Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris in “Chinese Puzzle,” part of the Sacramento French Film Festival.

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  • Movie review: Actors’ skills dominate frisky ‘Venus in Fur’

    When: Friday-Sunday and June 27-29

    Where: Crest Theatre, 1013 K St., Sacramento

    Cost: $10-$11 for individual screenings. Opening night with reception is $50. Multiday passes start at $40.

    Information:, (916) 442-7378


    (Films are in French language, with English subtitles)



    6 p.m. Opening-night reception

    8:30 p.m. “Not My Type”: In this opposites-attract romantic comedy, a hair stylist with an American pop-culture fetish falls for a reserved philosophy instructor. 111 minutes


    11 a.m. “On My Way”: A former beauty queen (Catherine Deneuve), jilted romantically and beset by financial woes, sets out on a road trip that leads to family bonding. 113 minutes

    1:30 p.m. “Age of Panic”: The heated 2012 French presidential election serves as backdrop for a couple’s personal battle. 94 minutes

    3:45 p.m. “Queen Margot”: Isabelle Adjani, a.k.a. Ol’ Inscrutable, plays an unhappy queen who has an affair in this 1994 historical drama. 162 minutes.

    7:05 p.m. “Attila Marcel”: The first live-action film by innovative animation quirkster Sylvain Chomet (“The Triplets of Belleville”) involves a socially stunted piano prodigy, a wacky neighbor and musical sequences. Paired with the musically inclined “Donkey Skin” (see below) to coincide with France’s Fête de la Musique. 102 minutes.

    9:25 p.m. “Donkey Skin”: Deneuve again, this time in a 1970 Jacques Demy film based on a classic French fairy tale. Deneuve plays a princess whose father wants to marry her. A fairy godmother intervenes, thankfully. 90 minutes.

    11:35 p.m.: “Stranger By the Lake”: The SFFF continues its delicious tradition of pairing late-night horror and soft-core films with a light breakfast. Pastries and coffee follow this “erotic thriller.”


    11 a.m. “Donkey Skin”

    1:10 p.m. “On My Way”

    3:40 p.m. “Attila Marcel”

    6 p.m. “Camille Claudel 1915”: Juliette Binoche plays the sculptor during her years in a mental institution. Bruno Dumont (“Humanité”), known for immersing viewers in ugliness (“Humanité”), slowly, but not for working with big stars like Binoche, directs. 95 minutes

    8:15 p.m. “Age of Panic”

    June 27

    6:15 p.m. “9-Month Stretch”: In this dark comedy, a judge is shocked to learn she is pregnant by a criminal. 82 minutes

    8:15 p.m. “Venus in Fur”: Roman Polanski directs this adaptation of David Ives’ Broadway play. Mathieu Amalric plays a stage director unsettled by an actress (Emmanuelle Seigner) who arrives late for an audition. 96 minutes

    June 28

    10 a.m. French breakfast with filmmaker/actor Olivier Rosemberg, who has two films, “J’en rêve encore” and “Why Did I Do That?” in the short film program.

    10:30 a.m. Short-film program. Followed by a Q&A with Rosemberg. 105 minutes

    1 p.m. “Suzanne”: Sara Forestier has won raves for her performance in this years-spanning drama about a young woman, her questionable choices and her truck-driving dad. 94 minutes.

    3:15 p.m. “The Murderer Lives at Number 21”: This early Henri-Georges Clouzot (“The Wages of Fear”) film is a 1942 procedural that follows an inspector as he hunts a killer. 84 minutes

    5:20 p.m. “Bright Days Ahead”: Fanny Ardant plays a recently retired dentist who conducts an affair with a ladies’ man in his 30s. 94 minutes.

    7:35 p.m. “Young & Beautiful”: Director François Ozon’s (“Swimming Pool”) latest follows a 17-year-old who loses her virginity and then decides to be a secret call girl. Troubling premise, but Ozon always fascinates. 95 minutes.

    9:50 p.m. “9‐Month Stretch”

    11:45 p.m. “Inside”: An intruder wants a pregnant woman’s unborn child. The intruder is played by Beatrice Dalle, so start trembling now. 87 minutes

    June 29

    11 a.m. “The Murderer Lives at Number 21”

    1 p.m. “Bright Days Ahead”

    3:15 p.m. “Chinese Puzzle”: Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou in a sequel to “L’Auberge Espagnole” and “Russian Dolls.” 117 minutes

    5:50 p.m. “Suzanne”

    8:05 p.m. “Turning Tide”: The festival closes with this “All Is Lost”-ish tale of a sailor (François Cluzet, “Tell No One”) in an around-the-world race who finds a stowaway on board. 97 minutes. (Followed by a champagne and dessert party).

