The Alliance Française French Film Festival is back for its 26th season, this time with 49 features, which will take place across 8 cities at Palace Cinema venues from early March until mid-April. The festival is packed with a variety of films, from easy-watching romances, to relationship dramas, and action-thrillers. We have taken a look at five of the films screening at the festival: Girlhood, Love At First Fight, The New Girlfriend, Saint Laurent and The Last Diamond. Check out our thoughts after the jump.
In the housing estates on the outskirts of Paris, one young girl starts a new life as a member of an all-girl gang. Marieme tried her hardest to not become her mother, but the lack of support and academic progress sees her future looking bleak and unexciting. This changes when she’s invited to become part of a group – for the first time in her life, she’s finally someone. Beautifully constructed, this powerful film features my favourite individual scene from 2014.
Love at First Fight (Thomas Cailley) – Highly recommend
Set in a small average coastal town, this restrained but emotionally complex and technically adventurous film address youthful unsettlement and curiosity about the future, and how confusing attractions are made sense of in unusual ways. With it’s patient, languid pacing, the film is more concerned with relationship development and building an atmosphere than constructing a deep and complex story. Leads, Asais and Haenel are completely on point, their clashing personalities always unpredictable. Love at First Fight is the début feature from Thomas Cailley, and he, along with producer Pierre Guyard, was awarded Best First Film at the Cesar Awards.
The New Girlfriend (François Ozon)
Grieving woman Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) visits David (Romain Duris), the widower of her best friend, and is shocked to find him attending to his child while dressed in the clothes of his dead wife. Claire soon learns this is not a new thing and her best friend had known about this side of her husband for some time. Ozon has always been a little hit-and-miss and unfortunately this one was a miss. It explores some interesting ideas about gender and sexuality, but does so in such a clunky and misjudged way. Ozon can write better characters than this, he has shown so in the past.
Saint Laurent (Bertrand Bonello)
The allure wears off with its unjustified length but this is an aesthetically ace study of YSL’s struggle with dissatisfaction and addiction through from 1967 to 1976, during which time legendary fashion designer was at his peak. Plenty of shots of beautiful people dancing at nightclubs, but that’s okay, because they’re excellent. In fact, the music and photography throughout are the real stars of this film. It somewhat fitting (and a little sad) that this film about such an influential figure in the fashion world has more beauty than substance.
The Last Diamond (Eric Barbier)
Simon (Yvan Attal) may have just gotten out of prison, but that won’t stop him attempting the biggest job of his “career”, stealing the famous Florentine Diamond. The diamond auction is being led by Julia (Bérénice Bejo), who has stepped in after the sudden death of her mother. Set in both France and Belgium, this is very much an old-fashioned heist film, complete with complex robbery plan, mystery and double-crossing. The mechanics of the heist are impressive and the act itself is quite thrilling; it’s really a shame it all goes a little pear shaped near the end.