The French Film Festival was held in Australia in March and I had a chance to see a number of films. I’ve done mini reviews for the ones I saw excluding Welcome. If I decide to write a review of that I’ll reserve my decision for a while since Paul Byrnes’ review in the Sydney Morning Herald summed up my thoughts perfectly.
In the meantime, below are the reviews for the films I did see.
In the Beginning (À l’origine)
From the first time I saw the trailer of this film on the French news I wanted to see this film and it didn’t disappoint. Three of the four films I saw were either based on true stories or inspired by true stories and it was interesting to see how each story was played out. After seeing both In the Beginning and One For the Road I can see why Cluzet captured two Cesar nominations and why Emmanuelle Devos beat out the others in the Best Supporting Actress. Cluzet stars as Philip Muller / Paul, a con artist, who cons his way from one town to another before he reaches a struggling town in Northern France, which relies on his word, when he says he’s arrived to help build a highway. Like the real life story of Philip Muller (in real life Philippe Berre) his lies caught up to him and he ended up in jail for fraud (and was recently in the news again for disguising himself as a volunteer in the French floods) but not before he had impacted those around him. The performance of Cluzet is intense and the look on his face when he realises that it’s all a lie is one, which stays with you for the rest of the movie. The other standouts are Devos as the town mayor who falls for Paul’s lies but also in love with him after closing herself off after her husband’s death a few years ago. The others are Rottiers, as Nicolas, one of Paul’s young employees who are trying to build a future for his girlfriend and their children and Soko as Monika, Nicolas’ girlfriend who with Nicolas is the first to uncover Paul’s actions. A special mention to Gérard Depardieu whose character knows Philip from his past.
Cast: Francois Cluzet, Emmanuelle Devos, Nicholas Rottiers, SoKo and Gérard Depardieu
When MicMacs was announced, the audience wondered what kind of movie Jean-Pierre Jeunet would produce. After Delicatessen, Amélie and A Very Long Engagement, his reputation is one that is mixed among fans. Some love him, while others loathe him. For MicMacs he has assembled a cast including Dany Boon, Julie Ferrier, Michel Crémadés, Yolande Moreau and Jeunet favourite Dominique Pinon leads MicMacs. Personally I loved it, it might have been the official opening night atmosphere but I went in with no expectations, I just hoped I’d enjoy myself and that’s what I did. As Jeunet said, he wanted to make a film about “shenanigans” and boy did he do it. The chemistry between all the cast was top-notch, the story was there from start to finish and an no time I wished the movie would move on to its next scene.
One For the Road (Le Dernier Pour La Route)
This review won’t be very long except to say, Cluzet shined in the real life story of journalist Hervé Chabalier. Chabalier went into rehabilitation as a last resort to help get his life back on track, which was being overtaken by his alcoholism. In the process he had destroyed his relationship with his wife and son. The performance of Mélanie Thierry won her the Most Promising Actress at the César Awards this year and even though I think she was great in the role of Magali, a young lady who Chabalier becomes attracted to whilst in rehabilitation, I think Soko was better in “In the Beginning”. But the portrayal of alcoholism and rehabilitation was done very well in this film. Special mentions to Michel Vuillermoz as Pierre and Anne Consigny as Agnés, whose characters supports Chabalier well whilst he was in rehab. Consigny in particular had a stellar 2009 that included receiving a César nomination for her role in Rapt.