Complices (Partners)

The French certainly do make some fine films

Heading into Toronto's spring film festival season, it is nice to be back in the regular swing of things and on the hunt for the latest picks from the Female Eye Fest, Images, the Toronto Jewish Film Fest, Sprockets, Hot Docs, and finally, a blitz of French-language cinema. Cinefranco is back for its 13th annual run, promising the largest showcase of international francophone cinema screening west of the Quebec border.

Organizers have selected a rare blend of movies catering to cinephiles and francophiles, including a spotlight on Swiss films and a tribute to the late QuĂŠbecois filmmaker and activist Pierre Falardeau. Here's a few recommendations for the weeklong event well worth the $10 admission price.

Recommended

So Woman! (Tricheuse)
I might have skipped So Woman! due to its unfortunate title and synopsis. I wasn't entirely convinced that I needed to know what would happen "when Clemence's landlord informs her he won't tolerate single women in his building, Farid, the piano tuner happens to be there to play the part." But there was the screener on my doorstep, with a much better take on the rom-com formula than most of the slop coming out of Hollywood lately. (March 28)

Ugly Melanie (Vilaine)
Again, I might have skipped Ugly Melanie due to its unfortunate title and Amelie-esque voice over flashbacks. But revenge is so sweet to watch when the frumpy nice girl decides she's had enough of people taking advantage. Marilou Berry is fabulous as Melanie, most of all when she's mean to old people, kittens and small children. (April 3)

Partners (Complices)
Easily the most gripping film mentioned here, Partners opens with a young man's body found floating in the river. A pair of detectives uncover a sordid a chain of events - boy meets girl, boy is a prostitute, girl gets sucked in, bad guys get involved, girl disappears - leading up to the man's death. Partners closes this year's festival. (April 3)

Not As Recommended

Skirt Day (La journĂŠe de la jupe)
Skirt Day finds a high school teacher having a really bad day. I'm reminded of that torturous stint I had substitute teaching back in 2002, where I cracked on day three, vowing never to set foot in a classroom again... except I didn't end up holding the students hostage. Skirt Day stars famed French actress Isabelle Adjani. (April 3)

The Party
It's probably a faux pas not to fully recommend one of the films paying tribute to the late Pierre Falardeau, but here goes... Strippers, blow jobs and rock and roll: that pretty much sums up The Party, a film in which a bunch of entertainers put on a show at a maximum security prison. Oh, and there's some seething tension between the disgruntled inmates and prison staff. According to festival founder Marcelle Lean, Cinefranco had difficulty securing subtitled prints of both Le Party (1989) and Octobre (1994) because Falardeau, a strong Quebec nationalist, did not like having his films translated to English. (March 27)

For a full schedule and program info, plus a lot more films that I haven't previewed, check out the Cinefranco website.

Get your French film fix at Cinefranco from March 26 to April 3 at the AMC Dundas Square and Revue Cinema. Tickets $10/$8.50 at the AMC Box office or online.

Still from Complices (Partners) courtesy of Cinefranco.


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