MyFrenchFilmFestival: The best of French cinema, online

Reader's Digest Editors

What’s better than immersing yourself in the sumptuous world of French cinema? Doing it in the comfort of your own home, of course! My French Film Festival online offers you just that; until February 19, you can watch some of the most exciting new-generation French and Francophone cinema, wherever you are, on their website

An eclectic mixture of short and feature films, divided into six distinct categories, the festival showcases a vast range of genres, styles and talent of modern-day French cinema:

  • WHAT THE F…RENCH!? Absurd and at times crazy situations featuring endearing heroes
  • HIT THE ROAD! Motorways, filling stations, holiday clubs… and initiatory quests!
  • TEEN STORIES The age of adolescence, when anything goes!  
  • FRENCH AND FURIOUS Disturbing situations filled with more or less unsavory characters…  
  • LOVE “À LA FRANCAISE” Love stories that are très French: la vie en rose? Don’t count on it!
  • NEW HORIZONS new section which spotlights new screenwriting talents and amplified film experiences!

From absurd and wacky adventures, to steamy love stories via seedy tales from the underground, there’s something to accommodate the most specific of tastes. Here are some of our favourite highlights.

 

Struggle for Life (WHAT THE F…RENCH!?)  

This bizarro love story teeming with tarantulas, keytars and absurd rules follows no rules of its own whatsoever, as you will quickly learn. Set in the sultry, creepy-crawly-riddled French Guiana, it follows Marc, an intern at the French Ministry of Standard, who’s sent to Guiana to oversee the development of the first indoor ski track in Amazonia which, the government hopes, will promote tourism in the area. 

Sound ridiculous? It gets nuttier. Once Marc’s there, he becomes smitten with his delegated driver, Tarzan—who, as it turns out, it not a feral, burly brute, but a beautiful, charmingly stubborn young woman. Following a car crash, the two get lost in the forest, where all kinds of surreal trouble ensues.

It’s a weird and silly ride with no concern for narrative structure or logic which might throw you off a bit in the beginning; but once you’re comfortably settled in, you’ll happily let it take you wherever it wants.

Highlights include witty stabs at political correctness, bureaucracy and film clichés as well as a deliciously hammy performance by none other than Mathieu Amalric.

 

Willy the 1st (WHAT THE F…RENCH!?)

This bittersweet little film is the result of a collaboration between four directors—Ludovic Boukherma, Zoran Boukherma, Marielle Gautier and Hugo P Thomas—and sometimes that multiplicity of voices results in a somewhat uneven tone.

Daniel Vannet makes his acting debut, at the age of 56, as twin brothers Willy and Michel. Following Michel’s death at the film’s beginning (he reappears intermittently as a translucent, spectral presence), Willy attempts to follow up on his long-held dream of “moving to Caudebec, buying a scooter, getting some mates”.

Caudebec is a small provincial town a mere 9km from the village in which Willy grew up, but as far as he’s concerned it might as well be Paris. “It’s a happening place - bakers, butchers, supermarkets,” he says at one point. His naivety is soon punctured by reality however - the ‘mates’ he makes in the town quickly reveal themselves as bullies, bigots and homophobes.

The one kindred spirit with whom he strikes up an unlikely rapport is a peroxide-blonde fellow supermarket worker, also called Willy (Romain Léger), whose homosexuality sets him at odds with his limited, backwoods surroundings.

The story is loosely based on Vannet’s own life, and he puts in a touchingly honest performance as a sweet-natured, albeit sometimes short-tempered man with learning difficulties.

Into the Forest (FRENCH AND FURIOUS)

There is a fairytale simplicity to this supernatural psychological thriller from director Gilles Marchand. But, as with the earthworms that serve as a recurring thematic trope, there is much going on beneath the film’s surface.

Jérémie Elkaïm, credited simply as ‘the father’, delivers a controlled, tense performance as a man ridden with obsessions and neuroses, the extent of which becomes clearer as he takes his two young sons further away from modernity and civilisation, and deeper into the forest of the film’s title.

What begins as a father-son bonding experience soon develops into something more akin to a hostage situation, and the boys begin to grow increasingly homesick for their absent mother and uneasy around their intense, insomniac father. The fact that Tom also experiences intermittent visions of a sinister, grotesque figure following them through the trees adds to the enveloping atmosphere of unease and gothic dread.

The two child actors are convincing and well-cast - particularly Timothé Vom Dorp as Tom - but it is Elkaïm who really impresses, portraying a complex and desperate character who serves up a parenting masterclass in how to turn your kids into oedipal wrecks.

 

Paris Prestige (FRENCH AND FURIOUS)

Take a late-night walk along the streets of Paris’ infamous Pigalle quarter, where everyone hustles to make a living in the bright lights of Moulin Rouge.

This is the world inhabited Nasser and Arezki—two brothers running a bar together amidst constant arguments and conflicts, dating back to their difficult childhood. Nasser is fresh out of prison, determined to make a name for himself and turn the bar into a trendy night club. Arezki, the older brother, has had enough of city life and dreams of moving to the countryside with his girlfriend—if only his little brother would one day stop messing up. As the tension between them builds, their fights become more and more vitriolic, threatening to destroy the things dearest to them.

Though the film loses focus every once in a while, and fails to tie some loose ends within the narrative, it’s a surprisingly watchable, unpretentious piece of cinema that gets you emotionally invested without much effort, whether your sympathies lie with the charismatic if slightly inept Nasser or the dependable but bitter Arezki.

 

In Bed with Victoria (LOVE “À LA FRANCAISE”)

Criminal lawyer Victoria Spick (Virginie Efira) is a mess. Barely holding it together as a high-flying lawyer by day and single mother to two young daughters by night, her ex-husband is penning a slanderous blog to “expose” her wanton ways, her boyfriend-turned-babysitter has quit and broken up with her, she’s increasingly dependent on Xanax to get through the day and her au pair is a former drug dealer turned sensitive soul who might just be in love with her…

With so many problems and so few to turn to, Victoria oscillates between a therapist, tarot reader, acupuncturist and string of questionably judged one-night stands in an attempt to clear her head. As the tarot reader informs her that somebody is spying on her, we begin to realise that Victoria’s life is not only a keyhole through which we spy on her own failings, but through which we might also recognise our own.

Although In Bed With Victoria lacks the flourish we’ve come to associate with French romantic cinema, and the laugh-out-loud moments that would set it apart as a truly memorable comedy, it’s a quietly charming film that’s at its best when making subtle observations about the ways we live and the ones we love.

 

MyFrenchFilmFestival takes place between January 19 and February 19, and can be accessed on 50 partner VoD platforms all over the world, including worldwide platforms such as iTunes (in more than 90 territories), but also Google Play, MUBI, Dailymotion, YouTube, Facebook and more.