With the announcement of the Cannes 2014 festival line up, the cinematic spotlight turns once more to the French Riviera and the selection of films on its roster. Opening night sees Dahan’s Grace of Monaco (Nicole Kidman playing the titular part) only a matter of kilometres from its natural home, while the competition sees strong entries from the likes of David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis, The Fly) and Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball).
But even with an annual invasion of the anglophiles it is impossible to deny that French cinema is undergoing some form of renaissance right now. The large scale success of Blue is the Warmest Colour after it won the Palme D’or last year and the international acclaim that came with The Artist seems to suggest that a new heart of cinema may have returned to the home of its inception over a century ago. Blue is the Warmest Colour may have been created in the midst of controversy and applause, but either way shows off the driving creative forces that underpin this new wave of French film.
The French institute is currently showing off a number of the newer films of the year in its Rendezvous with French Cinema series across the UK, with many events on at the Phoenix Picturehouse showing during the weekend of 0th week. One of the shows in question is the latest picture from Jean Pierre Jeunet (Amelie), The Young and Prodigious T.S.Spivet. Based on the novel by Reif Larsen, Spivet follows the tale of a young boy genius, (the aforementioned T.S) as he sets out alone from his home in Montana in an attempt to get to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. to show off his newly created perpetual motion machine.
The film, though based outside of the Hexagon, does not lose any of the sentimentality Jeunet is so renown for, and just like Amelie, The Young and Prodigious T.S.Spivet can be both hilarious and emotionally harrowing. While perhaps not living up to the lofty heights of his former work given that he is ultimately restricted to the original source, Jeunet proves he can still produce stirring films even in a Hollywood setting (Helena Bonham Carter stars).
Of the films being shown at the Picturehouse, all four are remarkably different in context and tone. Marion Vernoux’s Bright Days Ahead combines a sense of classy sophistication with the temptations of infantile, sexual experience, as the married woman Caroline falls for a younger man. Violette, a biopic of the acclaimed French novelist Violette Leduc, is ultimately much more focussed on both the destructive and creative impacts of romantic entanglement.
Roman Polanski brings a playful adaptation of David Ives’ play Venus in Fur, not due to be released for another few months here, centred around a casting director and his auditionee as they go from interaction to obsession in an empty Parisian theatre. Lastly comes the bluntly comedic Nine Month Stretch, as the strict judge Ariane Felder discovers she is pregnant with the child of a criminal wanted for murder. For more information on any of these four films, go to www.picturehouses.co.uk/Phoenix_Picturehouse .