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Films not to miss at the French Film Festival 2017

Beatrice Smith

Bonjour! Allo! 

It’s that fantastique time of year again when we get to roll out the red carpet for the Alliance Francais French Film Festival and practise our questionable francais while we sip champagne (that one needs no translation) and indulge in the best of French cinema from the past year.

As the autumn chill sets in, Palace Electric’s warm interior beckons us…as does their Prosecco bar with its excellent wine list (shout out to whoever thought of those genius glasses they stock too).

Via twitter

Via twitter

As always, the Festival’s calendar is packed for all of its almost month-long running time, making it inexcusable to not see at least one film. I once used my Sunday to see three films in a row. True story.

Here are my picks for six films you can’t miss in this year’s lineup, but keep in mind that this isn’t even scratching the surface. You can find the full Canberra program here.


The main reason this made the list was because I saw Sidse Babett Knudsen’s face on the trailer still.

You probably know her face too – she’s been everywhere recently, most obviously as the titular character in Borgen, the thrilling Danish political drama that made her a household name in Scandinavia and beyond.

She also plays one of my favourites roles in Westworld and recently hit the (Western) big screen in A Hologram for the King last year, where she reunited with her Inferno co-star Tom Hanks. In 150 Miligrams, Knudsen plays a hospital lung specialist who suspects that a medicine may be damaging patients, despite its popularity. Thus ensues a deep dive into a world of dark deals in the pharmaceutical industry.


I’ve loved Gaspar Ulliel since his small but powerful part in Paris J’taime all those years ago.

This film seems to have the biggest blockbuster cast of the entire festival with heavyweights Léa Seydoux (Spectre), Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) and Marion Cotillard (Inception) playing the family of Ulliel’s terminally ill playwright who must return home to break the news to his loved ones. Or rather, break the news to his dysfunctional and estranged family whom he hasn’t seen for 12 years.

A Bag of Marbles

Unfortunately, there’s no English subtitled trailer yet, but the story is easy to follow. It’s one that we’re painfully familiar with and it breaks your heart every time – the plight of French jews during World War II.

Based on the memoirs of Joseph Joffe, the film follows brothers Joseph and Maurice as their father sends them on an epic journey to escape occupied Paris. This is one to bring the tissues to.


Since no one does the tugging of the heart strings like the French, we’re going from occupied Paris to Belle Epoque Paris (which never ceases to delight as a film setting) where Omar Sy (The Intouchables) plays a struggling black circus performer who teams up with a white clown (James Thierrée, none other than Charlie Chaplin’s grandson) in an effort to reach the big leagues. But what will happen when they’re there?

Aside from the brilliant, dynamic acting of Sy and the poetic justic of Thierrée in his role, the costumes and sets alone are enough to justify a ticket although it’s probably another one to bring tissues to. Sorry.


If there’s one film I will be shattered if I miss out on, it’s Planetarium. Natalie Portman is fantastic in anything – anything – but this looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Two sisters – one gifted with a spiritual connection to the dead – are on the road with their travelling clairvoyant show when they meet a man who can change their future.

I can hear the Oscars and Caesars chatter from here.


You can’t have a French film festival with a little Juliette Binoche and what a joy her role in this film looks to be. We’re ending this list on a lighter note (or as light as French cinema gets) with Slack Bay – which might as well be called Slapstick Bay.

With a good dose of physical humour and dry wit, if you are planning of seeing multiple films in one day – this could be the one to finish on.

the essentials

What: The Alliance Francais French Film Festival 2017
When: 9 March – 4 April 2017
Where: Palace Electric Cinemas, 2 Phillip Law Street, NewActon
Web: Find the full program and book tickets here


Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author

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