With the Alliance Française French Film Festival relaunch currently underway, we want to share our top 5 must-see films for this year’s festival.
La Belle Époque
A French film to equal the gleeful inventiveness of The Truman Show, director Nicolas Bedos reminds us not only of who we once were, but who we have the potential to become. Victor (Auteuil), a 70-something tech-phobic cartoonist, is struggling both professionally and personally. His work is evaporating with the growing dominance of the Internet, and his wife, Marianne (Ardant), loathes him. Things take a turn when Victor meets Antoine (Guillaume Canet) whose company offers a unique theatrical service where customers are able to revisit memories and play out fantasies through carefully orchestrated re-enactments. Victor decides to relive the most memorable week of his existence, 40 years earlier, when he met the love of his life. La Belle Époque is at once dazzling and soul-stirring yet, ultimately, a heartwarming allegory.
From the creators of The Intouchables, The Extraordinary follows real-life figure, Stéphane Benhamou, who runs an informal shelter in Paris for autistic youth who have fallen through the cracks of the welfare system. The film maintains incredible levity through grace and humour and features an impeccable performance from Vincent Cassel.
How To Be A Good Wife
It’s 1968. The immaculate and morally upright Paulette Van Der Beck (the ever-exquisite Juliette Binoche) and her husband Robert have been running Van der Beck’s School of Housekeeping and Good Manners in the lush regions of Alsace for over two decades, with the help of Paulette’s eccentric stepsister Gilberte (Yolande Moreau) and the school’s communist-fearing, ex-Resistance nun Marie-Thérèse (a scene-stealing Noémie Lvovsky). Their mission: to train teenagers to become perfect housewives, in times when women were expected to be largely subservient. Starring the exquisite Juliette Binoche, How To Be A Good Wife strikes a near-magical tone that’s both satirical and tender. This hugely-entertaining tale of solidarity looks set to become one of the year’s biggest comedic hits.
Following the riots in 2005 in Clichy-sous-Bois, Les Miserables follows policeman Stéphane through his first week on the job as part of a special unit who navigate society’s fringes. It’s a trial by fire as he and his corrupt, often violent, colleagues face off against the region’s clashing factions of angry teens as tensions boil over. Ready yourself for a riveting ride that throbs with contemporary urgency. Themes of social inequality erupt in Ladj Ly’s fearless Les Misérables, prompting comparisons to other classic hard-hitting dramas such as Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Mathieu Kassovitz’s Hate (La Haine).
We’ll End Up Together
It’s been years since middle-aged restaurateur Max (François Cluzet) has received his friends at his gorgeous summer house in the chic beach community of Cap Ferret. The group have traditionally reconnected there for his birthday, but since things didn’t exactly go as planned last time, they haven’t seen much of one another. It turns out Max is divorcing and his villa is up for sale, so when pals Marie (Marion Cotillard), Vincent (Benoît Magimel), now-famous actor Éric (Gilles Lellouche) and his hapless buddy-turned-assistant Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) arrive unannounced to celebrate a significant milestone, it’s not necessarily a welcome surprise. This ensemble comedy was the second-highest-grossing French Film of 2019 and boasts a star-studded cast, so get your friends together, and be dazzled by this raucous slice of rollicking, all-star fun.