CINÉFRANCO at the Royal Cinema from Friday (March 23) to April 1. See Indie & Rep Film listings, this page, for full schedule. Rating: NNNNN
If you can't get to Paris in the springtime, the next best thing is bringing Paris here. That's always been one of the perks of Cinéfranco, the 10-day fest of French-language films from Paris and other francophone locales. Here are reviews of some entries in the 10th-anniversary edition.
EDY (Stéphan Guérin-Tillié). Monday (March 26), 8 pm. Rating: NNNN
In one of his final roles, the late, great French actor Philippe Noiret (Il Postino) plays a corrupt insurance scam artist caught up in a scandal that involves the suicidal title character (François Berléand) and a steadily growing pile of dead bodies.
It takes a while for first-time filmmaker Guérin-Tillié to decide whether this is an existential moral crisis film or a darkly funny crime thriller. Once he chooses the latter, the intricately plotted film pays off. Great jazz-filled soundtrack, and Berléand and his hangdog mug are sweetly endearing.
AVENUE MONTAIGNE (ORCHESTRA SEATS) (Daniele Thompson). March 31, 8 pm. Rating: NNN
A pretty ingenue from Màcon (High Tension's Cécile de France) arrives penniless in Paris, and her life changes when she becomes a server at a brasserie in a chi-chi neighbourhood frequented by a bunch of temperamental arts types. These include a soap opera star (Valérie Lemercier), a concert pianist (Albert Dupontel) and an aging art collector (Claude Brasseur).
That's the simple premise of this wildly implausible but irresistible comedy, a sort of Amélie-meets-Grand Hotel.
Some of the dialogue is pretty clever, and the actors look like they're having fun, especially Lemercier, who won a César as the neurotic, sleep-deprived star who's trying to convince an American director (Sydney Pollack!) that she can play Simone de Beauvoir.
If you miss it, pas de problème. Seville's releasing it commercially in a couple of weeks.
HOTEL HARABATI (Brice Cauvin). Wednesday (March 28), 10 pm. Rating: NNN
After a Parisian husband and wife (Laurent Lucas, Hélène Fillières) discover a bag full of money left by a mysterious Arab man, they cancel their trip to Venice and find their lives coming apart.
Set in a climate of post-9/11 terrorist paranoia, the film evokes a nightmarish world of uncertainty and peril. Talented director Cauvin, making his feature debut, knows that a good psychological thriller should not have its ends tied up too neatly.
The result is oblique but haunting, with a nice, if inconsequential, cameo by the great Anouk Aimée, who still looks stunning.
BEUR BLANC ROUGE (MERGUEZ OR BAGUETTE?) (Mahmoud Zemmouri). March 29, 6 pm. Rating: NNN
A big soccer match between Algeria and France disrupts the lives of a group of buddies who have cultural roots in the former but live in the latter.
Zemmouri's film plays like a typical coming-of-age comedy, but its observations about ethnic confusion feel fresh and have lots of dramatic heft. Look for a couple of funny, biting scenes set at airports, including one where an Algerian man shaves off his beard so as not to look like a Taliban member.
The film ends inconclusively, but let's hope this isn't the last we hear from Zemmouri. We need more French-Arabic stories out there.