    Carla Meyer

Sacramento French Film Festival highlights comedies with weight

Published: Thursday, Jun. 19, 2014 - 5:42 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Jun. 27, 2014 - 11:43 am

Complex comedy is king at the 13th Sacramento French Film Festival, running Friday through Sunday and next weekend at the Crest Theatre.

Comedic films at this year’s festival augment their funny-ha-ha moments with examinations of class differences and aging, and offer juicier roles for women than most American comedies do.

“Sometimes we have had comedies that are just silly and fun, but everything is really top quality” this year, French Film Festival executive and artistic director Cécile Mouette Downs said. “It is not just basic comedy.”

In the romantic comedy and festival opener “Not My Type” (8:30 Friday), upper-middle-class philosophy teacher and chronic over-thinker Clément (Loïc Corbery) dates working-class hair stylist Jennifer (Émilie Dequenne), whose thoughts do not seem to travel beyond her spirited karaoke performances and the American popcorn films she loves (especially those starring that other Jennifer – Aniston).

He’s a little bit Kantian and she’s culturally Kardashian, but things are not as simple as that. Dequenne, the Belgian actress who starred in the Dardenne brothers’ 1999 film “Rosetta,” gives her character a bubbly demeanor but also surprising depth.

Corbery plays Clément as not so much a snob as a man clearly out of his element geographically – the Parisian teacher has been transferred to Arras, which he considers a backwater – and emotionally. The academic appears mystified by the ability of Jennifer, a lifelong Arras townie, to captivate him.

“Obviously their cultural background is so different, but this is (addressed) in a very subtle way,” Downs said. Filmmaker Lucas Belvaux does not condescend to either character, she said.

Less subtle but still effective is the older-woman, younger-man story “Bright Days Ahead” (5:20 p.m. June 28 and 1 p.m. June 29). The film stars (babe alert!) Fanny Ardant as a married, just-retired dentist in her 60s who reluctantly enrolls in classes at a senior center but enthusiastically accepts the advances of the center’s computer instructor (Laurent Lafitte), who is in his late 30s.

He’s a player, but she does not care, because she’s clearly going through something, having suddenly been thrust into senior life by her retirement. The film does not make that life look bad – the students at the center are a fun, buoyant bunch – but this particular woman was not ready for it.

Thomas (Mathieu Amalric), the stage-director character in “Venus in Fur” (8:15 p.m. June 27), certainly did not anticipate the arrival of Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner), an actress who shows up after hours for an audition. Vanda wants the part of a sexual dominant in a play based on a novella by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch – the real-life author from whom the term “masochism” sprang – and judging from her black pleather, has gone Method.

Is it still a casting couch when the auditionee holds the power? “Venus in Fur,” directed by Roman Polanski from David Ives’ Broadway play, will answer this question. Maybe. The play-within-a-movie thing is labyrinthine even before you consider that Polanski hired his lookalike Amalric to play a director opposite Seigner, Polanski’s real-life wife.

Aiming most directly for the funny bone, among the festival’s comedic films, is “9-Month Stretch” (6:15 p.m. June 27 and 9:50 p.m. June 28), in which a judge (Sandrine Kiberlain) is surprised to find herself pregnant and more surprised the father is a criminal nicknamed “the eye gobbler” (Albert Dupontel, who also wrote and directed), since she does not recall their encounter.

“Stretch” comes closest “to that vein of (broad) comedy for which American cinema is known,” said Jane Berner, a member of the French Film Festival’s film selection committee. In other words, it’s more Will Ferrell or Farrelly brothers than typically French.

Yet “Stretch” was taken seriously enough by the César Awards – France’s Oscar equivalent – that in February, Kiberlain ( “Alias Betty”) picked up the prize for best actress, and Dupontel the one for original screenplay.

Audrey Tautou is not the star of “Chinese Puzzle” (3:15 p.m. June 29), a romantic comedy and part of director Cédric Klapisch’s breezy trilogy that includes “L’Auberge Espagnole” (2002) and “Russian Dolls” (2005). Romain Duris stars as French writer Xavier, now pushing 40 and living in New York. Tautou plays Martine, Xavier’s ex-girlfriend, and only one of the important women in his life. He has moved to New York because his estranged wife (Kelly Reilly) and children live there.

But Tautou is star of the French Film Festival audience’s heart. Though Dequenne, from “Not My Type,” might rival her for the title of this year’s festival sweetheart, the doe-eyed Tautou is long-running champ of the SFFF box office.

“If there is an Audrey Tautou film (available), we have to get it,” Downs said. “She is our lucky charm.”

Call The Bee’s Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaMeyerSB.

Read more articles by Carla Meyer

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