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The 2020 French Film Festival: Resilient, Reopened and Relaunched

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You can’t keep a good festival down—Australia’s longest-running international film festival has restarted at Palace Electric.

I’ve been out. At night. With other people. Only in 2020 would this feel mildly scandalous!

I cannot describe how good it felt to be back in a cinema—socially distanced from all other patrons—but all being emotionally affected by the well-made film we were watching.

Palace Electric is taking no risks with COVID-19 and we felt quite safe with all the precautions in place. The foyer buzz was not as loud as other years, with attendance being kept lower to enable gaps between patrons’ seats, but those that were there were very excited to see that Alliance Française, in truly resilient fashion, was not letting the 31st annual French Film Festival festival fade away.

It has been an awful year, as we all know, and it would have been so easy to simply give a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and let our yearly dose of French cinema slide into oblivion.

Mais non, mes amis! The festival opened in March, in defiance of smoke and the effects of the hailstorm—even scheduling a bushfire relief charity screening—but had to bow to the game-changer that is COVID-19 and closed soon after the launch.

But now they’re back! With a fascinating line-up of French cinema until 4 August—so don’t delay.

The relaunch film, La Belle Èpoque, was everything I wanted it to be.

The story is a multi-layered one about married partners bored with each other or life in general, infidelity, passionate and often jealous love, creativity and rapidly changing times. Mixed in with that we have a soupçon of a subtheme on parenting, mentoring and familial love.

All garnished with delightful humour, made more poignant by employing that delicious French way of introducing life-and-death information as a flip, offside comment rather than labouring the pathos.

We laughed, we sighed and left delighted.

The only thing that didn’t ring true was the one-line synopsis available online: A disillusioned Victor finds his life turned upside down by an offer from entrepreneur Antoine.

Victor (the great Daniel Auteuil) does not remember who Antoine (Guillaume Canet, think younger, French-er Patrick Dempsey) is, which is possibly an effect of his depression, although he had a great impact on Antoine as a boy.

Victor and Marianne’s (Fanny Ardant—seriously, French women get sexier as they get older) son Pierre has remained friends with Antoine and they see an opportunity to help Victor out of his slump by allowing him to go anywhere he wants in history.

They don’t have a TARDIS but Antoine, a screenwriter/director obsessive over historical detail, has set up a business where participants select what historical event they want to be part: a day with Marie Antoinette, meeting Hitler and so on.

His team builds the set, sources the props and trains the actors for an immersive experience. Sign me up!

I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you any more but I really did enjoy every moment of this film.

THE ESSENTIALS 

What: The 2020 Alliance Française French Film Festival
When: Until 4 August 2020
Where: Palace Electric Cinemas
Website: affrenchfilmfestival.org

Roslyn saw this film as a guest of Palace Electric Cinemas and the Alliance Française French Film Festival.

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