Friday, 1 April 2011

Cinéfranco: The Final Week-end

Clémentine (Aïsaa Maïga) and Sébastien (Jocelyn Quivrin) are busy! The have two school-aged children, she is stressed out about her stagnant journalism career, and he is even more stressed out from studying for tests to advance in his career in post-Recession France. Nice son that he is, and even nicer wife that she is, Sébastien and Clémentine welcome his mother, Marie-France (Nathalie Baye) into their small apartment, after the whole family discovers (in a memorable scene) that his father, Henri (Pierre Arditi), has a pregnant mistress. Throw a ravenous puppy into the mix and this couple's relationship is tossed into a cauldron of domestic chaos! Sébastian's sister (who has secrets of her own) tries to lend emotional support via web chat, but she doesn't have to deal directly with a mother who has reverted to her adolescent, hippy period and a father who has discovered the marvels of being a father for the second time in the 21st century.

Quivrin and Maïga are a believble on screen couple with wonderful chemistry. I really like the fact that the film chose not to make an issue of the interracial relationship and focused instead on the topsy-turvy domestic situation. Nathalie Baye (can she do any wrong?) is a sexy, funny actress who brings some charm to Marie-France's tearful, slightly selfish and melodramatic personality. A Bhudist mistress, two adorable daughters who are learning new words from grandmère ("Papa, c'est quoi une ménage à trois?"), and a gay couple who debate the benefits of pharmaceutical vs natural herbal remedies, and this French farce is a delightful treat that should be seen with a big bag of popcorn and a glass of wine. Alas, you can get the popcorn at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, but you'll have to wait until after the film to have that glass of wine. Screens, Friday, April 1, 8:45pm

Donnant Donnant (Fair is Fair) is subversive little comedy about Constant, (Daniel Auteuil) a prisoner who escapes from hospital after suffering a stroke. On the run, he meets up with the forceful Silvia (Medeea Marinescu) when he seeks shelter on her houseboat. Seizing the opportunity, Silvia blackmails Constant: she will keep his secret if he kills her foster mother, Jeanne (Sabine Azema). Silvia dreams of going off to Paris to study piano, but her mother has lost touch with reality, and also holds the purse strings. Daniel Auteuil has facility with comedy that allows his to be a bumbling criminal (he is only in jail because he accidentally shot someone) a funny stroke victim struggling with diction (he reads children's books), and a romantic leading man. I have to give a shout out to the company that did the English subtitles. They did an excellent job of translating Constant's mixed up French into equally illegible English subtitles. The three talented actors makes this dark, fluffy comedy a pleasant treat. Screens Saturday, April 2, 4:30 pm.

Film can have an impact far beyond the screen. In Daoud Aoulad-Syad's La Mosquée, farmer, Moha has his life and livelihood disrupted when a a movie-set mosque is built on his land. Unable to farm, Moha now works for other people to earn a living, while trying to get the mosque torn down. The village has claimed the mosque as its spiritual and communal centre, and tourists have come to the village to have their picture taken on the "set".

Director, Daoud Aoulad-Syad, whose own film "Waiting for Pasolini" featured the mosque as well as locals as actors in the film, turns the camera back on the community in La Mosquée to depict the impact of film on everyday life, and also the confusion that can arise out of good intentions and religious interpretations. The story is simple, and the moral issues play out in everyday conversations that lend a reality to this thought-provoking tale. Moha becomes so obsessed with tearing down the mosque that he doesn't even know how to talk to his wife about anything else. She wants her son circumcised, but cannot get him to talk about the subject or anything else in the village. The "Imam" of the mosque/set becomes so enamoured of his role that he has cast himself in a role of importance while the real Imam has been ostracized. Does Moha have a right to reclaim his property even though the community is benefitting from its presence? The question is yours to answer in this beautiful film, where palms rise into the bright blue sky and the brown of the earth awaits your footsteps. Screens Sunday, April 3rd, 12:30pm

Cinéfranco Tickets: Adults $12. Students and Seniors $10. Up to 18 (in person only, with ID) $8 In Person: TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King Street West (10am-10pm) Phone: 416-599-8433; 1-888-599-8433 (10am-7pm) On Line: Surcharge on online and phone purchases. Visit website for complete details

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