French Film Immersion: Cinefranco
If you're a francophone, Francophile, or just like movies, Cinefranco has almost 40 features on this week from Canada, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Morocco and the Middle East. The great thing about this festival is that it caters to film lovers rather than industry, with a focus on playing good movies and getting the latest French-language cinema on screen - west of the Quebec border.
My pick of the crop? It's a toss-up between Vincent Pluss' The Noise In My Head (Du bruit dans la tête) and the festival closer It's Hard Being Loved By Jerks (C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons).
In The Noise In My Head, a journalist in her thirties brings a homeless teen to her apartment for an extended stay. Céline Bolomey won the 2009 Swiss Film Prize for Best Actress for her role as the unsound and lonely Laura. After she gets fired, I expect the pair to form an unlikely friendship - or worse, a taboo romance - but Pluss creates something a little more interesting with the strangers awkwardly trying to cohabitate and get along.
A passionate defense for freedom of speech, It's Hard Being Loved By Jerks documents the suit brought by Muslim organizations against weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for reprinting controversial caricatures of Muhammad. The publication created a huge clash between fundamentalist Islam and Western values in France, much like it did when the images were first published in Denmark in 2006. In the documentary, Daniel Leconte captures some of this debate, with an emphasis on witnesses and arguments presented in Charlie Hebdo's defense.
Also on the roster, Made in Italy finds humour in loss, failure, and disappointment. When a writer returns to Turin for his father's funeral, a slew of the old man's mistresses and children show up. Dealing with his father's debts and dramas somehow relieves his writer's block.
As a film nerd, I loved the concept (but not the execution) of Childhoods (Enfances), six shorts by six different filmmakers that capture meaningful moments in the young lives of Fritz Lang, Orson Welles, Jean Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman and Jacques Tati. Stéphane Gehami's second feature, Straight to the Heart (En plein coeur), a 'gritty' drama about a pair of petty car thieves in Montreal, opens the festival tonight.