French comedies have always had a light touch and French directors tend to be less constrained by political correctness than those in the US, so you can expect lots of laughs in Ooh La La!, the sixth edition of the French comedy film festival. It begins on January 18 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and on January 24 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. It will also be held at the cinematheques in Haifa, Herzliya and Ashdod.
It features nine recent films and three classics that are being revived. For details and to order tickets, visit the websites of the individual cinematheques. The new films have English and Hebrew titles and the classics have Hebrew titles. There is a VOD option for some of the films.
The opening night movie is Knock, Knock, It’s Mom (Un Tour Chez Ma Fille) by Éric Lavaine, which stars Josiane Balasko (who starred in The Hedgehog, Cliente, French Twist and Too Beautiful for You) in a story about a mother whose apartment is being renovated and who moves in with her adult daughter and her husband, whose marriage is in crisis. It’s a follow-up to his 2016 hit, Back to Mom’s, about a daughter who has to live with her mother.
Nicolas Bedos is a versatile actor/director, whose latest film, OSS 117: From Africa with Love, is sure to offend some people, but it will definitely make others laugh. It stars Jean Dujardin, who won an Oscar for The Artist and who seems to get funnier with each film, as a James Bond-like super spy who fears he will be put out to pasture. Pierre Niney, who starred in Promise at Dawn and Frantz, plays his young rival, who understands the way the game is played now in ways that OSS 117 never will. The tagline of the film is: “Times have changed – he hasn’t.” The mission involves trying to keep an African dictator – who happens to be named Bamba – in power because he is friendly to French interests. While some of the gags fall flat, it’s a fun popcorn movie.
A Friendly Tale (Le Bonheur des Uns) about how the friendship between two couples gets shaken up when Lea (Bérénice Bejo, who stars in the Israeli film, Shake Your Cares Away and who was in The Artist), one of the wives, writes a bestseller that makes her into a rich celebrity. Vincent Cassel (The Specials) costars.
FABRICE MARUCA’S Si On Chantait tells the story of friends who try to open a singing telegram service after their factory shuts down.
Emmanuel Poulain-Arnaud’s The Test tells the story of a family that lives in harmony until a positive pregnancy test is found in the bathroom and it’s not clear whose it is. It stars Alexandra Lamy, who appears in Knock, Knock, It’s Mom. Lamy, one of France’s most popular actors, is also the star of Family Swap, a Gallic take on the Freaky Friday premise of family members who switch bodies. Frank Dubosc and Christiane Millet costar.
Dubosc directed and stars in Rumba Therapy (Rumba La Vie), the story of a lonely school bus driver in the suburbs who tries to reconnect with the daughter he has not seen since she was a baby. His now-grown daughter is a dance teacher and he takes lessons with her in Paris.
Papi Sitter by Philippe Guillard is a tale of two grandpas as a high-school student studying for her matriculation exams while her parents are away stays with her grandfathers, one of whom is very strict and the other who is a bit crazy. It stars Gérard Lanvin, Olivier Marchal and Camille Aguilar.
Michele Laroque directs and stars in Alors on Dans, a French remake of the British comedy, Finding Your Feet, about a straitlaced woman dealing with the breakup of her long marriage who goes to live with her free-spirited sister and rediscovers her love for dance.
As always, one of the highlights of this festival will be the classics. This year there will be a tribute to the popular director, René Clair. Two of his films will be shown: Le Million, a 1931 movie about a down-on-his-luck painter trying to find a winning lottery ticket left in a jacket before his rival does, and All the Gold in the World (1961), which stars Philippe Noiret (Il Postino, Cinema Paradiso) as a hustler who tries to buy a fountain in a rural area so he can sell its water as a drink to promote longevity.
It wouldn’t be a French comedy festival without a movie with Louis de Funès and Georges Lautner’s 1964 film Dandelions by the Roots (Des Pissenlits par la Racine), in which de Funès plays a jockey, also looking for a winning ticket after getting into trouble with gangsters.
The festival is sponsored by Eden Cinema Ltd., Institut Francais, Unifrance, TV5 Monde and the French Embassy in Israel.