Film News: Music Box Theatre to Debut Chicago French Film Festival

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CHICAGO – For the first time, a foreign film festival in Chicago will focus solely on the latest and greatest works from France. On July 22nd, the Music Box Theatre will kick off its three-day inaugural festival of French cinema, featuring eight pictures that have recently garnered praise from audiences and festival goers around the globe. It may prove to be just the ticket for movie buffs bored with summer blockbusters and outdated superheroes.

Bookending this year’s festival are appearances by two major figures in the French film industry. Director/co-writer Jean-Pierre Améris will be present for the opening night screening of his neurotic comedy, “Romantics Anonymous,” starring Benoît Poelvoorde (“Man Bites Dog”) and Isabelle Carré (“Private Fears in Public Places”). The picture was a surprise hit in France, thus rekindling interest in Améris’s acclaimed body of work (his 2004 drama “Lightweight” was screened at Cannes).

One of the country’s most respected veteran actresses, Josiane Balasko, is scheduled to appear for the closing night screening of her film, “The Hedgehog,” an adaptation of Muriel Barbery’s bestselling book about the unlikely friendship between a widowed janitor and a precocious girl. Balasko may be best known to English audiences for her role as nomadic lesbian Marijo in the 1995 comedy, “French Twist,” which she also co-wrote and directed. “Hedgehog” marks the feature filmmaking debut of 30-year-old writer/director Mona Achache.

Benoît Poelvoorde and Isabelle Carré star in Jean-Pierre Améris’s Romantics Anonymous.
Benoît Poelvoorde and Isabelle Carré star in Jean-Pierre Améris’s Romantics Anonymous.
Photo credit: Tribeca Films

Other highlights at this year’s festival include “Point Blank,” the latest crime thriller from director Fred Cavayé, whose 2008 hit “Anything for Her” inspired last year’s Paul Haggis/Russell Crowe remake, “The Next Three Days.” Kristen Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier are paired in the seductive mystery, “Love Crime,” which has the distinction of being the last film from director Alain Corneau (“Fear and Trembling”), who died in 2010. One of the festival’s hottest tickets will surely prove to be “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life,” starring Eric Elmosnino (“Summer Hours”) as the hugely influential singer/songwriter/filmmaker Serge Gainsbourg. It is the debut feature of Joann Sfar, a comic book artist best known for the “Dungeon” series, which points a satirical eye at sword and sorcery conventions.

Here is the complete festival lineup, in order of appearance…

“Romantics Anonymous” (2010), Jean-Pierre Améris

Friday, July 22, 7:45pm

Synopsis: “This delectable comedy tells the story of Angélique (Isabelle Carré), a gifted chocolate-maker with a lifelong case of uncontrollable shyness. Jean-René (Benoît Poelvoorde) suffers from a similar case of terminal abashment and runs a fledgling chocolate company in desperate need of a new direction. When the two nervous Nellies meet, they are forced to fess up to their sweet affections for each other. Print courtesy of Tribeca Films.”

“Point Blank” (2010), Fred Cavayé

Friday, July 22, 10pm

Synopsis: “When Samuel’s wife is kidnapped before his very eyes, he soon discovers that a dangerous criminal named Sartet is responsible, and if he’s ever to see his wife again, he must do Sartet’s bidding. Samuel quickly finds himself pitted against rival gangsters and trigger-happy police in a deadly race to save the lives of his wife and unborn child. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.”

“Hands Up” (2010), Romain Goupil

Saturday, July 23, 2:30pm

Synopsis: “From the year 2067, Milana looks back to the present day when she was a young Chechen immigrant in Paris, and her school friends plotted together to help save her from deportation. Director Romain Goupil has drawn brilliant and honest performances out of the young cast through a series of improvisations. This charming and thought-provoking film had a Special Event Screening at Cannes and has met with international critical success. Print courtesy of Institut français.”

“Love Crime” (2010), Alain Corneau

Saturday, July 23, 5:30pm

Synopsis: “Within the sterile offices of a powerful multinational corporation, two women come to a face-off. Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier) is a young executive under the orders of Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas), a powerful woman she absolutely idolizes. Confident of her control over Isabelle, Christine leads her into a confusing, perverse game of seduction and domination. A dangerous game that goes too far – to the point of no return. Courtesy of Sundance Selects.”

Garance Le Guillermic and Josiane Balasko star in Mona Achache’s The Hedgehog.
Garance Le Guillermic and Josiane Balasko star in Mona Achache’s The Hedgehog.
Photo credit: NeoClassics Films Ltd.

“Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life” (2010), Joann Sfar

Saturday, July 23, 8:30pm

Synopsis: “The Chicago International Music and Movies Fest co-presents this completely original take on one of France’s greatest mavericks, the illustrious and infamous singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. Employing a witty surrealistic style and a soundtrack that includes many of the musician’s greatest hits, the film follows Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino) from his precocious childhood in Nazi-occupied Paris to pop superstar. Along the way he romances many of the era’s most beautiful women, including Juliette Greco, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin. Courtesy of Music Box Films.”

“The Women on the 6th Floor,” Phillippe Le Guay

Sunday, July 24, 2pm

Synopsis: “Paris, 1960. Jean-Louis (Fabrice Luchini) lives a bourgeois existence absorbed in his work, cohabitating peacefully with his wife Suzanne (Sandrine Kiberlain). His world is turned upside-down when he hires a Spanish maid (Natalia Verbeke), who introduces him to a group of sassy women, refugees of the Franco regime, living just a few floors up on the building’s sixth floor. Courtesy of Strand Releasing.”

“The Heir Apparent: Largo Witch” (2008), Jérôme Salle

Sunday, July 24, 4:30pm

Synopsis: “When Billionaire Nerio Winch is murdered, the focus shifts to his reluctant adopted heir, Largo, to take over the reins of his late father’s major international corporation. But first he must overcome the onslaught of drug traffickers, assassins, militia fighters and double-dealing corporate-political traders to fulfill his destiny at the head of the table in this fast-paced Euro action-adventure thriller. Courtesy of Music Box Films.”

“The Hedgehog” (2010), Mona Achache

Sunday, July 24, 7pm

Synopsis: “Inspired by the best-selling book ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog,’ this is the story of Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic), a young girl chronicling the hypocrisy of the adult world with her video camera. When Paloma begins to learn about life from the grumpy building concierge, Renée Michel (Josiane Balasko), she begins to understand that there are allies to be found beneath the prickliest of exteriors. Courtesy of NeoClassics Films Ltd.”

The Chicago French Film Festival is supported by the Cultural Service of the Consulate General of France in Chicago, Institut Français, Sofitel Chicago and Unifrance. For tickets and additional info, visit http://www.musicboxtheatre.com.

By MATT FAGERHOLM
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com

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