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Fair Grounds, all day
Final day of weekend one
Bayou Beer Garden, 9AM
The most important meal of the year
Prytania Theatre, 10AM
1933 sci-fi horror classic
Saenger Theatre, 3PM
YouTube superstar comes to town
Marigny Opera House, 5PM
Feat. guitarist and composer David Sigler
Eiffel Society, 7PM
Lord of the Rings burlesque
Maple Leaf Bar, 7PM
Feat. Walter "Wolfman" Washington and Russell Batiste, plus a crawfish boil
Bar Redux, 9PM
NOLA-based Balkan band
Zeitgeist Arts Center, 9PM
Helen Gillet presents Belgian avant garde films
La Fest en Rose
French Film Festival Offers Classics, Premieres, and More
Starting this week, francophiles and cinephiles alike can support l’art pour l’art as the New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) presents the 20th annual French Film Festival. Running Friday (4.21) through Thursday (4.27) at the Prytania Theatre, the fest highlights the crème de la crème of current and classic French cinema, with features starring the likes of fashion icon Catherine Deneuve and former vampire Kristen Stewart.
The fest is in collaboration with the Consulat Général de France á la Nouvelle-Orléans and the Prytania, with partial sponsorship from TV5Monde. Over the last two decades, the festival has evolved from a single weekend afternoon to a full week of programs, boasting everything from film premieres and retrospectives to lectures and language classes.
For 2017, the fest shifted from its traditional run during late summer to the height of festival season in New Orleans. According to John Desplas, NOFS founding member and Artistic Director Emeritus, the timing is serendipitous as it grants an exciting lineup of foreign films to have their local Louisiana premieres before summertime mainstream releases. “People seem to be intimidated by foreign language films, or they think they will be something ‘good for you,’ like taking your medicine,” said Desplas. “But these films involve you in more than just simple sensationalism. They don’t insult your intelligence, and there’s a dearth of that these days.” The programs on the lineup run the gamut from tales of French royalty, World War I, and supernatural shoppers to Technicolor musicals, fashionable French children, and Oscar-nominated animations.
Kicking off the festival is Frantz, a post-WWI romance drama between French war veteran Adrien and Anna, a young German woman whose fiancé, Frantz, was killed during the war. Desplas noted his excitement for the premiere of this film, directed by François Ozon whose works have previously appeared at the French Film Fest in 2013 (In the House) and 2015 (The New Girlfriend). From its trailer, Frantz appears evocative of the landmark French New Wave film Hiroshima, mon amour for its use of flashbacks and the thematic motif of national tragedies as a way to bridge emotional disconnections.
The festival will also feature a mini-retrospective of Jacques Demy, who was showcased three years prior at the festival. “Demy is an under-appreciated figure in French cinema,” said Desplas of the director who emerged in the same generation as Godard, Truffaut, Resnais, among others. “Yet the denouement in his works is unrivaled. The world he creates in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, for instance, is incredibly difficult to pull off.” Demi’s beloved musical romance tells the story of star-crossed lovers Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo — and served as a leading influence for the recent hit La La Land. Another of Demy’s flicks, the enchanting Two Girls of Rochefort, showcases real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac in musical adventures alongside Hollywood icon Gene Kelly.
The historic Prytania, the oldest single-screen movie theatre still operating in Louisiana, is known for its weekly matinee series of classic flicks — on Sunday/Wednesday at 10AM, the 1957 film Love in the Afternoon will serve double duty as both Prytania’s matinee movie of the week and as part of the French Film Fest. The Billy Wilder movie is based on the French novel “Ariane, jeune fille russe,” and features Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, and Maurice Chevalier.
Closing the festival is Personal Shopper, which stars Kristen Stewart as an American in Paris employed as a personal shopper for a celebrity while also seeming to be able to communicate with the dead. It is the second collaboration between Stewart and director Olivier Assayas, who last collaborated on the film industry takedown Clouds of Sils Maria, which won Stewart the César Award (known as the French version of Oscars).
The 2017 program will also feature a free lecture from Loyola University professor Mike Miley on Sunday evening. Miley will discuss the career of Jean-Pierre Léaud, the undisputed leading man of the French New Wave film movement known for his collaborations with François Truffaut (the Antoine Doinel series, which started with the iconic film The 400 Blows) and Jean-Luc Godard (Masculin Féminin, Made in U.S.A., and La Chinoise). A screening of Léaud’s most recent film The Death of Louis XIV will follow Miley’s lecture. “Film will always be the centerpiece of the festival, but we continue to try to enhance the experience,” explained Desplas. “In years past, we’ve started with music before certain films. We always want to add something else to the experience of the festival. The festival is an event, not just movie screenings.” Additional offerings this year include French language classes taught by Manon Bellet of le française á la carte, as well as French-themed live music before select films. Local talents Helen Gillet and Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes are set to perform and opera music courtesy of the New Orleans Opera Association will precede screenings on the opening night, Saturday, Sunday, and the closing night.
For a full schedule with descriptions of the films, visit the Film Society website. Individual tickets run $9 for NOFS and Prytania members / $11 for non-members. Opening night and closing night tickets are $11 for NOFS and Prytania members / $13 for non-members. A fest pass, which grants access to all screenings, will run $70 for Prytania and Film Society members and $85 for non-members.
Renard Boissiere, Linzi Falk, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Dead Huey, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via
Michael Weber, B.A.
B. E. Mintz