French Film Festival takes flight with Yolande Moreau

Henri Filmmaker attends opening gala of 21st edition.

by Amber Wilkinson

Candy Ming in Yolande Moreau's Henri. "There's obviously a parallel in the film, with the flight and the freedoms of the characters."
Candy Ming in Yolande Moreau's Henri. "There's obviously a parallel in the film, with the flight and the freedoms of the characters."
Yolande Moreau's first solo directorial film Henri brought some warmth to a rainswept night in Edinburgh for the opening of the French Film Festival UK last night. Despite a flight delay, Moreau gamely came straight to the pre-film soiree at the city's Di-Vin bar from the airport, showing an admirable willingness to embrace the Scottish elements, which were out in force.

Introducing the film - about a recently widowed restrauter (Pippo Delbono) and Rosette (Candy Ming) a girl from the local sheltered housing establishment for young people with learning difficulties - she promised to come back for a Q&A afterwords unless "you disappear like flies".

The idea flying off was an interesting choice of metaphor, as the film concerns itself with freedoms and imagery of taking wing abounds, from the homing pigeons Henri keeps as a hobby to a stream of flowers flowing behind a car as though it were the tail of a kite. It is in its emotional moments that the film works most succesfully and might better have been titled Rosette, as it is the young, near silent woman, who most holds our attention. Her dreams of escape are poetically captured even as Henri remains something of a mystery to the end of the runtime.

Pippo Delbono and Candy Ming as Henri and Rosette. "I wanted to point out in the film, not so much the differences but what is similar."
Pippo Delbono and Candy Ming as Henri and Rosette. "I wanted to point out in the film, not so much the differences but what is similar."
Speaking after the film, about the choice of a Rosette as a character, Yolande said: "I have always had a fascination with learning difficulties, they reflect our own problems and difficulties. I wanted to point out in the film, not so much the differences but what is similar. The differences we see at the beginning of the film disappear little by little and Rosette appears more normal, more valiant more courageous - braver than Henri."

Adressing the pigeons, which play such an important part of the film, she said: "One thing to know about pigeons is that they are very faithful to their mate, and when you let them go, maybe 1000 miles away, they return in about 12 hours to get back to their mate. There's obviously a parallel in the film, with the flight and the freedoms of the characters."

Shooting the pigeons themselves, however, did make for some challenges. "It was very, very tricky. First of all, you had to bring along 4,000 pigeons, so many people from the pigeon clubs brought along their own pigeons. It goes very fast but the cameraman had the idea of filming everything in slow motion, so that it could last longer."

The film marks the start of a packed 21st edition for the festival, which will also kicked off in London last night with a gala screening of Sylvain Chomet's first full-length film venture outside of animation, the charmingly retro love letter to memory Attila Marcel. That film, along with Chomet - who lived in Edinburgh for several years while he made The Illusionist - will appear in the Scottish captial tonight.

The festival runs from now until December 7. For more reviews and coverage of the festival, visit our dedicated section and for further details of tickets and venues across the country, see the official website.

Yolande Moreau at Filmhouse Edinburgh for the premiere of Henri
Yolande Moreau at Filmhouse Edinburgh for the premiere of Henri Photo: Kasia Malinowska

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