Binoche to open French film jamboree

Paris rolls out the red carpet - despite the strikes

by Richard Mowe

Sixties flashback for (front from left) Noémie Lvovsky, Juliette Binoche and Yolande Moreau in Martin Provost’s comedy How To Be A Good Wife due to open Unifrance’s Rendezvous with French Cinema
Sixties flashback for (front from left) Noémie Lvovsky, Juliette Binoche and Yolande Moreau in Martin Provost’s comedy How To Be A Good Wife due to open Unifrance’s Rendezvous with French Cinema Photo: © Carole Bethuel - Les Films du Kiosque
Despite France being in the grip of multifarious “grèves” (or strikes) the annual Rendezvous with French Cinema, organised in Paris by Unifrance) is putting on a positive face as the organisers prepare to welcome almost 400 buyers to what is touted as the world’s biggest film market - which runs alongside a media junket for journalists from 32 countries.

Talents up for interviews include Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert among 120 actors and directors. Binoche stars in the market’s opening film How To Be A Good Wife (La Bonne Epouse) by Martin Provost and she will be present at the screening on 16 January alongside co-star Noémie Lvovsky and the director.

The comedy, also featuring Yolande Moreau, Edouard Baer and François Berléand, is set in the Sixties in an all-girls schools in a provincial town where the pupils are trained to be “perfect housewives.” They are taught to keep house and fulfil their marital duty without flinching. Imparting the message is the school’s head Paulette Van der Beck (Binoche), together with her sister-in-law Gilberte (Moreau) and her sister Marie-Thérèse (Lvovsky). As the story unfurls on the eve of May 1968, Binoche’s character is about to see all her certainties falter, all complicated by the return of her first love (Baer) as well as the air of freedom blowing over France. She ponders: what if this good wife finally became a free woman?

Olivier Assayas - recipient of French Cinema Award
Olivier Assayas - recipient of French Cinema Award Photo: Richard Mowe
Written by Provost together with Séverine Werba, it is set in the Alsace region. The film is Provost’s seventh feature in a line-up that include the multi-award winning Séraphine (seven Césars including best film in 2009 and also starring Moreau) and The Midwife (Sage Femme) in 2017 with Catherine Frot and Catherine Deneuve.

The organisers of the event hope that the industrial action affecting local transport such as the Metro and buses as well as mainline trains including Eurostar should not impact too heavily on the event which is centred around the Champs Elysées. Attendees are accommodated within walking distance of most of the events and screenings.

Unifrance will also celebrate the 10th edition of the online festival, MyFrenchFilmFestival. With more than 30 titles presented over one month, this festival will allow French films to travel the globe via screening platforms that attract ever-increasing audiences each year. The jury comprises American director Ira Sachs; French actress Agathe Bonitzer, Jayro Bustamante, Guatemalan filmmaker; American actor-director Brady Corbet, Judith Davis, French actor-director and Czech animation film director Michaela Pavlatova.

As part of the occasion director Olivier Assayas who has worked with such actors as Isabelle Huppert, Maggie Cheung (to whom he was briefly married), Nick Nolte and Jean-Pierre Léaud and started out in his career as a film critic for Les cahiers du cinéma (1980-1985), will receive the French Cinema Award for the body of his work. His most recent outing Wasp Network (a post-cold war spy film based on a true story of five Cuban spies with Gale Garcia Bernal, Penelope Cruz and Edgar Ramirez) received mixed reviews after its bow at last year’s Venice Film Festival. It is release in France at the end of the month.

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