New French Cinema Week at AFS

Head over heels for the new Gallic Wave

Montparnasse Bienvenüe (Jeune Femme)

It's always nice to find an oasis of compassion and culture in this increasingly myopic political circus of divisiveness and fear. So, it's always a welcome treat to see what the folks at the Austin Film Society, partnered with the film programmers at the Premiers Plans Festival d'Angers (Austin's sister city), UniFrance, and the U.S. French Embassy, put together for their New French Cinema showcase. Not only does it spotlight some of the best titles from new French directors (which, in some cases, may be your only opportunity to experience them), but there are parties, an opening night Champagne reception, filmmaker conversations, and even a family-friendly screening of the 2016 Oscar-nominated, dialogue-free (so no pesky subtitles) animated The Red Turtle. And while the entire slate of films offer up so many varied and rich views of humanity (and more thought-provoking than anything playing at the local multiplex), we've dialed in on a few highlights.

Petit Paysan (Bloody Milk): If you would have told me that one of 2018's most intense thrillers involved a rural dairy farmer doing whatever he can to save his cows, I would have said, "Bien sûr!" Kin to 2011 Belgian film Bullhead, Petit Paysan concerns the efforts of Pierre (a quietly intense Swann Arlaud) to thwart a spreading infection among his flock of milk providers. As he hides the evidence and piles on the lies, the film tightens like a coil. One of the best films the Coen brothers never made.

Montparnasse Bienvenüe (Jeune Femme): Paula (Laetitia Dosch) is having a bad day. Her 10-year relationship with a famed photographer (whose photo of her made him famous) is over, she's homeless, and she's nabbed their cat, Muchaca (a real scene-stealer), as she figures out her next move. She ends up working in a lingerie store at the mall and befriending security guard Ousmane (dreamy Souleymane Seye Ndiaye). The film, which was created by a mostly female crew, is anchored by Dosch's performance: here manic, there pensive, but always electrifying.

Custody: Writer/director Xavier Legrand's feature debut continues his short film "Just Before Losing Everything," but don't worry, the viewer gets all the information they need in the anxious opening scene, as Antoine (Denis Ménochet) and Miriam (Léa Drucker) sit with their lawyers and a judge to argue over custody of their son and daughter. It soon becomes clear that Antoine is an abusive spouse and Miriam is just trying to escape and start a new life. But Antoine persists, and Legrand pulls no punches in his depiction of how domestic violence takes its toll.

That doesn't even take into account Félicité, a stunning film about a Congolese singer trying to save her son, or This Is Our Land, a scathing political satire of French politics. Another event not to miss is Correspondance, a collaborative music and video project which pairs Austin and Angers artists together to form new work. After the screening, the party is just beginning, as musicians Dylan Cameron and Curved Light will perform. There are individual tickets for sale for screenings and events, but if you're all in (as well you should be), you can purchase a series pass for $80 ($60, AFS members). Soothe your soul while participating in a global community where cinema is the universal language. Liberté, égalité, fraternité pour tous!

New French Cinema Week

@AFS Cinema, April 25-29

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French Cinema, AFS Cinema, Petit Paysan, Bloody Milk, Montparnasse Bienvenüe (Jeune Femme), Félicité, Custody, This Is Our Land

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