French film festival kicks off

23:13, Feb 17 2014
FRESH ROM-COM: It Boy turns the traditional genre tropes on their head as Virginie Efira's fashion editor is romanced by Pierre Niney's much younger architecture student.

It's the largest and most diverse film selection to date.

A delighted Alliance Francaise French Film Festival director Sarah Reese is proud of what she and her team will deliver French cinema fans over the next couple of months as the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival wends its way through 11 cities, beginning in Christchurch on Thursday.

"We're really happy with this year's selection, " says Reese, "I think it's fun, diverse, and enthralling. I'm sure people will ?nd ?lms that appeal to them and I hope they may even explore new genres and styles."

2014 marks the first year that the whole programme will be entirely delivered via digital projection rather than celluloid, something that has helped Reese and company secure titles like opening night film Chinese Puzzle (M), the final instalment of Cdric Klapisch's The Spanish Apartment trilogy, once again starring what is now French acting royalty - Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou.

Go had the opportunity to sample a cross-section of titles before the festival begins:



Selected for charity screenings for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, this dramedy follows the misadventures of recently retired dentist Caroline (Fanny Ardent) after she joins her seaside town's local retirement club. As well as trialling exercise, acting, pottery, and wine tasting classes, she embarks on an affair with computing tutor Julien (Laurent Lafitte). However, it turns out she's not the only one he is offering "extra tutelage" to. Another female empowerment story in the vein of 2010's Potiche.


A kind of a cross between Barbara, The Lives of Others and The Americans, this 1979-set thriller opens with Carole (Stphanie Sokolinski) and Jrme (Jrmie Lippman) attempting to enter Russia from France. They're not spies but rather Jewish "cousins", posing as an engaged couple on an Odessan package holiday, there to help Jews persecuted by the Russian regime. However, as they come under close scrutiny by the KGB and their tour guide, they begin to wonder whether their mission is all its cracked up to be. A slow burning tale that veers off in surprising directions and delivers a cracking story.


The traditional frothy French rom-com is turned on its ear by this engaging and entertaining tale that switches genders on the usually dodgy age gap. At 38, fashion editor Alice (Virginie Efira) is romanced by 20-year-old architecture student Balthazar (Pierre Niney), initially to convince her boss of her wild side. Efira is still ridiculously ravishing to look at, but for once there is some toy boy candy for the ladies, rather than France's latest Bob Hoskins look-alike. And some nice The Devil Wears Prada-esque digs at the fashion industry.


Having found the charming side of rural education in 2002's To Be and To Have, documentarian Nicolas Philibert this time turns his attentions to the residents of 116 Avenue du President Kennedy. That's the Paris home of Radio France, which pumps out a vast selection of programming from quiz shows to music dedications, sports broadcasts, and robust debates. Philibert successfully captures the personalities of many of the employees and broadcasters who offer inside tips on how to tell if a show isn't live, what we can do with Justin Bieber, and why they don't want to be considered stars ("you can't be cigarettes on your own").


Fans of Yes, Minister and The Thick of It will lap up this hilarious, razor shop political satire. The Zac Braff-esque Raphal Personnaz plays a young speech writer thrown into the deep end at the foreign ministry. That's because the motor-mouth Minister (Thierry Lhermitte) is a Heraclitus-quoting maverick, more interested in "groundbreaking thrust" than traditional speeches. As well as office politics, Arthur has to pen responses to a runaway bear, an African coup, and trouble in the middle east, while also preparing for the Minister's address to the UN, something likened to "Frankenstein talking to Snow White's seven dwarves".


Franois Nouel (Clovis Cornillac) has had a life-long love affair with the Tour de France. Having once "tickled the pedals himself", he jumps at the last- minute chance to be the driver for his sports-shop company's team. There's just one problem, he's booked to go on holiday with his wife and teen son. After a disastrous campaign launch she and the job disappear, leaving Francois distraught until he comes up with a plan - complete his own Tour on the same course, but a day ahead of the real competitors. A charming comedy that also features musings on sponsorship and drug scandals, see it before the inevitable US remake.

For more information and session times, see