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Now in its 1 1th year, the FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL treads a fine line between art and commerce.

Words: Tony McKibbin

hough it's obviously a wonderful idea to have a

yearly festival devoted to French cinema. you

often get the feeling that it‘s more about putting bums on seats rather than fresh cinematic thoughts in a viewer‘s mind.

That's not such a bad thing when they're as well- crafted and entertaining as one of this year's films. Coline Serreau's ('ltans. a taut comedic tale of consideration for others. Here Vincent Lindon and Catherine Frot play a financially comfortable couple whose lives are changed when a young prostitute slams into their windscreen. lnitial indifference gives way to empathy on Frot‘s part when she visits the prostitute in intensive care. and on Lindon's when. after the woman‘s fully recovered. he falls hopelessly in love with her.

()ften. however. you sense the films have been foisted on a hapless Scottish audience for no better reason than that a well-known name‘s attached. This is surely the case with (ind is Great. I'm Not. with Amelie’s Audrey Tautou playing a young model from a Catholic background who falls for a half-hearted Jewish bloke. a guy about as committed in love as he to his faith. It‘s also true of /7 Times (‘eeile Cassatt]. as Beatrice Dalle tries to recover from her husband's death. There‘s something interesting here about a woman so inconsolable that she has to offload her young son onto her sister whilst she grieves alone. but director Christophe Honore goes for style over content. as Dalle‘s journey to self-enlightenment involves a move into gay culture.

We might also have a few problem with the Jean- Pierre Leaud retrospective: it‘s as if he‘s being offered tip for analysis because he's a name. but it seems his back catalogue's a bit too demanding for screening more

Audrey Tautou plays a young Catholic who falls for a Jewish bloke, while Beatrice Dalle tries to recover from her husband’s death

Putting bums on seats in L’homme du Train

than . . . one film. This is an actor who‘s made films with Godard. Garrel. Ruiz. liustache and Pasolini. but the only film being shown is that old favourite. Truffaut‘s 400 Blows. and an accompanying documentary by Serge Le Peron. [.eaurl Unique.

But let‘s not hit the festival too hard. The Nicolas Philibert miiii-retrospective is a great idea. and a serendipitous combo of bums on seat and food for thought. Philibert’s been making subtle. probing documentaries for years. but it wasn’t until this year.

with '12) be and tr) Hlll't’. that he managed that rarest of

breeds: the non—fiction hit. Here he focuses on an ageing teacher in a rural village who doesn‘t only have kids of all ages in the one class. he also plays father. uncle and therapist to any and all when the occasion demands. As in Philibert’s earlier livery Little Thing. where mental patients tackle Gombrowicz. and where we‘re not always sure who‘s a patient and who's a doctor. the director impressively dissolves conventional roles.

What else will you find? Not one. but two Patrice Leconte films: L'lmmme (Iii Train. with Jean Rochefort and Johnny Hallyday. and Rue (les l’laisirs. There are also a couple by Cedric Klapisch: L'Auberge livpagnn/e and Mitvbe. the latter with Jean-Paul Belmondo. You'll also find Isabelle Huppert. with an image make- over in La Vie Promise that might make you wonder if it's really her.

Daniel Auteuil. meanwhile. appears in The Adversary. an adaptation of Emmanuel (‘arrere's great non-fictional book on the double-life of Jean-Claude Romand. a man who pretended for eighteen years he had a respectable life and. when it looked like the truth would catch up with him. killed his entire family. Nicole Garcia helms what will surely be a film that gets posteriors seated while also providing the requisite cerebral hum.

The French Film Festival runs Fri 15 Nov-Sun 1 Dec at GFT, Glasgow; Filmhouse, Edinburgh; DCA, Dundee and The Belmont, Abderdeen. See film index.

Rough cuts

Lights,camera, action. . .

FINLAND'S BEST KNOWN filmmaker and the country's answer to Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismaki, has his new film previewed at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse Thursday 28 November. The Man without a Past, which picked up a couple of major awards at this year's Cannes Film Festival. sees Kaurismaki back on form after the relatively poor reception of his last film. Juha. The new film begins with a man being mugged on the streets of Helsinki. He makes a miraculous recovery but suffers complete memory loss and subsequently wanders thr0ugh the city, finally taking up with some homeless people who live in empty freight containers at the docks. Eventually the man without a past meets and falls in love with a Salvation Army woman and memories begin to return to him. But are they his memories?

‘Who are you?’ ‘Dunno’

If you‘ve seen Kaurismaki's earlier films. most especially Hamlet Goes Business and Leningrad Cowboys Go America. y0u'll be familiar with the Finnish filmmaker's patented brand of deadpan comedy. Like those films, The Man without a Past references SOs B-movies and rock‘n'roll music but. as with Drifting Clouds. Kaurismaki is here also concerned with social issues: unemployment. homelessness and capitalism. Kaurismaki recently showed solidarity with Abbas Kiarostami when the lranian filmmaker was barred entry to the US after being invited to the New York Film Festival, but preSumably being turned away because he was of Middle Eastern origin and therefore a potential terrorist threat by refusing to attend the same festival. It for no other reason yOu should show suppOrt for this idiosyncratic filmmakers work.

14—28 Nov 2002 THE LIST 23