French Film Festival 2024

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On the Wandering Paths/Photo: Thomas Goisque

On the Wandering Paths (Sur les chemins noirs), starring Jean Dujardin, will open the French Film Festival on March 25, 2024. Now in its 21st edition, the festival presents a bountiful harvest of French films annually to Israeli audiences. Screenings will take place at the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Herzliya, and Holon cinematheques, as well as the Annis Center in Jaffa and additional locations.

On the Wandering Paths, directed by Denis Imbert, is based on the experiences of French writer and traveller Sylvain Tesson as described in his book of the same name. In this fictional adaptation of Tesson’s book, Jean Dujardin stars as Pierre Girard, an explorer who is severely injured after a drunken fall from a roof. As he heals physically, he decides to take on a challenge, travelling through France on foot, and the film is a chronicle of his wanderings through the beautiful landscape. The film, distributed by Kolnoa Hadash will be released in cinemas later this year.

Alongside the crop of new films shown at the festival will be two classics. Jacquot de Nantes, the 1991 film by Agnes Varda, celebrates her husband, Jacques Demy. An acclaimed director, screenwriter and lyricist, Demy is best known for his musical films, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), starring Catherine Deneuve, and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), starring Deneuve and her sister Françoise Dorléac. The film merges drama and documentary, with actors portraying the young Jacques during his early years and including interviews with Demy in his later years. Alan Resnais’ Mon Oncle d’Amerique (1980) is a drama that reflects the theories of Henri Laborit on human behavior, interspersed with, and in relation to the experiences of three fictional characters whose lives intersect. Henri Laborit appears in the film as himself, with Gerard Depardieu, Nicole Garcia, and Roger Pierre starring as the fictional characters.

The Animal Kingdom (Le Règne animal), directed by Thomas Cailley, is a father-son story with an unusual perspective. The Sci-fi thriller was co-written by Cailley and Pauline Munier and depicts a world in which some humans transform into fantastic hybrid species, growing fur, claws, wings, or other physical attributes. The film revolves around human society’s response to these changes, with fear motivating the exclusion and captivity of the human hybrids. Romain Duris stars as François, whose wife Lana (Florence Deretz) is transformed, and Paul Kircher is their 16-year-old son Émile. Their lives are dramatically altered, as they try to cope with all the changes.

Junkyard Dog, directed by Jean-Baptiste Durand, is a coming-of-age drama that focuses on two friends, Dog and Mirales, who live in a small town in the South of France. Friends since childhood, Dog (Anthony Bajon) and Mirales (Raphaël Quenard) spend their time together doing nothing much, locked into the same patterns and roles within their friendship. When Elsa (Galatea Bellugi) comes to town the newcomer, and her relationship with Dog, shifts the balance, and brings about changes for both Dog and Mirales.

Yannick, directed by Quentin Dupieux, is an unusual film that evokes questions regarding art. Although the subject here is the theatre, the issues raised are relevant for all the arts. The film’s protagonist Yannick (Raphaël Quenard) is a member of the audience attending what is undeniably a rather banal play. Theatre etiquette requires the disappointed audience member to endure silently until the play is over, with criticism reserved for conversations with friends or written texts. Yannick however, demands his right to a pleasurable evening out, and interrupts the performance to state his dissatisfaction. Not content with mere heckling, Yannick takes it a step beyond…

The festival’s closing film will be The Rapture (Le Ravissement), written and directed by Iris Kaltenbäck. Hafsia Herzi stars as Lydia, a midwife who is successful in her chosen profession, yet dissatisfied in her personal life. She is suffering from a painful breakup when she learns that her best friend Salome is pregnant. Her turbulent feelings lead her into some impulsive decisions, resulting in a web of secrets and deceit. The film will be distributed in Israel by Nachshon films.

The festival is the initiative of Eden Cinema Ltd. and its CEO, Carolyn Boneh, in collaboration with Unifrance, the French Embassy, and the Institut Francais. The artistic director of the festival is Guillaume Mainguet, the attaché for cinema and audiovisual affairs at the Institut Francais in Tel Aviv.

Screening dates and times may be found on the cinematheque websites.