The French Connection Sidebar
Once it ruled the art house, or so it seemed. This was the French film, from Renoir to Resnais: movies that seemed uniformly aesthetic, handsome men and iconic female beauties in adult situations worthy of a nation that spawned Flaubert, Folies Bergère, and Emile Zola — yet riddled with contrasts. The astringent sting of Godard’s poetic theory cohabitating a world that launched François Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel and silly franchises of American copycat fervor, The Toy, La Cage Aux Folles, and The Tall Blond Man with One Red Shoe. And then? Not exactly silence, but from le déluge to un soufflé.
“Actually it was Roger’s idea,” explained a bleary-eyed, overworked Cevin Cathell, Film Fest programmer, speaking of the ubiquitous SBIFF Creative Director Roger Durling. “And we thought we would go after classic French films. But when we started looking, there was so much,” she said and rolled her bleary eyes in a kind of Mon Dieu pantomime. If there were an overriding theme for all this, it looks like post-colonial issues and American pomp are trump. Free Zone (Amos Gitai) deals with an American woman and an Israeli fiancé; Heading South (Laurent Cantet), which is not the Jack Nicholson pic, concerns itself with sex tourism in Haiti; Live and Become (Radu Mihaileanu) examines the rites of passage of a young Ethiopian Jew transplanted in Israel.
More conventional-sounding plots of domestic splendor come from the great Bertrand Tavernier — Le Coup de Torchon and ’Round Midnight — in Holy Lola! He tells of lovers seeking to adopt with all its precarious aspects, including success. And a film that reeks of classic in the Amélie age, Christian Carion’s Joyeux Noël, about the Christmas night in WWI when all the soldiers came out for a drink. The award for wacky comedy goes to Brice de Nice (James Huth), which was last year’s hit film in France, about a wacky rich French Riviera surfer who worships Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) in Point Break. This film will also show in Isla Vista at the Magic Lantern, ground zero of rich California surfers, and — full disclosure — my other gig.
But while these are particularly bien, word also has it that a coupla Francophonic films from Canada are also hot, and especially C.R.A.Z.Y.“I won’t tell you what that stands for,” said my informant. “But the film is amazingly beautiful.” And that’s what we expected from our Film Festival and our comrades, who, like us, think George Bush is wrong to be in Iraq.