Watching foreign films is usually a matter of self-improvement. Whether it’s Almodovar or Kurosawa, when you immerse yourself in a context and world view that’s dissimilar to your own, you learn a new, and, hopefully, entertaining lesson. For a French perspective that won’t involve a trip to the movie library, try the First Rendez-Vous with French Cinema festival by UniFrance.
According to Jerome Bonnafont, French ambassador to India, this marks an important moment in Indo-French cultural relationships, of which cinema is an important part. The festival will start with the world premiere of Astérix Aux Jeux Olympiques (Astérix at the Olympics, 2008). Based on the popular comic strip Astérix, this movie follows the adventures of the hero and his friends as they try to win the Olympics Games so that a young Gaul, Lovestorix, can marry the Greek princess, Irina.
Evening in Paris: These Lebanese women celebrate life in a Beirut beauty salon.
Reality takes a two-dimensional turn with the feature Azur et Asmar (Azur and Asmar: The Princes’ Quest, 2006). The fourth animation movie by director Michael Ocelot tells the tale of two boys nursed by the same woman—one child is the fair prince and the other, the nurse’s own dark child. Both have been raised on the tale of a djinn fairy who has to be saved by a heroic prince. As the two grow up and are separated, both dream of being the knight in shining armour to the djinn fairy. But only one of them can be successful in the quest.
For those looking for something more along the lines of surrealist cinema, there’s La Science Des Rêves (The Science of Dreams, 2006). Michel Gondry, who pioneered the “bullet-time” technique, which was later used in the Matrix—remember Neo dodging bullets?—directed this movie. Gondry is also known for his manipulation of the mise en scène, or the elements of a scene. The movie tells the story of Stéphane (Gael García Bernal), whose vivid dreams and imagination interfere with his reality. The story follows the love Stéphane has for Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) through its confusions, and intermixes dreams with reality—messing not just with the protagonist’s head but also the audiences’.
Another must-see at the festival is Caramel (2007). This Lebanese film is the first feature directed by Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki, who also stars in it. The film is produced by French Anne-Dominique Toussaint’s Les Films des Tournelles.
The title refers to the lemon juice, sugar and water concoction used in West Asia for hair removal. This comedy revolves around the lives of five Lebanese women who meet in a beauty salon in Beirut. It traces the struggle of independent women with their loves, religious views and changing times.
The filming of the movie finished nine days before Israel launched its 33-day war against Lebanon on 12 July 2006.
These, and an additional four tales of bravery, thrills and even horror, make up the menu of this programme. After the festival, the films will be released commercially in the country. So for those of you who may miss out on the festival, there’s still hope.
First Rendez-Vous with French Cinema will be on from 27 January to 14 February at Fun Cinema halls in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore. For more details, log on to www.rendezvouswithfrenchcinema.in