The French Film Festival is here again!

Once again, thanks to the Embassade de France en Malaisie, GSC and Alliance Francaise (and of course, the M’sian govy), the French Film Festival is here again!!!

Running from June 1-11 in KL and June 15-21 in Penang, it showcases a myriad of thematic films ranging from drama to documentary. Most of you would have heard of The Emperor’s Journey (La Marche de L’Empereur) – that will be screened at either GSC 1-Utama or Mid-Valley depending on the schedule. Have a gander at GSC’s website for the list of movies and showtimes.

As always, we do a movie marathon during the Film Festival. Last year, five movies were on the list but this time, since I had other domestic obligations, we cut it short to just three – Le Conveyeur, Joyeux Noel and Vipere au Poing. All there were simply amazing; the feel was radically different. I reckoned it was one of the best choices I made in regards to this year’s Film Festival.

Le Conveyeur (2004)

The story takes us to one of the worst paid jobs in France – being a security guard for armoured vehicles carrying money – cash trucks (as the title is in English). Alexandre, our main character, takes on a job as a security guard and starts his day immediately with a gun and no training. The routes are tricky and dangerous; they go to places where bigger companies don’t want to. Children taunt them and throw beer cans. The more courageous ones attempt a robbery with dire consequences.

There is a mole among the security guards at Vigilante (the company). They have been robbed by the same bunch of people three times in one year and the MO is the same: take the cash, kill EVERYONE. Alex wants to know who it is for his own reasons. The consequences of his findings are devastating.

The film starts off slowly. Of course there are some funny bits but this is a thriller/crime/adventure film that boasts little comedy but plenty of action. There is a twist at the end of the film which makes everything whole. I won’t let you in on it – it’ll just ruin the story.

Joyeux Noel (2005)

It is WWI and the French, German and Scots are up against each other – 2 against 1. No guesses as to who stands on which side. Battle is cruel and many lives have been lost – young talented lives. The Scot who lost his brother, the French solder who has no word from his wife, the German who struggles with being separated from his wife.

And oddly enough, on Christmas eve, the unexpected occured. Three sides at war came to a truce and sat down together for drinks and a church mass conducted in Latin. They sing Christmas songs together – bag pipes coupled with a tenor (in the form of a German soldier who was formerly with the Berlin Opera), and bottles of champagne/wine courtesy of the French.

It doesn’t end there. Christmas comes and suddenly they take a break from shooting each other to bury their dead, play some games (football, cards, etc), chat and exchange addresses. They speak of visiting their newfound friends after the war was over and they later went on to write letters with stories fo this encounter. Of course, it doesn’t sit well with the politicians and upper echelons of the military.
(In the beginning of the film, three boys appear in monologues talking about killing the enemy – for the German, it was the English – and these monologues were peppered with racism and blatant discrimination. That was how things were before WWI.)

This film, based on a true story (yes, I kid you not) is testament of the human spirit during times of adversity, of how similar we are despite the differences that were preached to us, of how ignorance can bring about devastating consequences.

I’d recommend that you put this at the top of your “To-Watch” list for this Film Festival. It is simply, beyond doubt, one of the best war-dramas that I’ve ever seen.

Vipere au Poing (2004)

The bitch mother from hell – that is what Mama was to Jean Rézeau. Having lived his entire childhood pampered and well, treated wonderfully, by his doting grandmother, he suddenly found himself (and his two brothers) having to contend with a witch of a mother who believes that butter is bad for children, heaters are of no use to them, and a thin blanket during winter is good enough. Gifts of fountain pens and coins are locked away in the wardrobe cupboard and the key kept in Mama’s bossom. No more hugs, no more kisses and definitely very little playtime.

Watching her makes you almost want to reach out and strangle Mama, just so Freddy, Jean and Marcel can live a normal childhood. Unfortunately it’s not possible, so you get away with feeling proud when Jean stands up to the old witch and makes life ever so difficult for her…until he runs away from home and visits HER parents.

Parents are hardly perfect and most of the time, the most evil ones have a dark past of their own. During the 20s and even up till perhaps the 60s, you could get away with mistreatment of children in France. These days, it’ll earn you a trip to the cell. Jean was lucky. He got away – his wish was done.

And you wonder…if his grandma had continued to live and his Mama all tucked away in Indochine, Jean would never have went on to write about his traumatic childhood and become famous in France, known as Hervé Bazin. Sometimes God works in really really strange ways.

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