Women take center stage at French Film Festival

In 11 of the 16 movies, the leading characters are female and four of the movies was directed by women.

 A SCENE from ‘Eiffel.’ (photo credit: LEV CINEMAS)
A SCENE from ‘Eiffel.’
(photo credit: LEV CINEMAS)

Master French director Francois Truffaut once wrote: “Tristesse sans fin des films sans femmes” (Sadness without end to films without women) and this year, the French Film Festival in Israel, which will be held from May 15-25 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and which starts at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on May 22, will put women front and center. The festival will also be held at the cinematheques in Haifa, Herzliya, Holon, Sderot and Rosh Pina. Almost all the films have English subtitles as well as Hebrew and a number of the films, including Eiffel, the open-night movie, will be opening shortly after the festival ends.

In 11 of the 16 movies, the leading characters are female and four of the movies was directed by women. Several of France’s top actresses star in these movies, among them Isabelle Huppert and Juliette Binoche.

Huppert, one of the greatest French actresses of all time, stars in her latest film, Promises, by Thomas Kruithof. Huppert plays a mayor who represents a working-class suburb with a high immigrant population and who seems poised for a role in national politics. Reda Kateb (The Specials), is her top aide. The movie looks at the mayor’s conflicts as she weighs her ambitions against her responsibility to her constituents.

Binoche stars in Between Two Worlds by Emmanuel Carrere in this fact-based story of an investigative journalist who becomes a cleaner in a working-class town in northern France for her research into poverty.

Sophie Marceau has the lead in Francois Ozon’s Everything Went Fine, a drama about a woman whose father (Andre Dussollier) suffers a stroke that leaves him paralyzed and asks her to end his life. As she grapples with whether to honor his request, he continues to pressure her. Charlotte Rampling co-stars. Ozon has directed such films as Summer of 85, By the Grace of God, Double Lover, Swimming Pool and 8 Women.

 ‘BETWEEN TWO WORLDS’ (credit: EDEN CINEMA) ‘BETWEEN TWO WORLDS’ (credit: EDEN CINEMA)

In Emma Benestan’s Fragile, Yasin Houicha plays a worker on an oyster farm whose girlfriend (Oulaya Amamra) turns him down when he proposes and he gets by with a little help from his friends. Amamra is one of France’s up-and-coming young actresses, who starred with Catherine Deneuve in Andre Techine’s Farewell to the Night.

Sylvie Ohayon’s Haute Couture is about a skilled seamstress (Nathalie Baye) in a designer-clothes workshop who befriends the thief (Lyna Khoudri) who stole her purse, hoping to teach her craft to the younger woman.

Aurelia Georges’ Secret Name tells the story of a World War I nurse (also played by Lyna Khoudri) who assumes the identity of a young woman who dies while in her care. Sabine Azema costars.

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic images of Paris and the opening-night film will be Martin Bourboulon’s Eiffel, a look at architect Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris, who has starred in dozens of films, including Black Tide, All the Money in the World and The Beat My Heart Skipped) and how he created this structure. Eiffel was at work building the Paris Metro underground when he was persuaded to build a huge tower that would dwarf the Washington Monument, as countries began to develop Edifice Complexes and to compete for who could create the tallest building of all.

IN THE film’s telling, a romantic entanglement with a woman (Emma Mackey, who stars in Death on the Nile and the Netflix series Sex Education) he loved and lost inspired him in his work. Bourboulon is one of France’s most popular directors, who made the popular Daddy or Mommy comedies and whose Three Musketeers films are coming out next year. This movie will be opening at Lev Cinemas following the festival.

Olivier Peyon’s Tokyo Shaking stars Karin Viard as a French banking executive in Japan who finds her life gets complicated when the tsunami hits Fukushima in 2011.

Francois Favrat’s The Companions looks at Naelle (Najaa Bensaid), a young street artist who becomes apprenticed to a stained glass craftsman and learns the values of the world of traditional arts. Agnes Jaoui costars.

Frankie Wallach’s autobiographical Too Much Love is about a young director who wants to make a movie about her grandmother, a death camp survivor.

Lost Illusions is an adaptation of the Balzac masterpiece about an aspiring poet who comes to Paris and becomes a journalist, pursuing a love affair with a noblewoman. This version – it has been filmed several times – was made by Xavier Giannoli and stars Benjamin Voisin as the leading man and Cecile de France as his lover.

Romain Duris also stars in Regis Roinsard’s Waiting for Bojangles, with Virginie Efira. The movie, based on a bestselling novel, tells the story of a narcissistic couple living the high life, with little time for their young son.

Pascal Elbe wrote, directed and stars in Hear Me Out, the story of a professor who becomes a recluse when he discovers he is losing his hearing. Sandrine Kiberlain plays a single mother whose daughter is mute, who helps draw him out.

Bernard Campen and Alexandre Jollien co-wrote, co-directed and costar in Beautiful Minds, the story of two very different men at turning points in their lives who board a hearse and take a journey of discovery together.

Another actor and director, Albert Dupontel, made Bye Bye Morons, a movie about an ailing woman (Virginie Efira), who tries to find her long-lost son with the help of a man dealing with burnout (Dupontel) and a blind archivist (Nicolas Marie). Dupontel made the wonderful World War I drama, See You Up There.

Now that the foodie culture is so prevalent, it’s time for Delicious by Eric Besnard, a look at the first restaurant in France which was created around the time of the French Revolution, starring Gregory Gadebois and Isabelle Carre.

The festival is a collaboration between Eden Cinema Ltd., the Institut Francais in Israel, Unifrance and L’Occitane. Its artistic director is Caroline Boneh of Eden Cinema.