Excusez-moi French

It’s the time of the year again when we can use and misuse French phrases such as je t’aime, bonuit, bonjour, and even voulez-vous coucher avec moi.

I found out about the 14th French Film Festival at Shangri-La Cineplex five days late, which left me with little time to catch up with the films screening this year. So as a desperate attempt to partake in as much Parisian fare as I could, I declared a French movie marathon this weekend (the last two days of the filmfest, June 13 and 14). I saw seven films in two days, which shouldn’t have been possible if I have to line up each time to get myself a ticket. Thank God for Jo’s wonder ‘pass’.


The French Film Festival also took a holiday on June 12 to pave way to Pinoy films honored during the Cannes Film Festival. True to their promise to bring Cannes to Manila, five films that graced the coastal city of France were shown on the 111th year of Philippine independence. These are Raymond Red’s “Anino” (Cannes 2000 Palme d’Or winner in the short film division), “Manong Maong” and “Sabongero” (short film entries in Cannes 2009), “Serbis” (Brillante Mendoza’s controversial film that competed for the Palme d’Or in 2008), and “Independencia” (Raya Martin’s competing film for the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes 2009).

Check out my review of “Independencia".


We all know how reliable the cinematic sensibility of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) is, pun intended. And here they go again. One of the festival’s films, Benoit Jacquot’s “À Tout de Suite (Right Now)”, was rated X by the Board, which means that it cannot be shown on theatres. Moreover, “Le Pianiste (The Piano Teacher)” by Michael Haneke (this year’s winner of the Palme d’Or for “The White Ribbon”) almost got banned. MTRCB passed it on the condition that it will only be screened once. MTRCB doesn’t care about the film’s merits or the importance of the graphic presentation of sex and/or violence in setting the film’s mood. They merely slap ratings and censor scenes without looking at the bigger picture. ‘Nuf said, Save that for another blog.


The first French film that I saw from the festival is the period comedy “Ridicule” by Patrice Leconte. This Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film in 1996 traces the struggles of a poor French lord trying to get royal backing on a drainage project. But in order to get the favor of the king, he needs to dip his toes in the corruption and sarcasm (which they refer to as ‘wit’) that plague the court. I am not a fan of period films, and by all means, I am not amused by their fancy way of talking and funny costumes. Men in wigs and in make-up baffle me. But this farce is surprisingly absorbing. You’ll easily get lost in the mind games that defined the time.

Meanwhile, David Vigne’s “Jean de la Fontaine” follows the famous French fabulist’s confrontation with Colbert of Louis XIV’s court. Unlike “Ridicule”, this film lacks wit and substance.

Ridicule (1996) – 3/5
Jean de la Fontaine (2007) – 2/5


Abdel Kechiche dissects teenage romance and high school drama (the superficial kind that is) with the hilarious but sharp “L'esquive (Games of Love and Chance)”. In high school, the trivial becomes life and death situations and verbal squabbles are relentless. Sandwiched in the funny scenes is a disturbing and long sequence that felt like a forceful punch in the gut.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize during the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, Bruno Dumont’s “Flandres” is a dark cross-examination of the simplicity of rural life and the horrors of war. The film banks on shock value and implants unpleasant images of abuse into our minds.

My favorite film from last year’s French Film Festival is Christophe Honore’s “Les Chansons d’Amour (Love Songs)”, the quirky modern romance musical. He returns this year with an earlier work entitled “17 fois Cécile Cassard (17 Times Cecile Cassard)”. The film embodies the same electricity as “Love Songs” – the hyper-kinetic music and the stylized camerawork. However, Cecile Cassard’s life is rather empty. All she did the entire running time of the movie is to feel sorry for herself and fumbles in rebuilding her life. What a letdown.

L'esquive (2003) – 3/5
Flandres (2006) – 2.5/5
17 Times Cécile Cassard (2002) – 2/5


“Les quatre cents coups (The 400 Blows)” is the breakthrough film of Nouvelle Vague director Francois Truffaut. This classic is about a delinquent juvenile’s slow descent to petty crime. An admirable work that is sure to strike a chord with everyone. Meanwhile, Claude Miller’s “Un Secret (A Secret)” is a Holocaust family drama that is beautifully shot and undeniably moving.

The 400 Blows (1959) – 3/5
A Secret (2007) – 3/5

That will do it for now. Till the next French Film Festival. Au revoir.

1 comment:

Cannes Holiday Apartment said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!


Related Posts with Thumbnails