French cinema takes centre stage
Friday March 25-Sunday, April 3
At Bell Lightbox & NFB Mediatheque
For more information: www.cinefranco.com
By Marc Glassman
Founder, Executive & Artistic Director: Marcelle Lean
14th Annual Festival
Films: 27 features, 7 docs & 10 shorts
Genres & Locations of productions:
France–thrillers, comedies, dramas
Quebec & the rest of French Canada–often docs
North Africa & the rest of the Francophonie
Every spring, Marcelle Lean and her staff create a top-notch festival that highlights the extraordinary–and ongoing—contributions made by French cultural producers to world cinema. This year, film highlights include:
Kill Me Please
This very odd Belgian film is being billed as a comedy about assisted suicide. A generation ago, it could have developed a reputation as a cult film like The Ruling Class, in which Peter O’Toole went from being an aspiring British lord to Jack the Ripper.
Here, a chateau is being used as by a psychiatrist who hopes to “cure” potential suicide cases–but who will help them die with dignity if that’s their desire. But the fragile psyches of the “hospital’s” inhabitants is threatened–as well as their lives–when “pro-life” terrorists violently attack them–with guns. Featuring a great performance by Saul Rubinek as a suicidal Canadian.
Ma Jeanne d’Arc
A beautifully made personal documentary by Dany Chiasson, this film involves a personal journey by the filmmaker to France to comprehend the life of Joan of Arc. As a child, Chiasson’s grandmother had often talked about Saint Joan, but had never told Dany the complete story. She knew that a peasant girl from a village in the Burgundy/Loire districts of France had saved the country by leading an army to Reims, where the Dauphin Charles was crowned King.
She didn’t know, until much older, that Joan had been captured by the English, tried by bishops, and burned at the stake as a witch.
The film follows Chiasson as she recreates Joan’s journey on horseback from her native village to Chinon, where she first convinced the Dauphin that she had been blessed with the divine mission of granting him the monarchy.
Gorgeously shot, meditative, with a simple but evocative score, this film offers an historic France, filled with older people content to clean graveyards, farm and offer tours of their ancient lands.
Comme les 5 doigts de la main (Five Brothers)
The Closing Night film is a deft combination of a thriller with a Jewish family drama. The Hayoun family’s vibrant life in Paris is threatened when David, the black sheep, shows up, bloody, on Yom Kippur.
Well-acted by an ensemble cast, the film’s complex plot plays out around the resolution of an age-old concern: who caused the death of the patriarch of the family 30 years earlier? The stories of the brothers–a wealthy restaurant owner, an in-debt pharmacist, a teacher, a card shark and a mysterious ex-gangster–are evoked while the “thriller” plot unfolds.
A nice treat is to see the background of the family used for drama and colour: the history of Algeria’s Jewish “pied noirs” is told thoroughly in this well-made genre film.
Other films include:
Impasse du desir, a psychological drama, staring Quebec’s Remy Girard as an older man, a psychiatrist, who seeks revenge on his younger “cheating” wife (Natacha Regnier)
La petite chambre, the Swiss entry at this year’s Oscars, which sensitively pairs the story of a nurse, who has just lost her child, with an elderly man, whose child wants him to go to an assisted care facility
La Mosquee, a Moroccan film–with–a -built-in–sequel. Sayed, a filmmaker, who has made a “slice-of-life” drama set in a village, which used lots of artificial sets is asked to come back to help Moha, who has lost land because the film’s faux mosque has become the area’s favourite spot to worship. Sayed’s solution? Make another film.
Any lover of French culture should attend CineFranco. This is a well-run and curated festival deserving support by Toronto’s cinephile community.