Five must see French Film Festival movies

By Dominic Corry

A scene from the film, Dheepan.
A scene from the film, Dheepan.

1. Dheepan

Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone), won the top prize at Cannes last year for this intimate, intense drama about a Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger who forms a surrogate family with a woman and a little girl in order to claim asylum in Europe, then gets mixed up with local gangsters on the outskirts of Paris.

2. Marguerite

Acclaimed French actress Catherine Frot gives the performance of her career as a terrible opera singer, whose profound lack of talent is enabled by her husband and their high society "friends" in this biting comedy set in 1920s Paris.

This consistently hilarious film was inspired by the life of American Florence Foster Jenkins, who is soon to be played by Meryl Streep in a forthcoming biopic.

3. Madacam Stories

Samuel Benchetrit expands his short stories for this portmanteau set in a run-down Paris apartment building. Across three mildly interlocking stories, an ageing actress (Isabelle Huppert) seeks assistance from a neighbouring teenager (Jules Benchetrit), a sad-sack (Gustave Kervern) attempts to impress a nurse (Valeria Bruni Tedeshi) and a stranded Nasa astronaut (Michael Pitt) is taken care of by a kindly old widow (Tassadit Mandi).

4. Belle and Sebastian: The Adventure Continues

If you can convince someone under 12 to see a subtitled film, make it this rip-roaring family-friendly adventure. Felix Bossuet returns as the terminally irrepressible Sebastien in this peril-laden post-World War II-set sequel. Other family fare at the festival includes the animated Yellowbird and April and the Extraordinary World, and the doco Once Upon A Forest, by March of the Penguins director Luc Jacquet.

5. First Growth

For some, this drama about a successful wine writer who returns home to try and save the family vineyard may be a little... on the nose (pun intended) - it doesn't have anything new to say. But it says the old stuff extremely well, and wrings better drama out of its father/son conflict than most Spielberg movies. If nothing else, you are guaranteed to leave the theatre thirsty for a nice bottle of plonk.

• The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival starts in Auckland today at the Rialto Newmarket and Berkeley Takapuna.

- TimeOut

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