Thursday, March 14, 2013

French Films Rule!

The French Film Festival is coming to the Byrd Theatre, March 21-24.  The festival, a four-day screening of 30 French features and shorts, many of them U.S. premiers, is sponsored by the University of Richmond’s Department of Modern Literatures and Cultures and Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of World Studies. Since 2003 it has been acclaimed as the most important French film festival in the United States. For information and tickets, visit  

Robert Hickman, film buff and Library Associate at RPL’s Westover Hills Branch, can’t wait:

“I love French films. I’m more likely to forgive and stay with them until the end, unlike the many U.S. releases I lose patience with after twenty minutes. A friend once remarked, “there’s nothing dumber than reading movies,” but I find that each one is still a new experience, as fresh and exciting as when I first started watching them decades ago. There’s more attention paid to character development, and the slower (European?) pace allows the story to unfold more naturally without a lot of pyrotechnics and other visual gimmickry. They are like small, independent U.S. films, which don’t need an overblown budget and lavish design and often employ the same cast and crew from film to film.

French film lover Robert Hickman
Because of the small size of both the French film industry and France itself, most film workers, studios and distribution companies are based in Paris. With a small number of directors, actors and technicians living in a concentrated area, it is logical that many often work together. This makes faces familiar, but not ubiquitous. Because French actors are not overexposed in the media as actors are in the United States, audience members can focus on the performance rather than the actor giving it.

French films don’t require Hollywood tricks such as the obligatory happy ending. While sometimes very frustrating, it’s also thought-provoking, and often keeps a film in memory long after it’s over. Some French films move more slowly than paint dries, but since I care more about the characters, I give them more leeway than their American counterparts. There is much less violence on the whole. Sex scenes are realistic and integral to the story rather than gratuitous. (There are so many beautiful sex symbols in French cinema history I cannot begin to list them all!)

Because many French film stars’ children and family members go into the business, it often seems like I’m spending time with an extended family, interesting yet not intrusive. It is a lovely way to spend a couple hours, which is also the perfect length for a visit. I only wish I could share the food they’re eating. There are fewer places I’d rather be than sitting in a darkened theatre, lost in a French film.”

Use your library card to enjoy your own French Film Festival at home.  Here are Robert’s ten top picks, all available @your library: 
Rules of the game [DVD]
= La règle du jeu
Breathless [DVD]
= À bout de souffle
Jules and Jim [DVD]
= Jules et Jim
The 400 blows [DVD]
= Les Quatre cents coups
Hiroshima mon amour [DVD]
A secret [DVD]
= Un secret
Purple noon [DVD]
= Plein soleil
Grand illusion [DVD]
= La grande illusion
Beauty and the beast [DVD]
= Belle et la bête
Summer hours [DVD]
= L'heure d'été


Anonymous said...

I love the exhibit at the Main Library highlighting your selection of books and DVD's to help set the mood for the upcoming French Film Festival. I remember how I loved "Jean de Florette" and "Manon of the Spring" with Yves Montand.

RVAKids said...

Great promo for the Festival, Robert. It's another great event produced right here in Richmond. I was at the first festival in the VCU commons and have attended as many as possible over the years. Many people don't know that this is the largest French Film Festival in the US, and many of the films are premieres here in the States.