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  • Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Korkoro (2008) – Drama

THERE are scenes that tell you at once you have chosen the right film to watch. Korkoro’s unforgettable opening is a view of a detention centre from outside the barbed wire. String music plays, and with each note different strands of the wire vibrate, as if the music were coming from them, strummed by a giant off-camera hand.

Based on a true story, Korkoro takes place during the World War II. A gypsy family arrives in France for the grape-picking season. This is part of their migratory pattern which takes them through several countries each year. They don’t mind being stateless. In fact, they love the freedom of not being tied to any country.

But not belonging to a country does not mean they are safe from its laws, even ridiculous new ones that outlaw nomadic life.

The family has a couple of kind and brave friends in town, but the film is a reminder that in such times, informers are as dangerous as enforcers and sympathisers are no safer than the “criminals”.

A beautiful, gut-wrenching and haunting film, Korkoro is a shining example of the kind of story which should be watched, remembered and retold.

Father Of My Children (2009) – Drama

When a decision needs to be made, Grégoire is the man to make it. A film producer used to working under pressure, he keeps a calm head at all times and is quick to both size up situations and propose solutions. Well-liked professionally, he is positively adored by his wife, Sylvia, and his daughters.

Sylvia knows that her husband’s company is struggling, but only finds out how serious the situation is when she is forced to get involved in saving the business. If Sylvia commits herself to helping to save Grégoire’s life work, she may become as absent a parent as her husband, but in the end the decision may be out of her hands.

A high-impact film, and although the story is not new, it is becoming increasingly common in today’s world economy in which success and the perfect life is just a mirage and priorities are misplaced.

The Artist (2011) – Romantic comedy

The Artist bypassed the foreign film category entirely and won an Academy Award for best film. What it has in its favour is what seems less and less achievable with every passing year – something completely different.

When Stéphane Dovert spoke about The Artist, he reminded his audience that “This ‘little’ French film was never made to be a blockbuster.” And thank goodness for that.

The Artist captures the best of both mediums perfectly, relying purely on light, shadow and physical expression. The story takes place at the end of the 1920s, when silent films started losing audiences to “talkies”. Former stars disappeared as if they never existed. One such star is George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), whose popularity from hero to zero is as fast as the climb of the screen’s newest talking sweetheart, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Ironically, Miller remains Valentin’s greatest – perhaps only – fan.

The Artist is groundbreaking, surprising, with some heartrending moments but far more joyful ones and anyone who can should not miss this very special opportunity to watch it on the big screen.

Service Entrance (2011) - Comedy

Mild-mannered Jean Louis Joubert’s (Fabric Luchini) wife and their long-term maid are constantly at war with one another, both taking petulant revenge on Jean Louis for not completely taking their side. For years now, the man’s breakfast has consisted of an egg boiled to dust.

When the maid finally walks out, she is replaced by Maria – a recent arrival from Spain. She is a revelation. Not only does Mariah make the perfect egg, she is agreeable, smiles and does not once accuse his wife of being either a witch or a murderess. In fact, Jean Louis’ wife likes Maria almost as much as he does.

Maria opens Jean Louis eyes to her culture and to the realities of women who leave their countries and families behind to clean other people’s houses. He meets Maria’s friends and finds he feels more at home with these motherly, rowdy and life-loving women than he has ever felt with anyone else. He also finally finds an outlet for all the kindness and love he has been keeping quietly in his big heart.

For its countless laugh-out-loud moments as well as for the tender ones, put this one on this year’s must-watch list.

A Cat In Paris (2011) – Animated feature

During the day, Dino is protective pet to little Zoë, who has not spoken since her father was killed. Once the child falls asleep, the cat leaves and becomes companion to Nico, a burglar. Together, they climb walls and balance on rooftops to relieve Paris’ wealthy citizenry of its valuables.

The cat is not the only thing girl and thief have in common. Zoë’s mother, Jeanne, is the chief of police and is in charge of catching Nico. Then the man who killed Zoë’s father comes after the girl and, thanks to Dino, both cop and burglar find they are on the same side.

With gorgeous animation and loads of laughs this film promises to stand out at the festival’s family pleaser.

Romantics Anonymous (2010) – Romantic comedy

Though in French, the song is instantly familiar. A few bars later and it is recogniseable: It is I Have Confidence from The Sound Of Music. Just as Maria sang it to pep herself up as she was about to meet the fearsome Captain Von Trapp, in this film it is sung by Angélique (Isabelle Carré) who is also gathering courage to apply for a job.

Angélique is pathologically shy. At her first meeting of Romantics Anonymous she barely gets past introducing herself before she slides to the floor in a dead faint. In spite of it all, she gets the job at a tiny chocolate factory on the brink of bankruptcy.

Her new boss, Jean-René, is as painfully shy as she is. He is also seeking help from a therapist who gives him little assignments to overcome his anxiety. Somehow Angélique always ends up helping with his homework. The results are bizarre.

The Intouchables (2011) – Comedy

One of the most uplifting, funny and wonderful films I have seen in any language, The Intouchables is based on a true story. Former daredevil Phillipe (François Cluzet) may be obscenely rich but he has little chance to enjoy his wealth. A paragliding accident left him paralysed from the chin down.

Even the most committed caregivers don’t last long, so interviewing new candidates is almost a weekly routine for his assistant.

This time around, among the highly-qualified and dewy-eyed professionals is someone who has no qualifications and does not want the job. He is Driss (Omar Sy), a gruff ex-con who needs to prove that he’s been looking for jobs before he can reapply for unemployment benefits.

Bored of being looked after by people who treat him as if he is made of glass, Phillipe challenges the blunt and unsympathetic Driss to last one month as his caretaker.

Phillipe’s motivation may have been amusement (Driss’ is that he suddenly finds himself homeless), but this turns out to be the best decision either of them ever made. Driss never dons kid gloves. He is careless but Phillipe likes it that Driss forgets to do something for him. No one else ever forgets that Phillipe is paralysed. He enjoys Driss’ shocking gallows’ humour because it means Driss always finds things to laugh about, even tragedy, even Phillipe’s disability.

Stellar performances from Sy and Cluzet will bring tears to audiences eyes. But don’t worry, most of the time they will be tears of laughter.

Related Story:Fifty fabulous years at French Art & Film Festival

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