Selection-wise, this year's films have broad appeal and the proverbial ‘something for everyone’.
French cinema, ‘si’l vous plait’
At a glance
The much-awaited annual French Film Festival Manille comes our way starting Nov. 25, and there are new cinema venues to celebrate; as for the first time, the French films will show at SM MOA and SM Megamall. This change is being done to broaden the Festival’s audience and to hopefully entice a younger crowd to appreciate what the Festival has to offer.
Selection-wise, this year's films have broad appeal and the proverbial ‘something for everyone’. From popular Box Office hits of this year, to eco-thrillers, humorous biopics, comedic adaptations of comic books, swashbuckling adaptations of classic French literature, and hard-hitting documentaries - there’s literally a “pot Au feu’ of the diversity that is French cinema today, and they vividly demonstrate how there’s so much in common between Filipinos and the French.
I had the opportunity to preview a number of the 2023 films that form part of this year's Festival, so here are some capsule reviews as guides for which film you should target to watch during the Festival:
Bernadette (2023) - Here’s the French cinema icon Catherine Deneuve taking on the role of Bernadette Chirac, wife (now widow) of then-French President Jacques Chirac. Madame Chirac was a local politician, and this film highlights her uncanny political intuition and how she felt slighted as her husband ascended to the French Presidency and pretended to ignore her vital role in his success. It’s a biopic that knows how to inject humor, a choir, and relevance for today. I’d love to have our Senate and Congressional spouses watch this film and witness what I was saying about the parallels between our two nations.
The Three Musketeers D’Artangan (2023) - Here’s Alexandre Dumas's latest adaptation of the French classic. It’s a big budget exercise that follows how the novel first appeared as a serial, as I’m made to understand that this film is the first in a trilogy, a French franchise waiting to happen. The swordplay, the fight scenes, the set design, and the location all give the film that million-dollar look. And thankfully, this is supported by a committed cast, strong portrayals, and a smart blend of historical fiction with shafts of humor. The court intrigues, the plotting behind the King’s back, the role of Cardinal Richelieu and whether he was patriot or villain, are all showcased in this treatment.
Acide (2023) - This film premiered in this year’s Cannes Film Festival. I’d best describe it as the French film industry’s attempt to create its own SciFi disaster movie, and make the narrative take on ecological and environmental themes. After establishing the characters and setting the stage, the film makes a family drama and high-stakes survival game from the corrosive acid rain that’s bringing untold destruction, as a metaphor and warning for what we aren’t doing to right global carbon emissions and avert ecological disaster. Its fractured family meets the climate change catastrophe. It stars Guillaume Canet and Laetitia Dosch, and the film is a suspense thriller.
Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom (2023) - Set in the year 50 B.C., during the times of Gauls and Vikings, this adaptation from the globally popular comic book series knows how to make this live-action interpretation maintain the silly tone of the comic books. There’s magic potions, there’s bravery and cowardice, and there’s a narrative that involves the Empress of China and her Princess daughter enlisting the help of our intrepid duo. Chief villain from China is the traitor Deng Tsin Qin - say it fast and think ABBA. Yes, that’s how silly and ‘mababaw’ this film is, which works in its favor, as it faithfully reflects what makes the comic books so enjoyable. There’s even a Cleopatra and henpecked Julius Cesar. Silly and fun!
These four films show you the variety of films assembled this year, and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The French entry for the Best Foreign Film category in the Oscars, The Taste of Things (La Passion de Dodin Bouffant), which stars Juliette Binoche, is also in the list of films.
For cinephiles, so much to celebrate and watch! So I’ll see you at the SM MOA and Megamall cinemas!! November 25th to December 3rd, are the dates.