Jean Vigo, Jean Cocteau, Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard – the list of great French filmmakers seems endless. From its inception with the silent films of Louis Feuillade and Georges Méliès (the inspiration behind Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”), the French film industry has established a rich history of cinematic work inspired by radical innovation and visionary imagination.
French film has always been full of unexpected twists and turns. As recently as last year, the French film director Michel Hazanavicius won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, for his 2011 film, “The Artist” – the first silent movie to win the Best Picture Oscar since 1927’s “Wings,” which was the inaugural Academy Award winner in 1929.
From Feb. 21 to 24, the University of Virginia’s French Film Festival – under the auspices of the Department of French in the College of Arts & Sciences – will offer five thought-provoking examples of recent French-language cinema. Festival organizers hope to reach across academic disciplines and into the Charlottesville community to bring people together around the experience of watching French films. Each film is subtitled in English to encourage the nonFrench-speakers to attend.
The films will be screened at the City Council Chambers and at the Central Jefferson-Madison Regional Library in the McIntire Room, and on Grounds, at the Nau Hall auditorium.
“The U.Va. French Film Festival is yet another example of the University of Virginia's rich and dynamic cultural programming that serves as a bridge to our community,” said Jody Kielbasa, vice provost for the arts. “As the birthplace of cinema, France has long held a special place in the hearts of cinephiles, and French filmmakers continue to make their mark in the film industry in the 21st century.”
The French Film Festival is sponsored by several local organizations and businesses.
Each screening will be followed by a discussion and a reception to encourage further discussion. As every French film enthusiast knows, analysis and ongoing conversation about film is at the very heart of being a French cinephile.
Since the academic focus of each professor is reflected in the films they are discussing, the talk after each film promises to be as enlightening as the film itself.
- Feb. 21, 7 p.m., City Council Chambers: Ismael Ferroukhi’s 2011 film “Les hommes libres” (Free Men) depicts the story of an Algerian immigrant in Paris during World War II who is inspired to join the resistance by his friendship with a Jewish man. The post-screening roundtable discussion features U.Va. professors Ari Blatt, Department of French; Hanadi-Al-Samman, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures; and Alon Confino, Corcoran Department of History.
- Feb. 22, 7 p.m., City Council Chambers: Philippe Le Guay’s 2010 film “Les femmes du sixième étage” (The Women on the Sixth Floor) takes place in 1960s Paris, and tells the story of a conservative couple whose lives are turned topsy-turvy by the Spanish maids in their building. The after-film talk includes U.Va. professors Carrie Douglas, Department of Anthropology; and Andrea Press, Department of Media Studies, and two Ph.D. students in the Department of Spanish, Nick Wolters and Morgan Fisher.
- Feb. 23, 2 p.m., Nau Hall Auditorium: Werner Herzog’s 2010 film “La grotte des rêves perdus” (The Cave of Forgotten Dreams), was originally screened in 3D. Herzog, the great New German Cinema documentary and fiction film director, gained exclusive access inside the Chauvet caves of southern France, capturing the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind in their natural setting. Given that Herzog is German, technically this may not be a French film; nevertheless, its transcendent beauty distinguishes it as one of the great documentary features ever made. The post-Herzog discussion will be led by U.Va. professors John J. Dobbins, McIntire Department of Art; and Alison Levine, Department of French.
- Feb. 23, 7 p.m., Nau Hall Auditorium: Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea’s 2009 documentary “L’enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot” (Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno) explores the shadowy history of a lost film. In the ’50s and ’60s, Clouzot was one of France’s most acclaimed filmmakers. with masterpieces such as “The Wages of Fear” and “Les Diaboliques” under his belt. In 1963, he began work on a project called “L’Enfer,” a film about jealousy and madness, but after only three weeks, suddenly halted production and never returned to the film. Guest speaker Oliver Speck, associate professor of film studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, will lead the discussion..
- Feb. 24, 1 p.m., Central Jefferson-Madison Regional Library: Mona Achache’s 2009 film “Le hérisson” (The Hedgehog) is the story of Paloma, a serious but troubled 11-year-old girl who has decided to kill herself on her 12th birthday. Fascinated by art and philosophy, she documents her life, often with hilarious observations about the world around her. Paloma meets some kindred spirits – her building’s grumpy custodian and an elegant neighbor – who eventually inspire her to question her pessimistic view of life. In anticipation of this screening, a book club at the Jefferson-Madison library has been reading Muriel Barbery’s “L’élégance du hérisson” (“The Elegance of the Hedgehog”), from which “Le hérisson” was adapted. Following the film, there will be a book group open discussion. In addition, coffee and Belgian waffles will be served.