New French Cinema Week

Austin Film Society series restores a bit of hope for humanity

Raging Rose

Underway this week is one of my favorite series that the Austin Film Society brings to town. Teaming up with Premiers Plans, a film festival and workshop program in Angers, France (Austin's sister city, and why didn't you know that?), this collaboration, now in its third year, curates a handful of new French films to Austin (filmmakers included) to celebrate stories and cultivate global connectedness in a political climate that could use as much inclusiveness as it can get.

The screening tonight (Thursday, April 20) is Julia Kowalski's Raging Rose (Crache Coeur), a powerful and bittersweet coming-of age story of a teenage girl on the cusp of sexual awakening. Rose (portrayed with suitable angst by Liv Henneguier) is the Polish/French daughter of a construction company owner who begins to help one of her dad's employees track down his estranged son, Roman, who happens to be a student at her school. Things get complicated when Rose falls hard for Roman, and the deceptions start piling up. Kowalski will be in attendance for the screening to further delineate her complex take (perhaps autobiographical?) on adolescence.

Mining his own rags-to-riches story, French hip-hop star Orelsan (aka Aurélien Cotentin) brings his film Uncompleted Song (Comment C'est Loin) to screen Saturday, April 22. A hilarious and surprisingly emotionally effective story of two slackers in a small town in Normandy who are given a 24-hour deadline to complete a rap song (they've been fucking around for five years). It's a lively and clever tale, bolstered by some ingenious rhymes that supplement the narrative and nuanced performances by the cast, who are basically playing versions of themselves. Think of it as Trainspotting minus the heroin, or a Gallic Slacker that asks the question: "When did we start liking mediocrity?"

Rounding out the week is Lidia Terki's Paris la Blanche (Sunday, April 23), a heartwarming story of Rekia (the wonderful Tassadit Mandi), an Algerian native whose husband has been living and working in Paris for the last 40 years. Not having heard from him in a while, she spontaneously packs a bag, boards a ferry, and lands in the City of Lights with just a name and an address. Knowing no one, she at first becomes distraught when she can't find him, but help arrives in the form of kind strangers sympathetic to her plight. Paris la Blanche is a moving film on how lives drift apart, but more importantly, how new bonds are forged.

Two of the three screenings take place at the Contemporary Austin Jones Center's rooftop venue. Patrons are encouraged to bring a picnic basket of snacks (baguettes required!) and Bouvet Ladubay, a Loire Valley winehouse, will provide some sparkling wine to help set the mood. If your faith in humanity needs a little boost, take it from this Francophile, these films will do the trick.

Raging Rose @The Contemporary Austin at the Jones Center, Thursday (4/20), 8:30pm.

Uncompleted Song @The Contemporary Austin at the Jones Center, Saturday, 8:30pm.

Paris la Blanche @Texas Spirit Theater, Sunday, 5:30pm.

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