www.list.co.uk/film Festival Focus
FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL France has one of the most prolific film cultures in the world yet for every A Prophet, Heartbreaker and Carlos there are countless fine films that never see the inside of a British cinema. The raison d’etre for the annual French Film Festival (FFF) is to provide audiences with a rare chance to see what we might be missing. The 2010 programme is rich in premieres, unfamiliar classics and new features from auteurs with compelling track records like Christophe Honoré, Bertrand Tavernier, Daniele Thompson, Costa-Gavras and Rachid Bouchareb. The cancellation of Andre Téchiné’s visit due to health problems is a blow for the festival, but one clear highlight is a personal appearance from multi- talented circus clown, music hall veteran and filmmaker Pierre Etaix, an indefatigable 82-year-old whose work has earned him comparisons with Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis. Etaix recently appeared in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Mic-Macs but legal battles have prevented a whole generation from seeing any of his melancholy comedies. Several of his best films have now been restored, and Etaix will introduce screenings of the 1969 Le Grand Amour (The Great Love) in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
French cinema has an enviable ability to generate mainstream crowd-pleasers whilst simultaneously supporting the personal vision of independent filmmakers. There are superior examples of both types of film on display from the lush romantic wallow
of the Daniel Auteuil vehicle Je L’Aimais (Someone I Loved) to the tender, low-budget La Petite Chambre (The Small Room) which charts the bond between an elderly man and his carer. The festival is also notable for a number of vivid
literary adaptations including Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog) (pictured) a charming version of the Muriel Barbery’s bestseller The Elegance of the Hedgehog set in a Parisian apartment building, and Le Petit Nicolas (Little Nicholas), a nostalgic version of the comic books charting the misadventures of a Just William-style schoolboy in 1950s France whose life is shattered by the news that his parents are expecting another child. Mademoiselle Chambon provides a perfect example
of a French film that deserves to find a British distributor. Elegantly acted by Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain, it is a wistful, delicately observed tale in the manner of Brief Encounter. Going against the tide of cutbacks in the arts, the
FFF is a testimony to the event’s ability to adapt and innovate. ‘This year the festival has made an effort to embrace other French language cinema,’ explains director Richard Mowe. ‘There are films from Switzerland, Belgium, and Quebec to add to the rich mix of Francophone and this will help us grow.’ (Allan Hunter) ■ French Film Festival, GFT, Glasgow; Filmhouse, Edinburgh and various venues, Thu 11 Nov–Tue 7 Dec. www.frenchfilmfestival.org.uk
COMEDY DUE DATE (15) 100min ●●●●●
Having collaborated to winning effect on The Hangover, director Todd Phillips and comedian Zach Galifianakis endure a bumpy reunion on road movie comedy Due Date. Designed as a sort of anti-buddy movie, Phillips’ latest follows uptight, expectant father Peter (played by Robert Downey Jr) as he is forced to travel cross country in time for the birth of his child with the same annoying fellow traveller (Galifianakis’ Ethan Tremblay) responsible for getting him banned from flying.
Hence, a lot of the comedy stems from seeing just how far Galifianakis’ aspiring actor can go in pushing Downey Jr’s buttons and generally ruining his life.
The main problem with Due Date is that Galifianakis’ character is just too annoying and eccentric to be likeable, while the humour is mean-spirited and frequently bordering on the distasteful. Phillips is never one to shy away from pushing the envelope as far as what’s permissible is concerned, but gags involving spitting in a dog’s face and punching a child fly a little too close to the mark. An extended masturbation sequence is simply unnecessary. Extended cameos from the likes of Danny McBride, Juliette Lewis, Jamie Foxx and Phillips himself do little to boost proceedings either and often feel like padding.
On the plus side, Downey Jr remains as watchable as ever, combining simmering resentment with comic hostility well, but given the two- handed nature of proceedings he’s left with too much to carry. (Rob Carnivale) ■ General release from Fri 5 Nov.
HORROR WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (SOMOS LO QUE HAY) (15) 89min ●●●●●
Mexican writer/director Jorge Michel Grau’s raw horror about a family of human flesh-eaters mines from the cannibalistic, allegorical and political seam that David Cronenberg and George A Romero explored in the 1970s.
Set in the grimly dog-eat-dog world of Mexico City, We Are What We Are
begins with the squalid death of a old man, who leaves behind a family of cannibals: a wife (Carmen Beato) and three children, the eldest of whom, Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro) struggles to take on his father’s mantle as hunter-gatherer.
Grau places the family within the context of a predatory, stinking world, riddled with prostitution and grasping police corruption. Disturbingly, Grau makes cannibalism seem like the only appropriate response to the social circumstances and treats their plight with according sympathy; as with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it seems that the family that slays together, stays together.
From its baldly descriptive title, almost suggestive of a family motto, Grau’s auspicious feature debut offers an unflinching portrait of modern society; as Alfredo’s erratic brother Julian (Alan Chavez) threatens the family unit with his incestuous desires towards sister (Sin Nombre’s Paulina Gaitan), it’s clear that the notion of a world turning in on itself will be followed through to its unpleasant end. (Eddie Harrison) ■ GFT, Glasgow and selected release from Fri 12 Nov.
4–18 Nov 2010 THE LIST 41