Academic journal article Afterimage

France, Mon Amour

Academic journal article Afterimage

France, Mon Amour

Article excerpt



MARCH 28-30, 2008

In late March, Richmond, Virginia, once the capital of the Confederate South, turns into the capital of French film in the United States. The annual French Film Festival, organized by Virginia. Commonwealth University (VCU), screens eleven features and several short films. Sixteen years ago, VCU French Professor Peter Kirkpatrick and his wife Francoise co-founded the festival, which has since grown into the largest in the U.S. As programmers, the Kirkpatricks view most French films produced each year, even though the films might not have an American distributor yet and indeed some will never be released in this country. The festival offers the public the opportunity to experience "the true diversity of the French film industry," according to Kirkpatrick.(1)

The event is conveniently located in the artsy Carytown district of Richmond. The movies are screened in the gorgeous Byrd Theatre, a grand, old movie palace built in 1928 that seats 1,400. The lengthy festival opener, Laerent Boutonnatt,s Jacquo le Croquant (2007), used history as a mere backdrop for a rather predictable adventure story in which good triumphed over evil. The next day's film, Daniel Vigne's fean de la Fontaine (2007), about the famous creator of fables, drew a fascinating portrait of a poet turned critic of the regime of the "Sun King" Louis XIV and made history come alive.

The French love history and literature, so it was no surprise that many of the films were based on successful novels. With Sam Karmann's La Verite ou presque (2007), the festival hit its stride. The film, an almost-comedy about several couples struggling to be honest in their relationships, seemed quintessentially French in subject matter. This was surprising as it is based on the 2001 novel True Enough by American author Stephen McCauley.

One of the prime examples for the artistic success and the strength of French cinema was the film by cinema veteran Jean Becker, Dialogue avec mon jardinier (2007). Loosely translated as "Conversations with my gardener," it is a film about a gradually developing friendship between two former schoolmates. In its quiet ways it speaks loudly of the alchemy of French cinema. The film's narrative almost immediately pulls the audience into a dialogue between a successful but exhausted Parisian painter and his childhood friend Leo, whom he hires to take care of his garden. …

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