IFCINEMA Festival “à la carte”

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The French Institute in Paris presents IFCINEMA “à la carte” – a free, online film festival with 9 feature films and 11 shorts, available from June 12 – July 13, 2020. It’s an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with a selection of French films, or to enjoy favorites once more. Most films feature subtitles in English. The films may be viewed on the IFCINEMA website: https://ifcinema.institutfrancais.com/en/alacarte

“Quietly magnificent” was my reaction to seeing Sólveig Anspach’s L’effet aquatique (2016) for the first time, and repeated viewings have only made me appreciate it even more. Participating in the festival courtesy of Eden Cinema, L’effet aquatique (known as The Together Project in English) was Anspach’s final film, the last in a trilogy that includes The Queen of Montreuil (2012) and Back Soon (2008), bringing together some of the characters from the previous films. Anspach, whose untimely death in 2015 was a loss to cinema, had an unerring sense of human feelings, endless playfulness, a feel for the random, quirky aspects of life, and an abiding warmth. Laugh-out-loud funny, fast-paced, romantic, and perhaps the most likely solution for peace in the Middle East, L’effet aquatique is a marvelous film.

The Aquatic Effect/Photo: Elsa Palito

Hanging out in a neighborhood bar, Samir (Samir Guesmi) observes a volatile woman rebuff the advances of an obvious player, put a song on the jukebox, sing a few bars with sensual heat, then walk out of the bar. It’s what the French call un coup de foudre – literally, a thunderbolt – for Samir it’s love (or at least serious lust) at first sight. The spurned man joins Samir at the door, and as they watch the retreating figure, lets him know that this is Agathe (Florence Loiret Caille), a swimming instructor at the municipal pool. Determined, Samir embarks on the wackiest way to win Agathe’s heart. It’s a path that will eventually take him all the way to Iceland, with scenes of breathtaking landscape.

Anspach creates characters that are at once bizarre and utterly credible, like Corinne (Olivia Côte) the flirty, blonde lifeguard who is about as inappropriate as can be, ogling the swimmers; Reboute (Philippe Rebbot) the awkward pool manager with a wildly inflated notion of his own appeal; and the young pool clerk Daniel (Estéban) with his cheery matter-of-fact demeanor, capable of bursting Samir’s bubble with a smile. Best of all, post-hippie Anna (Didda Jónsdóttir) returns as a city councilor, sharing the job with long-haired sidekick Frosti (Frosti Runólfson) by alternating days.

Samir Guesmi and Florence Loiret Caille have a sizzling onscreen chemistry, from the moment his puppy-dog brown eyes meet her sharp, penetrating gaze. It’s a rare pleasure to see such a fully realized female protagonist in a romantic comedy. Agathe is a woman of many attributes. Intelligent, professional and capable, she has a strict moral code, especially when it comes to prevarication, and she is also fun, playful, sensual, and on occasion, vulnerable. Samir’s earnest, yet often bumbling, efforts inspire laughter and empathy. I was shipping these two all the way. There is an irrepressible optimism to the film, as best expressed by Anna’s comment: “a little guy can do a lot of things, especially if it’s a woman.” (from the December 2018 Midnight East review)

The full list of films with brief descriptions is available on the IFCINEMA website in English. Enjoy!