1 of 3
The verdict is in on the powerful L’Affaire Dumont.
2 of 3
3 of 3
CINEFRANCO at the Royal (608 College) from Friday (April 5) to April 14. All films subtitled. 2013. cinefranco.com. Rating: NNNN
What is it about francophone films that keeps anglophones away? Whether they're from Montreal or Paris (or Geneva or Brussels), French-language movies have a rough time getting distribution in English Canada.
Oh, we get the Oscar nominees and the occasional popular hit - Amour, The Intouchables, Rust And Bone - but the vast majority of French cinema goes straight to disc, or to Air Canada's seatback entertainment system.
In fact, no fewer than three titles in this year's Cinéfranco program - including Luc Picard's opening-night gala, Ésimésac (Friday, April 5, 7 pm) and Podz's Canadian Screen Award-nominated drama L'Affaire Dumont (Tuesday, April 9, 6 pm) - are already available here on DVD. But this will be the first time they've screened for Toronto audiences.
I can see why Ésimésac bypassed a theatrical run; it's a very specific sort of French-Canadian family film. I suspect one needs to be steeped in habitant culture to really appreciate the rustic-innocent charms of author Fred Pellerin's Saint-Élie-de-Caxton, which Picard previously brought to the screen in Babine. Otherwise, it just feels like a knockoff of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's clockwork eccentrics.
L'Affaire Dumont, on the other hand, should at least have played TIFF. Based on actual events, it's the story of a Montreal man (Goon's Marc-André Grondin) convicted of a brutal sexual assault (which he swears he didn't commit) and his eventual relationship with a woman (Marilyn Castonguay) who believes his protestations of innocence and works to free him after he's sentenced to four years in prison.
And Mongrel Media sent director/star Noémie Lvovsky's Camille Rewinds (April 12, 6:30 pm) straight to disc, but it's weird enough that it might have merited a theatrical run. It's Peggy Sue Got Married with different cultural references, as Lvovsky's miserable 40-year-old heroine drinks herself into a blackout and wakes up as her 16-year-old self, determined to make better choices. The director makes an appealing lead, and she's better at playing the premise for comedy than Francis Ford Coppola was.
The Chef (April 11, 8:40 pm) is an example of a crowd-pleasing comedy that maybe doesn't need to go beyond its core
audience. It's the broad sort of French commercial venture, with Jean Reno as a struggling chef who finds salvation in the cooking of a gifted amateur (comic Michaël Youn). Basically, it's Ratatouille without the rats - or the message, the wit or the charm.
Cinéfranco's not exclusively concerned with crowd-pleasers, mind you. Documentarian Franck Guérin's dramatic feature One O One (April 14, 1:30 pm) borders on the experimental, intercutting wintry scenes of a traumatized man (Yann Peira) trying to survive a viral outbreak with his flashbacks to happier, warmer times. There's some complex sexual stuff that doesn't work as well as Guérin wants it to, but the overall effect is impressive.
A canny distributor might want to book this for a week at the Royal sometime soon.