the 16th century.
Marion Cotillard, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in La vie en rose and who most recently appeared in Inception, will be seen in her latest film, Guillaume Canet’s Little White Lies. She plays one of a group of friends who go off together for a vacation and find their world turned upside down after they are involved in a car accident.
Another critically acclaimed movie, Of Gods and Men, was directed by Xavier Beauvois and stars Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale in a film about Trappist monks stationed in an impoverished Algerian community who must decide whether to remain when they are threatened by Islamic fundamentalists.
While French film was once acknowledged as the finest in the world, there were years when it seemed to fade into the background.
But now it is back with a vengeance, as this festival’s varied program shows.
April 2-16 at the cinematheques in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Sderot and Rosh Pina