Thirteen years and counting

The French Film Festival comes of age.

‘UN + UNE’ (photo credit: PR)
‘UN + UNE’
(photo credit: PR)
Israel’s annual French Film Festival turns 13 this year and, as is fitting for a bar mitzva, this year’s event will be full of excitement, with a host of distinguished guests, including director Claude Lelouch.
The festival runs from March 19 through April 7 at the cinematheques in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Holon, Herzliya and Sderot, and in the culture halls of Savyon and Ashdod.
The festival, which features more than 17 movies, combines serious works with popular entertainment. Films that focus on questions of identity and education are a theme this year, and there will be a tribute to late master director Jacques Rivette.
Claude Lelouch, one of the most acclaimed and popular French directors, is best known for the chic, sensual 1966 romance A Man and a Woman. Lelouch, whose widely varied career includes comedies, dramas, mysteries and documentaries, will attend the festival and present his latest movie, Un + une. The film tells the story of a French composer (Jean Dujardin, who won the Best Actor Oscar for The Artist) who goes to India to score a Bollywood version of Romeo and Juliet and falls for the wife of the French ambassador, played by Elsa Zylberstein (I’ve Loved You So Long, Modigliani).
Zylberstein will also be a festival guest. The movie will be opening in theaters throughout Israel at the end of the month.
Many of this year’s films star some of France’s brightest stars, both beloved veterans and promising newcomers.
Catherine Deneuve stars as a judge in the juvenile justice system trying to help a troubled teen in Standing Tall, directed by Emmanuelle Bercot. Director/ actress Bercot will be a guest of the festival. Standing Tall was the opening-night film in last year’s Cannes film festival. Bercot also stars in Maïwenn’s My King, about a woman injured in a skiing accident who muses over her affair with an alluring man (Vincent Cassel).
Omar Sy, who starred in last year’s hit film Samba, has the title role in Roschdy Zem’s Chocolat, a fact-based drama about a 19th-century Cuban circus performer. Zem will attend the festival. An actor-director who won a Best Actor Award at Cannes for Days of Glory, Zem has directed several other films, including Omar Killed Me. Chocolat will open in Israel in April.
Lea Seydoux rocketed to stardom in the 2013 film Blue Is the Warmest Color, in which she played a seductive and elusive lesbian. Seydoux’s latest film, Diary of Chambermaid, is a new version of the Octave Mirbeau novel, directed by Benoit Jacguot. The story has previously been filmed by Luis Bunuel and Jean Renoir.
Guillaume Nicloux’s Valley of Love is about a long divorced couple (Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert) who spend a week together in Death Valley to fulfill the last request of their son, who had committed suicide. The wonderful performances by the king and queen of French cinema turn this downbeat premise into a moving film.
Fabrice Luchini, who has starred in many recent movies, among them Potiche, Bicycling with Moliere and The Women on the 6th Floor, plays a judge in Christian Vincent’s Courted.
Jean Rochefort stars as a man struggling with dementia in Philippe Le Guay’s Floride.
Eric Besnard’s The Sense of Wonder stars Virginie Efira as a widow whose life changes after she hits a pedestrian (Benjamin Lavernhe) with her car.
Elie Wajeman’s Les Anarchistes stars Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) and Adèle Exarchopoulos, Seydoux’s co-star from Blue Is the Warmest Color, in this story of a police officer who infiltrates an anarchists’ cell in the 19th century.
Made in France, directed by Nicolas Boukhrief, is a thriller that takes an insider’s look at an Islamic terrorist group.
Among the documentaries are Pascal Plisson’s Le grand jour, a documentary about four children living in different parts of the world: Uganda, Mongolia, India and Cuba. Les français c’est les autres, by Mohamed Ulad-Mohand and Isabelle Weinstein-Steg, examines identity issues in France.
And Georges Benayoun’s Profs en territoires perdus de la République? is about challenges in the French education system. Ulad-Mohand, Weinstein-Steg and Benayoun will attend the festival.
This year’s festival is produced and sponsored by the Institut Francais in Israel, Eden Cinema Ltd., Unifrance Films, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Air France and the gourmet food company Seymann.