What to see at the 35th Alliance Francaise French Film Festival

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Three Musketeers: Milady
Three Musketeers: Milady Credit: Supplied

The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival this week returns for its 35th year with new films and old classics playing in 16 cities and towns around the country over the next month.

With films starring the likes of Eva Green, Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Huppert, from the sprawling epic Three Musketeers to fan favourite The Intouchables, the month-long festival is sure to tickle dedicated francophiles and casual audiences.

You may even learn a few new French words, just in time for the Paris Olympics later this year.

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Here are our picks of the festival offerings.

THE THREE MUSKETEERS

Alexandre Dumas’ story is reimagined in this two-part saga that is split into D’Artagnan and Milady. Directed by Martin Bourboulon, it stars international talents Vincent Cassel, Eva Green, Romain Duris and Vicky Krieps. The ambitious epic is one of the most expensive French productions of recent years and was shot in locations including the Louvre, the Hotel des Invalides and castles in Fontainebleau and Chantilly. Swords will be drawn and honour will be defended.

French Film Festival
A new version of Alexandre Dumas’ classic story. Credit: Supplied

THE PRESIDENT’S WIFE

The President’s Wife (French title: Bernadette) stars the grand dame of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve as the grand dame of French politics at one time, Bernadette Chirac. It charts the story of the former first lady of France as she fought to be taken seriously even as everyone around her, including her husband and her daughter, ignored her canny political instincts and ability to connect with voters. It’s a feel-good story and the festival’s “Ladies’ Night” pick.

French Film Festival
Catherine the great. Credit: Supplied

THE TASTE OF THINGS

The official selection from France as its Oscars contender in International Feature and the winner of best director (Tran Anh Hung) at Cannes, The Taste of Things stars real-life exes Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel. Adapted from a 1924 novel, the film blends romance and food for a sumptuous visual feast. You’ll salivate over its delicacies and swoon over its lovers in a story about two gourmands who connect over their adulation for food and each other.

French Film Festival
The Taste of Things combines two great French attributes, love and food. Credit: Supplied

A GREAT FRIEND

Who doesn’t love a buddy comedy of oppositional forces? Vincent (Lambert Wilson) is a go-go-go executive who runs a dating website while Pierre (Gregory Gardebois) is a recluse living a tech-free life in the mountains. The two are thrown together and their very different approaches to life result in rowdy arguments and new, shared understandings. Littered with physical comedy and insights about unlikely friendships, the film is a feel-good adventure.

French Film Festival
Buddy comedy A Great Friend. Credit: Supplied

SECOND ROUND

Starring Cecile de France, Second Round is a political satire from filmmaker Albert Dupontel, a man known for stirring the pot. The story is centred on a former star journalist who has been languishing on the sports desk when she is unexpectedly recruited back to covering politics, just as the presidential election is heating up. She uncovers something scandalous about the frontrunner, a well-connected newcomer.

French Film Festival
Cecile de France leads political satire Second Round. Credit: Supplied

IRIS AND THE MEN

Actor Laure Calamy reunites with her Antoinette in the Cevannes director Caroline Vignal in this comedy about desire in middle age. The effervescent Calamy plays a woman who has a seemingly perfect life – she loves her husband, her two daughters are happy, she runs a thriving business and has no neurotic friends. But she and her husband have not been intimate in a long time so when she’s advised to “take a lover”, she’s inundated with potentials.

Iris and the Men stars Laure Calamy
Iris and the Men stars comedic force Laure Calamy. Credit: Supplied

THE SITTING DUCK

Isabelle Huppert plays Maureen Kearney, a real-life whistleblower who took on a powerful French nuclear company, Areva. In the political thriller, when Maureen exposes a secretive deal between French and Chinese power companies, she pulls at a thread that reveals the deep corruption and rot at the convergence of business, politics and influence. The Sitting Duck premiered at the Venice Film Festival where filmmaker Jean-Paul Salome was nominated for the best director accolade.

French Film Festival
Isabelle Huppert plays a real-life whistleblower. Credit: Supplied

THE INTOUCHABLES

The audience retrospective pick for this year’s festival, if you’ve never seen The Intouchables (or would like to again with an audience), now is your chance. The big-hearted dramedy continues to be one of the most beloved French films of this century. Inspired by a true story of a wealthy man and his French-Algerian caregiver, it’s big on sweeping emotions and launched the career of Omar Sy, who won the Cesar Award for best actor for his performance.

French Film Festival
The Intouchables is the audience pick for this year’s festival. Credit: Supplied

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