Three films at the French film festival in Bangalore shifted gears between a dreamlike existence and horrific reality
The French Film Festival that was held by the Suchitra Film Society in association with the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore caught my eye when they announced the screening of Chicken With Plums or Poulet Aux Prunes, a drama based on the eponymous graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. I recognised her name from the animated film Persepolis that was based on her debut book. Satrapi co-directs Chicken With Plums with Vincent Paronnaud; the duo first came together for the Oscar-nominated Persepolis.
The film follows Nasser Ali (Mathieu Amalric), a musician, in the last eight days of his life – soaked in melancholy; the film builds to a climactic suicide, but the screenplay is careful to not be dreary and sparkles with some gentle humour. The film swings with the ease of a trapeze artist from live action to animation, in colours that are pale and pastel, giving it the air of a fairy tale. The film flashes back and forth with dexterity, narrating Nasser’s life, love and the frayed family he builds that finally explains the protagonist and his choices. And like pieces of a puzzle, the film comes together, narrating the magnificent love story that nourished his genius and his music.
A Better Life or Une Vie Meilleure, by Cedric Kahn was about Yann (Guillaume Canet), a cook and Nadia (Leïla Bekhti), a waitress and mother of Slimane, her nine year old son, who risk everything they have on a restaurant. The restaurant is barely a sputtering survivor, and caught in a web of overwhelming loans and mortgages, the couple struggle to save the restaurant. Nadia loses hope and subsequently moves to Montreal to help out, while back home in France, Yann and the little boy contend against a cut-throat system, a crowd of creditors. The film establishes an easy camaraderie at the beginning of the film, a relationship that is tested by the times. And after all the sparring, they forge a bond that is heart-warming and spirited. The two decide to follow Nadia and go on to find a better life. They momentarily allow you to forget that they have not heard from Nadia in a while, but in the warmth and humour of their growing affection for each other, Nadia is forgotten. A Better Life, is a nice film about love and perseverance and leaves you with a bittersweet afterglow.
The festival covered drama, romance, tragedy, surrealism and even made space for a cop drama. Polisse, which translates to ‘police’ is a gripping film, written, directed by and starring, Maiwenn. She found the story when she was watching a documentary about the child protection unit and used real stories to inspire a montage of scenes that show cops from the Police Departments Juvenile Protection Unit who interact with children, who are the victims of abuse and the men who abuse them.
Interlaced with this story of horrific reality, is a relationship that develops between a journalist, Melissa, played by Maiwenn and one of the cops. The film switches between the deplorable truth of a girl who confesses to giving a boy sexual favours in return for her smartphone, to personal troubles in the lives of these cops.
The film delves into the balancing act these cops do and tells a convincing story about how they maintain a private life against the onslaught of hopelessness.