Sunday, July 7, 2013

2013 Sacramento French Film Festival

I returned to Sacramento in June to see the 2013 Sacramento French Film Festival (SFFF).  I attended the 2012 SFFF.  As in 2012, this year's SFFF was held at the Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento.  As an aside, the Crest stopped daily movie screenings earlier this year but its main auditorium remains available for "one off" film & live events as well as most of Sacramento's film festival screenings.

Three Worlds starring Raphaël Personnaz, Clotilde Hesme & Arta Dobroshi; directed by Catherine Corsini; French with subtitles; (2010) - Official Facebook
Adieu Berthe starring Denis Podalydès, Valérie Lemercier & Isabelle Candelier; directed by Bruno Podalydès; French with subtitles; (2012) - Official Facebook
Going Places starring Gérard Depardieu, Patrick Dewaere & Miou-Miou; directed by Bertrand Blier; French with subtitles; (1974)
Starbuck starring Patrick Huard; directed by Ken Scott; French with subtitles; (2011) - Official Website

Each feature film I saw was preceded by a short film.

Les Meutes; directed by Manuel Schapira; French with subtitles;  14 minutes; (2012)
Les Lézards; directed by Vincent Mariette; French with subtitles; 14 minutes;  (2012)
Tram; animation; directed by Michaela Pavlatova; 7 minutes; (2011)
Bad Gones; directed by Stéphane Demoustier; French with subtitles; 13 minutes; (2011)

Les Meutes (The Hounds) preceded Three Worlds.  Les Lézards (The Lizards) preceded Adieu Berthe.  Tram, which had no dialogue, preceded Going Places.  Bad Gones precedes Starbuck.


Before I forget, the Sacramento Japanese Film Festival (SJFF) is running from July 12 to 14 at the Crest Theater.  For as long as I have known of its existence, the SJFF has conflicted with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF).  However, this year the SFSFF is one week after the SJFF.  The SFSFF will be from July 18 to 21 at the Castro Theater.

To the best of my knowledge, Sacramento has four film festivals.  I've already mentioned SFFF and SJFF.  There is also the Sacramento International Film Festival which was held April 20 to 28 and the Sacramento Jewish Film Festival which was held March 9 and 10.

In addition to those Sacramento film festivals, there is an organization called Trash Film Orgy which holds midnight screenings during the summer with live stage shows before their screenings.  They kick off their season on July 13 at the Crest (same venue & weekend as the SJFF).


Back to the SFFF.

Three Worlds is the story about three people whose worlds would typically not intersect.  Al (Raphaël Personnaz) is a manager at a car dealership who is out partying with two of his friends from work.  Driving while drunk, Al hits and kills a man. The man who is a Moldavian immigrant leaves behind a widow named Vera (Arta Dobroshi).  The third person is a medical student named Juliette (Clotilde Hesme) who witnesses the hit & run and can identify the driver.

When Al discovers the man has died, he feels guilt but his friends from work tell him to keep quiet.  Al is marrying the owner's daughter in a few days and a DUI hit and run death might put the kibosh the wedding.    Al is marrying above his social station as his mother used to be his boss' maid.  Unwilling to risk everything he has worked for, Al decides to keep the "accident" from his fiancée and future father-in-law.

Meanwhile, Vera's relatives are investigating the accident.  The police are largely (if not completely) absent from the film.  I assumed the death of (illegal?) immigrant doesn't rate high.  Juliette is contacted by Vera's relatives and she takes an unusual interest in the victim who survives the accident for a few days.  Actually, now that I think about it Juliette goes to considerable lengths to find the identity of the victim and contact his employer and family.

Al visits the hospital to check on the victim and is spotted by Juliette.  Juliette keeps the fact that she saw the driver of the car which hit Vera's husband from Vera and her family.  Later, she tracks down Al and shows up at his car dealership which puts him at unease.  The stress of the man's death, his upcoming nuptials and a desire to pay some money to Vera is causing Al to behave erratically.

I won't continue recounting the plot because the film is not quite up to snuff.  Although the plot sets everything up and the actors dutiful perform their roles, something feels flat in Three Worlds.


