Six thought-provoking films featuring subjects as wide-ranging as Versailles in the final days of the Ancien Regime, French colonial rule in the mid-20th century, life in contemporary Paris for immigrant schoolchildren and the trials and triumphs of a young medical student in a busy Parisian hospital will be featured when Salve Regina University presents its French Film Festival March 26-April 6.
All films are open to the public and will be screened on campus in the O’Hare Academic Building’s Bazarsky Lecture Hall on Ochre Point Avenue. Tuesday screenings will be followed by a discussion.
An opening night wine and cheese reception will be held Sunday, March 26 after the 4 p.m. screening of “School of Babel,” while the Sunday, April 2 matinee screening of “Far From Men” will be preceded by a pastry and coffee reception.
Festival passes for admittance to all films and events during the week are available for $35; Sunday films with receptions are $15; and weeknight films are $10. Tickets and festival passes are available at the door or online. Visit www.salve.edu/french-film-festival or call (401) 341-2197 for more information.
The following films will be featured during the festival:
La Cour de Babel/School of Babel
Sunday, March 26 at 4 p.m.
“School of Babel” follows a year in a Paris schoolroom for children who have recently immigrated to France. Using an intimate fly-on-the-wall style, Julie Bertucelli’s documentary gives us glimpses into the lives of tweens and teens from Mauritania, Serbia, Venezuela, Rumania, Senegal, Libya, Ireland, Brazil and China. The film’s triumph is in its succinct manner of creating complex portraits of the children and capturing the diversity of their experience. While “School of Babel” is full of incidental insights into French immigration policy and various headline-grabbing sociopolitical situations, the focus remains squarely in the classroom and on the children as individuals wrestling with a new language and a new culture (their heroic teacher primarily remains an off-screen presence).
Valley of Love
Tuesday, March 28 at 7 p.m.
Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu are reunited in Guillaume Nicloux’s deeply original “Valley of Love.” France’s two leading stars play Gerard and Isabelle, a divorced couple of famous actors who meet in Death Valley after receiving a letter from their dead son, a recent suicide, promising that he will reappear in the desert at a specific time and place. While Nicloux fills “Valley of Love” with discordant visions worthy of David Lynch and wry observations of the inevitable culture clash between French and American guests in a godforsaken motel, the heart of the movie is the aura of its two stars and the collective memory they embody.
Hippocrate/Hippocrates, Diary of a French Doctor
Thursday, March 30 at 7 p.m.
Using young medical student Benjamin (played by rising star Vincent Lacoste) as a guide, director Thomas Lilti takes the viewer on a “backstage” tour of a labyrinthine Paris hospital where life and death decisions make fuses run short. During his first internship, timorous Benjamin meets Abdel (Reda Kateb), an older, idealistic intern who already practices medicine in his native Algeria but must be accredited in France to make a better life for his family. When Benjamin’s negligence leads to the death of a homeless patient, the two doctors clash and questions of privilege arise. But they discover their shared values when they go against the system to grant a terminally ill elderly patient’s last wishes.
Loin des Hommes/Far from Men
Sunday, April 2 at 3 p.m.
Algeria, 1954. In a remote one-room schoolhouse in the Atlas Mountains, Daru (Viggo Mortensen) teaches Algerian children French. One day, local French police officers appear with Mohamed (Reda Kateb), an Algerian accused of murder, and charge Daru with escorting him to trial in the closest city while they continue to fight the growing insurrection. David Oelhoffen’s film starts off as an archetypal Western – two men thrown against each other as they traverse a barren landscape – but when Daru and Mohamed find themselves stuck between French troops and the rebel army, it turns into a gripping meditation on the fate of individuals tossed to and fro by sociopolitical forces beyond their control.
Tuesday, April 4 at 7 p.m.
With the release of her debut feature “Chocolat” in 1988, director Claire Denis appeared as a major talent who used wide shots, associative sequences of images, and an offbeat eye for detail to evoke the complex moods of Africa in the last decade of French colonial rule. “Chocolat” is seen through the eyes of a French district officer’s little girl in a remote part of Cameroon. When a French plane crash-lands nearby, the district officer takes in its passengers, a group of colonial administrators and entrepreneurs who soon bring to light the many tensions underlying the family’s apparently sleepy existence, not least of which is the deeply sensual attraction between the mistress of the house and the handsome black houseboy Protee.
Les Adieux a la Reine/Farewell, My Queen
Thursday, April 6 at 7 p.m.
Benoit Jacquot’s film about the chaos at Versailles on the eve of the 1789 revolution is told through the eyes of Sidonie, the besotted reader to Marie Antoinette. Compressed to four tumultuous days and taking place almost entirely within the royal palace, “Farewell, My Queen” tracks its protagonist relentlessly: The camera is often positioned inches behind Sidonie as she scrambles down corridors, trying to make sense of the rumors she hears among other courtiers. Sidonie may thrill to the queen’s applying rosewood water to her mosquito bites, but she seethes in silent jealousy as she watches Marie Antoinette coo over her most prized pet, Gabrielle de Polignac – who makes la reine lose her mind before she loses her head.
Visit www.salve.edu/french-film-festival or call (401) 341-2197 for more information.
Information provided by Salve Regina University.