Alliance Française French Film Festival : Movie Review
Film festival season has begun in Australia; starting with the Alliance Française French Film Festival, now in its 23rd year and brimming with treats.
Three films we can highly recommend this year are Valérie Donzelli’s Declaration of War, Mia Hansen-Løve’s Goodbye, First Love and Gérald Hustache-Mathieu’s Nobody Else But You.
DECLARATION OF WAR
In Declaration of War, Roméo and Juliette are instantly attracted to one another when they cross paths at a party and their whirlwind romance leads to a son, Adam. While they struggle, as most parents do, with the relentless crying, it soon becomes clear that something is wrong with Adam, and a brain tumour is detected.
This heart wrenching film explores the impact a child’s illness has on his parents, as Roméo and Juliette move through the motions of dealing with the threat of their child’s demise.
With no hint of melodrama, the exquisite performances from Valérie Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm are heightened by the young César Desseix playing their son, whose age negates his ability to act and so brings an essential element of naturalism to this film.
While Declaration of War takes the trophy for the most obscure mid-film musical moment, as Roméo and Juliette, in separate cities, sing to each other; the film is a quiet meditation of one’s ideal versus reality. Where Adam’s illness takes the couple raises questions and emotions that will have you thinking long after you’ve left the cinema.
GOODBYE, FIRST LOVE
Goodbye, First Love is not a film for everyone; its pace may put some people off, while others may have no time for Camille (Lola Creton) and Sullivan’s (Sebastian Urzendowsky) turbulent relationship. What Mia Hansen-Løve has accomplished in this strongly autobiographical film, is the feeling of being a teenager in love, the all-consuming sort of love only a 15-year-old can understand.
She also perfectly captures the struggle of being in a toxic relationship, and never being able to shake it no matter how many years pass.
Camille is 15-years-old when she is in a relationship with the restless Sullivan, four years her senior. When he takes off with his friends for a South American adventure, Camille believes it is the end of the world. As Sullivan’s letters become more sporadic, Camille moves through the motions of life and delves into the depths of depression.
Years pass and she begins studying architecture, finding meaning in her life and new love in her professor Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke). Camille believes she is finally back on track until Sullivan returns and she is torn between passion and protection.
Goodbye, First Love is a delicately acted, impressive and sensitive film that lingers.
NOBODY ELSE BUT YOU
For something completely different comes Nobody Else But You, a light thriller directed and co-written by Gérald Hustache-Mathieu. Jean-Paul Rouve plays crime author David Rousseau, battling to write his next bestseller, of which he’s already received an advance and numerous angry phone calls from his publisher.
He finds his story when rural model and star Candice Lecoeur (Sophie Quinton) is found dead in the snow, cause of death is apparent suicide by sleeping pills. Lecoueur believed she was the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe, and Quinton plays this buxom, troubled figure delightfully.
As Rousseau begins to investigate her death, he is a minority in believing this was no accident, his obsession increases and sees his attempting to connect with the deceased beauty by any means, including breaking into her home and taking her diaries. Rouve plays the part to perfection, with great comedic timing, the film’s saving grace is his performance and the delectable splashes of dark humour throughout.
While comparisons to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and the Coen Brothers’ Fargo have been cited in many reviews, such an association seems unfair for this unassuming French film which doesn’t soar but has its moments of enchantment.