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2023 French Film Festival makes rollicking start with Masquerade

by Bernard O'Shea

The 34th Alliance Française French Film Festival in Australia has started, boasting 39 top-quality films including a couple that featured prominently in the 2023 César Awards at the end of February.

The opening night film is Masquerade (Mascarade in French), a movie about “glamour, sex, money and manipulation”, according to the official program. It stars Pierre Niney as Adrien, a dancer whose career has been cut short by an accident. To maintain a lavish lifestyle on the Côte d’Azur, he seduces Martha (the highly acclaimed Isabelle Adjani), a woman twice his age. Things get complicated when the beautiful, devious Margot (Marine Vacth) comes along. Cue love triangle, err, love quadrangle actually, with disastrous consequences!

Star-studded cast

My Five Romances attended the opening night, which started off with a congenial party in the grounds of the University of Notre Dame in Chippendale, Sydney, before moving on to Palace Cinemas Central Park for the screening. From its opening scenes Masquerade moves along at a cracking pace, and the cast is really strong. Italian-born actress Laura Morante, Emmanuelle Devos of Perfumes fame, and François Cluzet and Charles Berling have significant supporting roles.

Masquerade was written and directed by Nicholas Bedos, as were recent Alliance Française French Film Festival favourites La Belle Époque and OSS 117: From Africa with Love.

Please note: The picture at top is not from the film Masquerade, it’s from Country Cabaret, (Les Folies Fermières), another highlight of the festival. The Masquerade film stills supplied were dull and grainy (this is a common problem with film stills). The trailer, though, shows Masquerade‘s panache.

Closing night spectacle

The festival will close with another film that looks very entertaining, Freestyle (in French, En Roue Libre, which means “out of control”). It stars Marina Foïs and the actor who was the poster boy of last year’s festival, Benjamin Voisin of Lost Illusions/Illusions Perdues fame.

She’s a woman with high anxiety, he’s a gun-toting car thief. When he breaks into her car one night while she’s sleeping in it, she’s too petrified to get out and has to go along with him on his mission, which is to “waste” someone who ran down his brother. An unlikely friendship blossoms. The trailer looks very promising.

César Award winners and contenders

The complete list of films screening at the 2023 Alliance Française French Film Festival (AFFFF23) can be found here. Look out for the comedy/thriller The Innocent (French: L’Innocent), which won Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay out of 11 nominations at the most recent César Awards, and November (French: Novembre), which scored seven nominations, and Saint Omer, which won Best First Feature Film out of its four nominations.

The festival runs from March 7 to April 25 in 14 cities around Australia. That’s double the number of locations last year, so it will probably smash attendances records. The organisers are hoping for more than 200,000.

The Alliance Française was founded in 1883, and of its 834 centres around the world 27 are in Australia.

2023 French Film festival dates

  • Sydney, NSW: 7th March to 5th April
  • Melbourne, VIC: 8th March to 5th April
  • Perth, WA: 8th March to 5th April
  • Canberra, ACT: 9th March to 5th April
  • Brisbane, QLD: 15th March to 12th April
  • Byron Bay, NSW: 16th March to 5th April
  • Adelaide, SA: 23rd March to 19th April
  • Parramatta, NSW: 29th March to 2nd April
  • Rooty Hill, NSW: 29th March to 2nd April
  • Victor Harbor, SA: 3rd and 10th April
  • Bendigo, VIC: 21st to 23rd April
  • Gold Coast, QLD: 29th March to 16th April
  • Margaret River, WA: 31st March to 2nd April
  • Hobart, TAS: 9th to 19th March

In some centres the festival will be extended for a few days for ‘by popular demand’ screenings. M5R

See also

French Film Festival goes big in 2023

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