The 25th edition of the Alliance Française French Film Festival kicks off next week, with yet another wonderful array of laughs, love, drama, action and fashion. After the jump, check out our preview of four of the films playing at this year’s festival; 11.6, Bright Days Ahead, Domestic Life and Mademoiselle C..
Director: Philippe Godeau Starring: François Cluzet, Bouli Lanners, Corinne Masiero Runtime: 102 minutes
In 2009 security guard Toni Musulin managed to steal 11.6 million euros without the use of a firearm or any lethal force. He become a sort of working class hero in France, at a time when the economic situation was dire and banks were held in particularly low regard.
11.6 is the dramatic retelling of these events, with François Cluzet (The Intouchables) playing Toni Musulin. Soon after meeting Musulin we are aware of how depressing his situation is. He lives with a woman he doesn’t seem to have any real affection for, he works a minimum wage job in which the management treat him poorly and try to rip him off, and he doesn’t seem to have any real joy beyond the fast cars which he can’t afford. 11.6 is an odd film in that it’s a very quiet telling of what you might expect to be an action-packed film. Musulin’s crime was below the radar and without fireworks and the film is very much the same. Bouli Lanners gives the best performance in the film, as Muslin’s awkward friend and colleague.
Bright Days Ahead (Les beaux jours)
Director: Marion Vernoux Starring: Fanny Ardant, Laurent Lafitte, Patrick Chesnais Runtime: 94 minutes
Caroline (Fanny Ardant) has recently retired and has found that the days just don’t fill themselves up the way she imagined. Seeing that their mother seems to have lost her shine, Caroline’s daughters give her a membership to “Bright Days Ahead”, a recreational club for senior citizens. Despite her initial reservations, Caroline joins several classes at the club and finds herself having fun. A flirtation with young computer class tutor, Julien (Laurent Lafitte) is innocent as first, but soon strays into murky waters. How far will Caroline go to recapture her youth?
Fanny Ardant gives an energetic and exuberant performance as Caroline and she was a joy to watch. Bright Days Ahead covers something not often mentioned in film, the difficult transition from work to retirement. It was refreshing to see this topic covered, particularly from the point of view of a woman (as women are so often cast as housewives). While the film’s story sees Caroline straying into silly territory at times, it is for the most part, genuine and entertaining.
Domestic Life (La vie domestique)
Director: Isabelle Czajka Starring: Emmanuelle Devos, Julie Ferrier, Natacha Régnier, Héléna Noguerra Runtime: 93 minutes
Juliette (Emmanuelle Devos) is a stay-at-home mum who is aching to get back into the workforce. It’s not that she doesn’t love her kids, but her daily grind of chores and the school run has left her dissatisfied. Meanwhile her old high school friend, Betty (Julie Ferrier) enjoys her full-time role as a housewife. Betty fills her days with meetings with friends, shopping and her children. When Juliette has the opportunity to get a dream job, it becomes apparent to her how much she wants things to change. A tragedy in the neighbourhood and somewhat awkward dinner party puts things in perspective for all.
Domestic Life is set over one 24 hour period and shows the lives of a group of stay-at-home mums. While these women are all well-off, it does give interesting insight into the different experience mums can have. Staying at home after having children isn’t easy for everyone and isn’t simply a holiday for all. Juliette really wants to get back into the workforce, but she struggles to even make the interviews due to her childcare demands. Emmanuelle Devos gives a commanding performance as Juliette, she’s incredibly natural and restrained. It was refreshing to watch this female-centric film about housewives without the incredibly judgmental tone that other films on this topic often have. This is my pick from the four films previewed.
Director: Fabien Constant Starring: Carine Roitfeld, Donatella Versace, Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld Runtime: 93 minutes
Carine Roitfeld is one of the most influential names in fashion. As editor-in-chef of Vogue Paris, she helped define an era of fashion. She was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2008. She counts the likes of Karl Lagerfield and Giorgio Armani among her close personal friends.
Mademosielle C. follows Roitfield as she leaves Vogue to launch her own magazine, CR Fashion Book. Roitfield loves shooting fashion more than anything else, and wants to get back to telling stories through fashion. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about how a couture fashion shot is made – from its conception as part of a story, through the actual shoot and how the model, editor, stylist and photographer all work together to create “the look”. Riotfield is an interesting character who lives in a world so far removed from my own and Mademoiselle C. gives a behind the scenes look at this very rich, very glitzy world. While the film’s editing is clunky and the film doesn’t flow particularly well, Mademosielle C. will certainly appeal to fashionistas and those who love the finer things in life.
By Sam McCosh