If Three Worlds felt flat, Adieu Berthe (aka Granny's Funeral) felt hyper energetic.  Denis Podalydès (the brother of the film's director) plays Armand.  Adieu Berthe is a comedy centered around the death and funeral of Armand's grandmother.  Armand and his wife Hélène (Isabelle Candelier) are pharmacists who run a small drugstore.  Armand also has a mistress, Alix (Valérie Lemercier).  Both wife & mistress of the other but Armand seems to have settled into his dual very French.

Anyway, we get some gags as he makes funeral arrangements.  One funeral parlor is New Age ridiculous.  Another seems to specialize in animal funerals.  His father has Alzenheimer's Disease.

A lot of gags and contrived situations does not a comedy make.


Going Places was scheduled to start at 11:20 PM.  It started a little late but there was an introduction from festival director Cécile Mouette Downs, then the festival trailer and finally the short film.  The point I am making is that the film didn't start until close to 11:45.  I think I feel asleep around 1:15 AM. At nearly 2 hours, Going Places kept on going.  I recall the bars across the street from the Crest were closing down as I exited the theater.  I completely missed 20 year old Isabelle Huppert's appearance

A young Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere (who would commit suicide in 1982) play two roguish drifters.  "Drifters" is not the right word.  Punks, thugs, rapists, killers, nihilists, bisexuals, ne'er-do-wells, etc.  They seem to drift through life looking for sex, crime and trouble.  For example, they end up having a menage-a-trois with Jeanne Moreau who ends up killing herself in the next room by shooting herself in the vagina.

If you had to classify the film, you would call it a comedy but it has a misanthropic streak to it.  Imagine if Jean-Luc Godard had made Natural Born Killers and you get some sense of type of film Going Places is.  Despite that less than stellar commentary, I cannot say I disliked the film.  There was certainly some artistic vision at play.  I'm just not sure if I agree with the direction or scenery.


With three near misses on Saturday, was hoping Sunday would be better.  I only had time to see one film before driving back to the Bay Area.

Starbuck is the story of David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) who lives French Canada (Montreal?).  Twenty years earlier, David made money by providing samples to sperm bank.  Through a procedural error, the sperm bank used his sample to impregnate many women resulting in his "fathering" 533 children.  About 100 of them have sued the sperm bank to learn their father's identity.  David signed a confidentiality agreement so his identity is protected.

However, he receives the biographical background of the plaintiffs and can't help himself.  He begins to meet some of his children but does not divulge his identity to them.  They just think he is a nice guy.  When his interactions with them become to coincidental he explains his presence by saying he is the step-father of one of the plaintiffs...the one who has Lou Gehrig's disease and therefore cannot communicate.

This proxy paternalism plays out against David's life which consists of his cop girlfriend being pregnant and he has shown no desire to assume parenting responsibilities to date.  As his friend and lawyer (outstanding performance by Antoine Bertrand) battles on his behalf in court and he clandestinely contacts his kids, David keeps the paternity suit secret from his friends and family even as the case become newspaper fodder.

As the bonds between David and his children deepen, David finds he is the one benefiting from knowing his children.

The title refers to the nom de guerre  David assumed at the sperm bank.  Also, Starbuck is being remade into Hollywood film with Vince Vaughn in the role of David.


Although the features were not completely satisfying, the short films were particularly strong.

Les Meutes was about a party and some guys trying to crash it.  There is a fight and this was my least favorite short film.

Les Lézards is about two men hanging out in a Turkish bath while one waits for his blind date.  They talk about love & life.  It was very funny.

Tram is an animated film about a zaftig female trolley driver who likes her job quite a bit.  The vibrations of the ride excite her and the in-and-out motion of ticket punch becomes a metaphor for the sexual act.  By the end, she is fantasizing about the male commuters while driving & masturbating.  I thought it was laugh out loud funny.

Bad Gones - not sure what the title means or if it is a bad translation.  The short reminded me a little of The Bicycle Thieves.  A boy and his father go to a professional soccer match but the man hasn't pre-purchased the tickets.  All that are left are the most expensive seats which he cannot afford.  When he informs the boy, his son starts sulking.  Eventually, the man compromises with his own conscience and steals some tickets from a distracted person.  The boy is unaware or doesn't care about the provenance of the tickets.

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