We got a chance to take a look at three of the films playing at this year’s CineFranco film festival. The annual festival – which showcase the best in French language filmmaking from around the world, with many films being English Canada premieres – runs from March 23rd to April 1st at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. While two out of the three films we saw weren’t very good (although the shorts programmes at 11am on Saturday and Sunday look to be pretty strong), there’s likely to be something else to catch your eye. Check out the listings here.
La Sacree (March 23rd, 7pm) – It’s easy to see why Dominic Desjardins’ comedy opens this year’s festival. Aside from being the first ever fully French language film to be shot entirely in Ontario with government funds, it’s a broadly appealing story that exerts so much energy on trying to be a crowd pleaser that it almost disguises how much of a mess the story is. Marc Marons stars as François, a con man about to pull off the biggest score of his life by marrying a cosmetics mogul, but he hits a setback when she insists on getting pregnant and he happens to be impotent. That’s not the actual story, though. Francois returns to his rural Ontario hometown where he discovers that they’ve been concocting a beer in the local brewery that increases sperm count. Not only seeing this as an opportunity to solve his impotency, the town’s people also find in Francois a way to turn around their failing economy. Much like last year’s dreadful French Immersion, Desjardins seems to have graduated from the “kitchen sink” school of comedy. It’s better than that Kevin Tierney debacle by far, but this is still far more complicated than it needs to be and a very long walk for a very short punchline. Still, Marons brings considerable charm to the leading role and the supporting cast all get in some decent moments.
Des Vents contraires (March 24th, 9pm) – Based on the novel Headwinds by Olivier Adam and directed by actor Jalil Lespert, Des Vents contraires compensates for it’s unsound plot structure – credited to no less than four writers and feeling oddly like a lot of the film ended up on a cutting room floor somewhere – with a tremendous performance from Benoit Magimel in the lead as a father of two trying to keep his family together following the disappearance of his wife. Magimel remains believable and sympathetic throughout the film as a desperate man trying to move on with his life, and the scenes where he interacts with his children are the real dramatic thrust of the film. There is also an incredibly strange mystery subplot to the film dealing with the actual disappearance of the man’s wife that feels like it suffered the most in the editing room. No one else other than Magimel seems to have any real motivation to do anything, and aside from some stylish direction from Lespert, no one really has much of a reason to care and none of it ever fully adds up.
La Verite (March 30th, 6pm) – Handily the best of the three features that we were given to review, director Marc Bisaillon turns to a sorrowful true crime story of two generally good kids ((Pierre-Luc Lafontaine and Emile Maihiot) who accidentally cause the death of man after getting horribly drunk, breaking into a house, and then realizing the owner was home. Bisaillon gets great performances out of his two leads, and the tone is appropriately dark and brooding throughout. Some audiences might balk at the ambiguous nature of the two lead characters aside from one obviously being headstrong and one being wimpy and paranoid, but they’re really just teenagers trying to grasp a situation neither of them expected to be in. Both Lafontaine and Maihiot look like they’ve been through absolute hell by the end of the film, and their performances are to be commended, but the film’s ending does betray them both slightly. Still, of the three, this would have to be our pick as the safest bet.