Sacramento French Film Festival
By Malcolm Maclachlan
The Ninth Annual Sacramento French Film Festival lands at the Crest Theatre (1013 K St.) starting Friday, June 18, and runs through Sunday, June 27. As always, the Festival brings a selection of newer films combined with a couple of old classics. Some of the shows will include:
“A L’Origine” (“In the Beginning,” 2009): The opening night film (8 p.m. screening) garnered several awards in France. It’s the tale of a small-time con man who creates a scheme that he loses control of when it captures the imagination of a small town filled with unemployed and desperate people. Like a lot of American art of the last couple of years, the worldwide financial crisis is playing out in the French cinema as well.
“Louise-Michel” (2008, showing June 19 at 9:20 p.m. and June 20 at 5:35 p.m.). Another tale of economic woe, this one concerns a group of factory workers trying to get revenge on their boss after he shuts down their plant. It cleaned up one the film festival circuit, including a Special Jury Prize at Sundance.
“La Journée de la Jupe” (“Skirt Day,” 2009, screening June 20 at 3:20 p.m.). This tale set in a gritty inner-city high school marked a major comeback for Isabelle Adjani, a controversial actress who the French press both loves and hates. She stars as a frustrated teacher who finally gets her kids’ attention – when she inadvertently takes them hostage with a gun.
“Fais moi plaisir!” (“Please, Please Me!” 2009, shows June 19 at 7:05 p.m. and June 20 at 1:05 p.m.). A romantic comedy about infidelity, misunderstanding and the lengths some people will go to keep their partner happy when that partner wasn’t actually unhappy in the first place.
“Les Beaux Gosses” (“French Kissers,” 2009, June 26th at 7:05 p.m.). So I guess that is what they call it in France. This tale of high school awkwardness and rejection follows themes familiar to American audiences – and even features as mullet-wearing Metallica fan among the male leads (something I remember from high school in the ‘80s).
Classics: The festival always features some old standbys. This year that list is led by “Diva” (1981, June 19th at 11:15 a.m. & June 20 at 8 p.m.). I actually saw this in an art house theater when I was a teenager, and I can say it’s great. A young postal employee is obsessed with an American opera singer – and his chance to meet her lands him in the midst of a drug and murder conspiracy. It has one of the best chase sequences I’ve seen – all on mopeds. Jason Bourne has nothing on this one.
Midnight movies: Both Saturday nights of the festival will feature a midnight movie “too outrageous, scary or violent for the timid.” The more violent of the two would have to be “C’est Arrivé Près de Chez Vous” (“Man Bites Dog,” June 26). This nihilistic “horror-comedy” from 1992 was an early entry in the “mockumentary” format. It features a film crew making a documentary about Ben, a witty and engaging guy who happens to be a small-time thief and big serial killer. The sheer casualness of Ben’s violence is the point here, kind of like watching a nicely-staged train wreck. Is it a statement on the media, or the slippery nature of moral compromise? It’s the kind of film that Hollywood could never carry off, but somehow works in French.
But oddly, it’s likely to be the far less controversial midnight film, since the June 19 show is “Le Locataire,” a 1976 thriller directed, co-written and starring one Roman Polanski. This tale of “urban paranoia and mental disintegration” is classic Polanski. The director, of course, is on house arrest in Switzerland awaiting extradition to the U.S. on a 1977 charge of statutory rape with a 13-year-old girl.
Other Summer Film Festivals
By Tony Sheppard
The 9th Annual Sacramento French Film Festival is just one of many film festivals hosted by the historic Crest Theatre, including the Sacramento Jewish Film Festival (February) and the Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (October). But there are also multiple festival opportunities in the summer – the French Film Festival is followed in July by the 6th Annual Sacramento Japanese Film Festival and the 11th Annual Sacramento Film & Music Festival, a ten-day, submission-based, juried event that encompasses multiple genres and countries of origin. For more information on these summer events:
6th Annual Japanese Film Festival, July 9th-11th
11th Annual Sacramento Film and Music Festival, July 23rd-August 1st
This is Pride week in Sacramento and the annual parade and festival take place on Saturday, June 19th from 10am – 5pm. The parade starts at 7th and T Streets and goes to the festival’s new home on the Capitol Mall, between 3rd and 7th Streets. Full details at sacramentopride.org