by / March 29th, 2012 /

The Cork French Film Festival in review

The 23rd Cork French Film Festival concluded earlier this month leaving behind a proud festival team and a culturally satisfied city, after a week’s feast of cinematic delicacies. Not only were we welcomed to a programme glimmering with tried and true classics, Cork was presented with a unique opportunity to interact with those working behind the scenes through various workshops, lectures and Q&A session. We were also graced by the presence of Pierre Etaix, as a retrospective of the legendary French artist’s work formed the core of the festival.

I spoke to Paul, the curator of the festival, during the course of events. He was kind enough to elaborate on the careful thought and planning that went into choosing the films on offer, including the Etaix retrospective, as he explained – “The Programme is centered around Pierre Etaix. Due to a copyright issue in the ’70s there was no screenings, or even access to his work. As a result we’ve grown up without these treasures of French film, so we’re delighted to include them in our festival.”

As part of the the ongoing partnership between the CFFF and the ‘Rencontres Henri Langlois Festival’, we were presented with a showing of international shorts, among them the outstanding Alto Sauce and Abuelas. Alto Sauce weaved an intricate jigsaw of relics, evidence and testimony asking unnerving questions about how we learn to trust or condemn, while Abuelas offered a hugely personal and affecting story.

Of the festivals documentaries, Crazy Horse truly shone, following the titular strip club’s team as they fall under pressure from their patrons to live up to their self proclaimed title of the best chic nude dance in the world. Famed documentary maker, Frederick Wiseman entered into this fray and revealed a world of accomplished artists who clung to the idea that their fetishised production is one of artistic merit rather than smut.

Belleville Rendez-Vous was an enchanting, theatrical re-imagining of the animated feature by Sylvian Chomet. The almost lackadaisical makeup and costumes, paired with the props – all made from household objects – gave the whimsical sense of children at play. It’s a piece that engaged the dreaming child in us all; capable of comprehending larger than life tales and no one could escape being charmed by the puppy made out of a boot!

Project D.I. achieved moments of visual and aural beauty through an interplay of dance, sound and projection. At times it became a sensory challenge to decode the new ‘virtual’ language the piece hinted at, but the show consistently stoked our curiosity and challenged our perception of how we project ourselves in this new media lush landscape. It stood an intriguing inclusion in the context of a film festival – is this to become the future of cinema, or is it simply a throwback to the days when live performance and the big screen weren’t so decidedly separate?

Arguably the festival’s crowning achievement was their presentation of the silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc, with a specially commissioned score by Cork artist Irene Buckley, who utilised elements of the Requiem mass in her work. It was an ambient and sumptuous piece that took our hearts by the hand and led them through the emotional minefield of Joan’s trial and execution.

Desperado, another cine concert, could not have been in more contrast to the emotive Passion of Joan of Arc. The project, originally part of the Renne film festival, was an explosion of sordid violence and sensuous visual pandering with plenty of eye candy on both screen and stage. It provided a rush of blood while the live music from rockers Bikini Machine accelerated us to a new level of excitement.

The Cork French Film Festival has again proven itself to be a worthy staple of the Cork culture scene. It engaged and delighted an impressive crowd of punters – it’s continued success is much to be admired and applauded.