Funny in French

Oh La La film festival finds France’s funniest films

A SCENE from ‘Return of the Hero’ with Jean Dujardin and Melanie Laurent (photo credit: EDEN CINEMA)
A SCENE from ‘Return of the Hero’ with Jean Dujardin and Melanie Laurent
(photo credit: EDEN CINEMA)
While many viewers may associate French movies with serious drama, for years, comedy has been king in French cinema and the fourth Oh La La! Festival of French comedy, which will run at cinematheques November 14 to 30, celebrates Gallic laughter.
This year’s festival, which will be held at the cinematheques in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Sderot, as well as Globus Ashdod and the Savyon Cultural Center, will feature 21 films, most of them recent comedies, as well as several classics. Many of the films will have both English and Hebrew subtitles.
Grégoire Vigneron, the screenwriter of Laurent Tirard’s Return of the Hero, the festival’s opening-night movie, will attend screenings. The film stars two of the biggest stars in Europe, Jean Dujardin, who won a Best Actor Oscar for The Artist, and Melanie Laurent, who is best known to audiences as the heroine of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Laurent plays Elisabeth, a serious young woman who starts writing letters to her sister meant to be from her sister’s unscrupulous fiancée (Dujardin), when he goes to fight in the Napoleonic Wars. When he returns, her ruse gets her into trouble.
There will be a number of special events at this year’s festival. One of the highlights will be a meeting on November 16 at noon at the Institut Francais d’Israel in Tel Aviv, hosted by Dr. Avner Shavit, the movie critic of Walla!, with three comedy screenwriters, two French and one Israeli: Grégoire Vigneron (Return of the Hero) Benoît Graffin, (Encore Heureux) and Itzik Kricheli, who wrote and directed the Israeli hit The Last Band in Lebanon. They will examine the art of coaxing laughter out of an audience.
Other films in the festival include Pierre Godeau’s Raoul Taburin, which tells the story of the owner of a bicycle shop who has a big secret – he himself does not know how to ride a bicycle. It stars Benoît Poelvoorde and Edouard Baer.
Dany Boon’s latest movie, La Ch’tite Famille, in which he also stars, tells the story of Valentin D, an in-demand architect who claims to be an orphan because he is too ashamed to admit he is the son of working-class scrap metal merchants from the north of France.
Becassine!, directed by Bruno Podalydès, is about a childlike woman from the country who dreams of living in Paris.
Robin Sykes’s In the Game finds laughs in the story of a teenager taking his grandfather with Alzheimer’s disease to a basketball tournament.
The always charming Fabrice Luchini stars in several of the movies, including Laurent Tuel’s Jean-Philippe, part of a tribute to Johnny Hallyday, France’s greatest rocker, who passed away last year; and Laurent Tirard’s Moliere, where he plays a stodgy aristocrat who needs the help of the young playwright to seduce a woman.
Michel Blanc’s Kiss & Tell is an intergenerational family comedy, which stars some of the all-time greats of French cinema, among them Charlotte Rampling, Jacques Dutronc and Carole Bouquet.
Among the classics will be Jean Girault’s The Troops of St. Tropez, starring Louis de Funès, and Israeli director Alon Gur Arye will introduce this film at screenings; Gerard Oury’s The Brain, which stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as a robber trying to steal NATO funds that are being transported by train; and Francis Veber’s The Goat, about a detective sent to find the accident-prone daughter of a wealthy businessman who has disappeared in Mexico, which stars Gerard Depardieu.
The festival was organized and produced by Caroline Boneh, the CEO of Eden Films, with the support of the Institut Francais of Tel Aviv and UniFrance Films. The event is part of the French-Israel Cultural Season.
For further details about the films and to order tickets, go to the websites of the individuals cinematheques and theaters.