A summer treat for Francophiles and film aficionados, the 17th annual New Orleans French Film Festival returns to the Prytania Theater this week with an eclectic array of features, from a psychological thriller set in rural Quebec (“Tom at the Farm”) to a biopic about fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent.
The weeklong fête, which is presented by the New Orleans Film Society and the Consulat Général de France à la Nouvelle-Orléans, began as a weekend event, but as it grew in popularity, the organizers expanded the program. John Desplas, the artistic director of the NOFS, notes that the French films screened at the Prytania Theater often attract a large audience.
“The French take their cinema seriously — more so than any other nationality,” Desplas said. “They produce some of the most interesting films out there.”
The New Orleans Film Society provided a detailed schedule of the New Orleans French Film Festival, complete with descriptions.
Friday, Aug. 1
5:30 p.m.: “Tom at the Farm” (102 minutes)
Set in Quebec’s rural panorama, this psychological thriller marks the fourth film from French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan, director of “Laurence Anyways” and recent Cannes Jury Prize-winner “Mommy.” “Tom at the Farm” features Dolan as Tom, a young advertising copywriter who travels from the city to the countryside for the funeral of a loved one. There, he is shocked to find out that no one knows who he is, nor who he was to the deceased, whose brother soon sets the rules of a twisted game that plays out on the farm.
7:45 p.m.: “Yves Saint Laurent” (100 minutes)
Paris, 1957 — Barely 21 years old, Yves Saint Laurent is handed the reins of the prestigious fashion house founded by Christian Dior, who has recently died. During his first fashion show, which is a triumph, he meets Pierre Bergé. This encounter will change his life. Lovers and business partners, the two men form the Yves Saint Laurent label three years later. Despite his obsessions and his inner demons, Yves Saint Laurent gets ready to revolutionize the world of fashion with his modern and iconoclastic approach.
Saturday, Aug. 2
Noon: “Le Chef” (84 min)
In this gastronomic comedy, self-taught, aspiring chef Jacky (Michaël Youn) has the talent but not the luck. Star chef Alexandre Lagarde (veteran actor Jean Reno, “The Professional”) is in danger of losing his reputation, along with his beloved restaurant. Fate brings the two together and helps them along a journey through the intoxicating world of French haute-cuisine. Desperate to cling to his status as a “three-star chef,” Lagarde teams up with Jacky and together they try to find the balance between tradition and trend.
1:45 p.m.: “Marius” (93 min)
In the 1920s Marseille, Marius works at his father César’s bar but aspires to the life of a merchant seaman. As much as he loves the idea of adventure, he also pines for the fishmonger’s beautiful daughter Fanny, without knowing that she harbors secret feelings of love for him, too. But Panisse, an aging, heirless widower, declares his intention to wed Fanny and father a son to inherit the family sailing business. It’s based on Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille trilogy and directed by actor/auteur Daniel Auteuil.
3:45 p.m.: “Mr. leos caraX” (71 min)
In France, Leos Carax (“Holy Motors,” “Lovers on the Bridge”) has long been branded as a mysterious, solitary filmmaker with an aversion to the media and the public at large. Yet outside of his home country, his work takes precedence over this public image, and he is recognized as an icon of world cinema. This documentary tackles the complex artist — a cult figure since his first feature — by plunging the spectator into the poetic and visionary world of his films. An immersive and dreamlike portrait inspired by his singular artistic vision.
5:30 p.m.: “Tom at the Farm” (102 min)
Sunday, Aug. 3
Noon: “A Summer’s Tale” (114 min)
Celebrated French auteur Éric Rohmer’s light-as-air 1996 classic “A Summer’s Tale” — the third film in his Four Seasons — has finally received the big-screen treatment in the U.S. for the first time ever with a newly restored print. About the film, which stars Melvil Poupaud (“Time to Leave,” “Laurence Anyways”), the Village Voice says it “feels like a great beach read of a movie. ... (The film) makes obvious this director’s influence on the epic walk-and-talks and romantic inquisitions of latter-day Richard Linklater. It’s a merciful vision, and a vacation we all deserve.”
2:30 p.m.: “Fanny” (102 min)
Fanny settles in for an intimate look at the travails of Fanny’s life with Panisse, the man who stepped up when her honor was at stake. From the marriage, Fanny will get financial security and avoid scandal, while Panisse gets what he wants. Newcomer Victoire Belezy is more than up for the task of conveying Fanny’s emotional turmoil, and Jean-Pierre Darroussin is a surprisingly sympathetic Panisse, hoping to wrest some genuine love from the arrangement. As long as Marius stays out of the picture, he has a chance. It’s based on Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille trilogy and directed by actor/auteur Daniel Auteuil.
5 p.m.: “Mood Indigo” (94 min)
From visionary director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Science of Sleep”) comes this surreal and poetic story set in fantastical Paris, where Colin, an inventive young man (Romain Duris), meets Chloé (Audrey Tatou), who seems to be the incarnation of the blues by Duke Ellington. Their idyllic marriage turns to sorrow when Chloé becomes ill, due to a water lily growing in her lung. To pay for her medical care, Colin must work in increasingly absurd conditions, while their apartment falls to bits around them.
Monday, Aug. 4
Noon: “Yves Saint Laurent” (100 min)
7:30 p.m.: “Queen Margot” (159 min)
The historical novel by Alexandre Dumas was adapted for the screen with this lavish French epic, winner of five Césars and a pair of awards at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival (including the Jury Prize and Best Actress). This 20th anniversary screening features a newly restored 4K director’s cut. Isabelle Adjani stars as Margot, daughter of scheming Catholic power player Catherine de Medici. At a time when Protestants and Catholics are vying for political control of France, Margot marries a prominent Protestant (played by Daniel Auteuil).
Tuesday, Aug. 5
Noon: “Marius” (93 min)
7:30 p.m.: “Chinese Puzzle” (117 min)
The final installment in Cedric Klapisch’s trilogy –— which began with “L’auberge Espagnole” followed by “Russian Dolls” — this film rejoins the international cast of characters who met in college and are now in their 40s. Romain Duris plays a father of two who is finishing his new novel. When his ex (Kelly Reilly) decides to take their children to live in Manhattan, he decides to follow them. Meanwhile, as he adjusts to life in the bustling new metropolis, his friends Isabelle (Cécile de France) and Martine (Audrey Tautou) are never far away.
Wednesday, Aug. 6
Noon: “Fanny” (102 min)
7:30 p.m.: “Bicycling with Moliere” (104 min)
In this warm, funny, literate comedy, two French actors (Fabrice Luchini and Lambert Wilson) portray two French actors, friends at odds with each other in every possible way, except with regard to their love for performing Molière’s “The Misanthrope.” Set on the glorious île de Ré, located off France’s Atlantic coast, the film follows the two as they argue, rehearse scenes, bike along the island’s windswept beaches and consider their options — as personified by a local porn actress and an attractive Italian divorcée — as well as the ever-present lure of island real estate.
Thursday, Aug. 7
Noon: “A Summer’s Tale” (114 min)
5:30 p.m.: Mood Indigo (94 min)
8 p.m.: “Abuse of Weakness” (105 min)
Known for her controversial deconstructions of gender politics played out in the sexual arena, writer/director Catherine Breillat (“Fat Girl,” “The Last Mistress”) is one of the most uncompromising filmmakers in France. In this starkly unsentimental autobiographical story, Breillat recounts the real-life events that led to her getting taken for nearly a million dollars by the notorious con man Christophe Rocancourt. Formidable actress Isabelle Huppert (“The Piano Teacher,” “Amour”) plays Maude, the Breillat-like filmmaker who has suffered a stroke and finds solace in opportunistic Vilko, played by rapper Kool Shen.