French Film Festival 2019: 10 Films to See

As a Francophile, one of the highlights in the film festival calendar is certainly that of the French Film Festival. This year, the French Film Festival returns in November for its 27th edition. Starting on 1 November until 15 December 2019, a wide range of films awaits ranging from the award-winning Portrait of a Lady on Fire to documentaries such as the Yves Saint Laurent film and classics such as The Swimming Pool. It is the ideal opportunity to be immersed in French culture! The Festival’s origins commenced in Edinburgh, in 1992, during the time that the city hosted the Summit of the European Council. There are now over 35 venues across the UK participating in the Festival showing over 50 films.

French Film Festival poster
French Film Festival poster

In London, the Ciné Lumière in South Kensington is the venue where the majority of the films can be seen from 7 November. However, there will also be films screening at the Regent Street Cinema and the Watermans Arts Centre later in November and within December.

For this year’s Festival all of the films screened will be preceded by a short film on the subject of human rights, which have been shot on a mobile phone or tablet, in conjunction with the Mobile Film Festival in Paris. The films have been divided into categories such as panorama, documentaries, discovery, classics and animation.

These are my 10 suggestions of films to watch during the French Film Festival in London:

1) Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la Jeune Fille en Feu)

Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel in Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel in Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Celine Sciamma’s sumptuous film has won the best screenplay award at Cannes and following its UK premiere screening at the London Film Festival there is another opportunity to watch this absorbing tale of forbidden love which also examines the role of women in 1760. The film features within the panorama section of the Festival programme.

2) La Belle Epoque (La Belle époque)

Daniel Auteuil in La Belle Epoque
Daniel Auteuil in La Belle Epoque

From the Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight comes La Belle Epoque by Nicolas Bedos which is a drama examining the distinctions between fantasy and reality with visits to the past. Daniel Auteuil and Fanny Ardant star as a cartoonist and his wife facing marital difficulties. Featuring within the discovery section of the Festival programme.

3) The Swimming Pool (La Piscine)

Romy Schneider and Alain Delon in The Swimming Pool
Romy Schneider and Alain Delon in The Swimming Pool

One of the classic French psychological thrillers starring leading man Alain Delon which also inspired an English language equivalent with Charlotte Rampling. Expect intrigue and seduction by the swimming pool! This is a newly restored version of the film to commemorate its 50th anniversary. Featuring within the classics section of the Festival programme.

4) Someone, Somewhere (Deux Moi)

François Civil in Someone, Somewhere
François Civil in Someone, Somewhere

Ever since the Pot Luck (L’Auberge Espagnol) trilogy, director Cédric Klapisch has been delighting audiences with his light, comic approach towards relationships. In Someone, Somewhere he explores the concept of two individuals who live in the same neighbourhood in Paris. However, they are travelling to different destinations that end up following the same road which could lead them to each other. Cédric Klapisch will also be in attendance for a Q&A. Featuring within the panorama section of the Festival programme.

5) Happy Birthday (Fête de Famille)

Ensemble cast in birthday scene in Happy Birthday
Ensemble cast in birthday scene in Happy Birthday

Cédric Kahn’s tale of family relations is a dark comedy as tensions arise, with the arrival of an unexpected family member, in an ensemble piece which stars the director himself! Featuring in the panorama section of the Festival programme.

6) Burning Ghost (Vif Argent)

Burning Ghost film poster
Burning Ghost film poster

An examination of love, loss and death, Burning Ghost won the prestigious Prix Jean Vigo and is the second feature by Stéphane Batut. The film explores supernatural elements with a combination of realism as the protagonist walks through the streets of Paris in search of helping those that only he possesses the power to see. The film features within the discovery section of the Festival programme.

7) A Paris Education (Mes Provinciales)

Andranic Manet in A Paris Education
Andranic Manet in A Paris Education

Directed by Jean-Paul Civeyrac and it is truly a love letter to cinema as the film follows the journey of Etienne and his move to Paris to join film school. Featuring within the panorama section of the Festival programme.

8) Farewell to the Night (L’Adieu à la Nuit)

Catherine Deneuve and Kacey Mottel Klein in Farewell to the Night
Catherine Deneuve and Kacey Mottel Klein in Farewell to the Night

Starring Catherine Deneuve, André Téchiné’s latest film explores a grandmother-grandson relationship where the grandson has become a jihadist. The film features within the panorama section of the Festival programme.

9) Persona Non Grata

Nicolas Duvauchelle in Persona Non Grata
Nicolas Duvauchelle in Persona Non Grata

Set in the south of France, director Roschdy Zem also stars in this dark tale filled with intrigue and corruption. Jose and Maxime decide to take extreme measures towards their unlikeable boss with dramatic consequences. The film features within the panorama section.

10) By the Grace of God (Grace à Dieu)

Melvil Poupaud in By the Grace of God
Melvil Poupaud in By the Grace of God

Featuring in the Panorama section, François Ozon’s latest, tells the story of Alexandre who is made to confront his past after encountering a priest who was abusive towards him. The film won the Berlinale’s Grand Jury Prize.

The full programme for the French Film Festival can be accessed here.

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