Film festival opening nights are always special at Palace Byron Bay, and la première nuit of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival looks set to be une soirée joyeuse indeed. See at the end of our story for your chance to win a double pass to the festival.
Following the opening night film Gemma Bovery, the party continues with a selection of premium wines, delicious canapés from Luscious Catering, and entertainment from the incomparable Ilona Harker channelling her inner French diva. The fun starts on Thursday April 9 with pre-film drinks at 6.30 pm, followed by Gemma Bovery at 7 pm.
When an English couple named Gemma and Charles Bovery move into a small Normandy town, Martin Joubert, the baker and resident Flaubert fan, can’t believe it. Here are two real life figures who seem to be replicating the behaviour of his favourite fictional characters right before his eyes.
“A jewel of humour and intelligence…beautifully performed” – La Croix
This charming retelling of the classic Madame Bovary story is a visual feast, from the picturesque countryside to the so-good-you-can-almost-taste-it patisserie. Gemma Arterton is the playfully updated version of France’s most famous heroine, with Fabrice Luchini as the smitten baker and film’s narrator. Complications ensue when Gemma meets a dashing aristocrat – just as the plot unfolds in the book.
Skilfully directed by Anne Fontaine, who also made the similarly sumptuous Coco Before Chanel, Gemma Bovery is based on the popular graphic novel by Posy Simmonds. Balancing real sensuality and hilarious one-liners, this is an endearing film about the dangers of stirring passions, with Arterton radiant as the titular bored housewife and Luchini delightful as always in the role of the comically obsessed baker.
Saint Laurent, a spectacular celebration of the famous and flamboyant designer’s artistry, drive and inspiration, screens at 3.45 pm on Friday April 10. This fascinating biopic focuses on Yves Saint Laurent at the zenith of his celebrity and explores his relationships, neuroses, addictions and insecurities. It is, appropriately, a true work of art and France’s entry in the 2015 Academy Awards. The always-charismatic Gaspard Ulliel delivers a compelling performance as the tortured iconoclast, ably supported by Aymeline Valade and Léa Seydoux as his muses. However, it is the performances of Louis Garrel as the preening model and Jérémie Renier as Pierre Bergé that are the real stand-outs. Saint Laurent’s fall from grace and his subsequent rise to fame are well known, but this fascinating film adds new layers to his story of redemption. The other stars of the film are the outstanding soundtrack, and, of course, the clothes – be prepared for a continuous display of covetable garments that serve as a reminder of the true genius behind the aloof façade of Saint Laurent.
Screening on Saturday April 11 at 9 pm is Samba. The writing-directing duo Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache reunite with The Intouchables star Omar Sy to tell the story of a cross-cultural romance against the backdrop of France’s immigration challenges. Samba (Omar Sy) is a Senegalese dishwasher who dreams of being a chef. Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is his immigration caseworker and his only hope to stay in France. Together, they might find a future, but the path will not be an easy one.
Samba cements Omar Sy as a magnetic screen presence and Gainsbourg is superb once again as an anxious woman out of her element. Both the story and the performances are full of surprises with wonderful support from Tahar Rahim as an Algerian migrant pretending to be Brazilian.
Highly polished and appealing, it is easy to see why Samba was featured in the Gala presentation of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. After the worldwide success of The Intouchables, directors Toledano and Nakache once again explore real issues through complex and touching relationships to create this thought-provoking piece of cinema.
Verandah Magazine is delighted to be a supporter of this year’s Alliance Française French Film Festival at the Palace Byron Bay Cinema, April 9-14. We have three double passes to give away to our readers – simply leave a comment in our Facebook comment box below, or on our facebook page – facebook.com/verandahmagazine to be in the running for a double pass to this year’s festival, with films selected by the two legends of Australian cineman, Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton.