The French Film Festival returns to New Orleans this summer for its 19th year. In the midst of New Orleans’ intense summer heat, the festival gives film fans a chance to slip into a cool theater and experience cinéma à la Françoise.
Presented by the New Orleans Film Society, the Consulat General de France a la Nouvelle-Orleans and the Prytania Theatre, the festival runs today (Thursday, July 7) through July 14.
French Film Festival Highlights include acclaimed director’s Arnaud Desplechin’s “My Golden Days (Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse).” The opening-night film, “My Golden Days” screens today at the Orpheum Theater. An after-party at the Moxy Hotel will follow. All other screenings take place at the Prytania Theatre, the festival’s longtime home.
Director Jean-Charles Hue will attend the July 9 screening of his film, “Eat Your Bones (Mange tes morts).” Following a post-screening Q&A with the director at the Prytania, Hue will give a masterclass at the Henry Howard Hotel at 4:30 p.m.
Hue’s appearance is a first for the French Film Festival, said Jolene Pinder, executive director of the New Orleans Film Society. She hopes more French-language filmmakers will attend next year’s festival. Filmmakers-in-attendance are a staple of the fall’s New Orleans Film Festival.
“That level of engagement with the artists makes it different than just going to see a movie,” Pinder said.
Hue’s presence at the festival plus the opening-night screening at the Orpheum and opening-night party at the Moxy Hotel are part of the French Film Festival’s expansion, Pinder added.
Other festival highlights this summer include a screening of the newly restored “Black Girl (La Noire de...),” a French-language Senegalese film by African cinema pioneer Ousmane Sembène. Two classics of French New Wave cinema — Jean-Luc Godard’s “Band of Outsiders (Bande à part)” and François Truffault’s “Soft Skin (La peau douce)” — are also on the schedule.
“Those three films,” said Clint Bowie, the Film Society’s director of programming, “speak to the long history of French language cinema. They add variety alongside the contemporary voices.”
The 2016 program also features new films with Juliette Binoche, Guillaume Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert.
The French Film Festival is among the New Orleans Film Society’s most popular events, Pinder said.
“It’s part of our identity,” she said. “We have a loyal audience that looks forward to this event every year. So that was part of the decision to invest more resources in it.”
Festival passes, available for $70 plus tax to film society members, may be purchased at neworleansfilmsociety.org or the NOFS desk at each venue. Individual tickets may be purchased online at neworleansfilmsociety.org, prytaniatheatreneworleans.com and at venues during the festival. NOFS member prices are not available via the Prytania website.
“My Golden Days (Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse)”: July 7, 7:30 p.m.
A film by acclaimed director Arnaud Desplechin (“A Christmas Tale,” “Kings and Queen”), “My Golden Days” follows Paul Dédalus, an anthropologist preparing to leave Tajikistan. Played in middle age by Matheiu Amalric, Dédalus reflects upon his life, beginning with his childhood in Roubaix. Most of all, he remembers Esther, the beautiful, haughty love of his life.
“The Innocents (Les Innocentes)”: July 8, 7:30 p.m.; July 11, noon
In December, 1945, while Mathilde is treating the last French survivor from the German camps, a panicked Benedictine nun interrupts. The nun begs Mathilde to accompany her to the convent. There, Mathilde finds a nun about to give birth. Agata Kulesza, who appeared in the Oscar-winning “Ida,” co-stars as the convent’s mother superior.
“Les Cowboys”: July 8, 9:45 p.m.; July 10, 9 p.m.
Alain is an important man in his community. During a country-and-western gathering, he dances with his teen daughter, Kelly, as his wife and their son, Kid, watch. When Kelly disappears, the family falls apart. Alain’s quest to find his daughter takes him to unsettling places. Kid sacrifices his youth to accompany his father during the seemingly endless search.
“Dheepan”: July 9, 6:45 p.m.; July 12, 9 p.m.; July 14, 9:15 p.m.
The winner of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, “Dheepan” tells a survival story about a Sri Lankan rebel who poses as a refugee in France. He encounters more violence in the streets of Paris.
“Eat Your Bones”: July 9, 2:30 p.m.
Featuring nonprofessional actors, “Eat Your Bones” blends documentary and fiction in a depiction of the Romany people of northern France. The film centers upon 18-year-old Jason, whose life is disrupted by the return of his criminal half-brother, Fred.
“Young Tiger (Bébé tigre): July 9, 9 p.m.
Many, a Punjabi teenager pursuing an education in France, is torn between his wish to establish a life in Europe and the pressure to send money home. He keeps his criminal activities secret from his girlfriend and foster family.
“DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID (Journal d’une femme de chambre)”: July 10, 5 p.m.; July 12, noon
Léa Seydoux (“Blue Is the Warmest Color”) plays Célestine, a Parisian chambermaid exiled to the provinces. Célestine chafes against the harsh rules and pettiness of her bourgeois mistress. The chambermaid must also rebuff the advances of the mistress’ husband. Meanwhile, the estate’s melancholy gardener fascinates her.
“Band of Outsiders (Bande à part)”: July 10, 7 p.m.; July 11, 9:30 p.m.
Four years after “Breathless,” Jean-Luc Godard again reimagined the gangster film with 1964’s “Band of Outsiders.” Two restless young men recruit the object of their mutual affection to help them commit a robbery. Classic scenes include a run through the Louvre and a dance sequence featuring the Madison.
“Soft Skin (La peau douce”: July 10, 2:30 p.m.
François Truffaut followed his internationally successful “Jules and Jim” with a story of infidelity. Jean Desailly plays a seemingly happily married scholar who has an affair with a beautiful flight attendant (Catherine Deneuve’s sister, Françoise Dorléac). The film’s atmosphere grows increasingly tense. Truffaut made the film while he was immersed in the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
“Summertime (La belle saison”): July 11, 7:30 p.m.; July 14, noon
In France, circa 1971, farmer’s daughter Delphine (Izia Higelin) moves to Paris. She wants to free herself from rural life and gain financial independence. In Paris, Delphine meets Carole (Cécile de France), a woman who’s participating in the rising feminist movement. Their affair turns their lives upside down.
Courts Metrages (Three short films): July 12, 7:30 p.m.
“Breathe (Ses Souffles)”: After a girl named Lizon attends a birthday party, she wishes she can have the same experience that her friend, Marie enjoyed — a party with a cake and friends.
“Don’t Speak About Love (Ne Parlez pas d’amour)”: Samir, a nervous, impulsive young student, loves Leah, the wheelchair-bound girl in his class.
“Mother (Maman)”: Eight-year-old Aida lives with her family in an apartment in the Paris suburbs. When her father returns from Senegal, he brings a young Senegalese woman with him. He introduces her as his new, second wife. Aida, noting her mother’s distress, wants to rid her family of the newcomer.
“Black Girl (La Noire de...)”: July 13, 7:30 p.m.
Senegalese novelist and director Ousmane Sembène achieved international fame with “Black Girl,” his first feature film. In this 1966 drama, a young woman trades the hardships of her native Dakar for an equally challenging life as a maid working for a French family on the Côte d’Azur.
“Francofonia”: July 9, 5 p.m.; July 13, noon
Set against the backdrop of the Louvre Museum, “Francofonia” meditates upon art, culture, and history. Director Alexander Sokurov (“Russian Ark”) concentrates on two real-life characters who were forced to collaborate at the Louvre during the Nazi occupation of France.
“The Wait (L’Attesa)”: July 13, 9 p.m.
With Sicily as the backdrop, Juliette Binoche’s Anna meets her son Giuseppe’s French girlfriend, Jeanne. After the young and enchanting Jeanne arrives, the continuing absence of Giuseppe casts a shadow over the household.
“Valley of Love”: July 14, 7:30 p.m.
In this examination of a broken family, Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu pay slightly fictionalized versions of their real-life selves. A separated couple, the two haven’t seen each other in years — until they accept an invitation from their son, Michael, to visit Death Valley, California. Despite the son’s suicide six months before, Huppert and Depardieu follow the program he designed for his estranged parents.