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The best comedies at the 2023 French Film Festival

by Bernard O'Shea

The 2023 Alliance Française French Film Festival in Australia has some great comedies for those looking for laughs. French humour is usually very sharp, and French film-makers often meld terrific comedy with uplifting, feel-good stories or thrilling action (a good example of the latter being The Innocent).

These French comedies are a joy to watch.

Two Ticket To Greece Les Cyclades

There’s something about women and the healing powers of Greek islands, if past hit films such as Shirley Valentine (1989) and Mamma Mia! (2008) are anything to go by. This time it’s three childhood but now estranged friends – played by Laure Calamy, Olivia Côte (both of whom starred in the fab 2021 AF FFF hit film Antoinette in the Cévennes) and Kristin Scott Thomas (all pictured above with Greek actor Panos Koronis) – who converge on the island of Amorgos in the Cyclades. Calamy is brilliant, the loudmouthed – “My friends call me Tinnitus,” she quips – boisterous glue that somehow manages to hold things together.

Freestyle En Roue Libre 

Anxiety and a murderous lust for revenge don’t sound like the ingredients of a comedy, but in this film they come together with zany zest. En Roue Libre was chosen as the official closing night film (though the festival gets extended for another week or so in the major host cities), and it’s so good I would definitely pay to see it again.

It’s basically a two-hander road movie starring Marina Foïs as a jaded nurse and Benjamin Voisin as a gun-toting young thug, but Jean-Charles Clichet has a great cameo as doctor who’s abducted along the way. The performances are terrific, as you’d expect, given that Foïs starred in The Beasts (As Bestas), which triumphed in the Spanish film industry’s Goya Awards this year, winning in nine categories, while Voisin was the poster boy of the 2022 French Film Festival as the star of the Lost Illusions (Illusions Perdues).

A doctor takes the temperature of a young boy while on a house call

A Good Doctor Docteur?

When grumpy alcoholic doctor Serge Mamou-Mani (Michel Blanc of Monsieur Hire fame) bumps into -literally as well as metaphorically – genial pizza delivery driver Malek (Hakim Jemili, pictured) while doing emergency house calls in Paris on Christmas Eve, the two have to team up to complete their tasks. 

They’re chalk and cheese – or as the French would say, ils sont le jour et la nuit (they are day and night) – but after a few hiccups they start to make a great buddy-buddy team. Cue for some great gags and dashes of toilet humour had had my fellow audience members in stitches . But there are also some tender moments – notably an unspecting young woman giving birth – and in the personal lives of the two main characters.

It’s a must for anyone who’s contemplating going to medical school!

An elderly male and female sing a duet watched by other members of the choir

Silver Rockers Choeur de Rockers

This is a fun movie thanks mainly to the antics of the members of a seniors-only choir, who come to life when a singer in a failed pub band, Alex (played by Mathilde Seigner) takes over as their tutor. Her job is to rehearse them for a municipal function in Dunkerque, where they’re supposed to sing, of all things, famous French nursery rhymes. But songs such as Le Pont de Nantes aren’t their cup of chamomile tea, so they secretly rehearse their rock n’ roll faves, rediscovering their joie de vivre in the process.

The film treats us to a mix of French rock or pop classics, such as covers of Gabrielle by Johnny Hallyday; Ça (c’est vraiment toi) by Téléphone (who feature prominently in my record and CD collection); Antisocial by Trust; J’ai vu by NiagaraLaissez-moi danser (Monday, Tuesday) by Dalida; and Le Temps de l’amour  by Françoise Hardy.  Songs in English that feature prominently are Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash; We Will Rock You by Queen; Soft Cell’s Tainted Love and a terrific rendition of Blondie’s One Way Or Another. There’s also a very moving version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, sung at a funeral.

Silver Rockers/Choeur de Rockers is based on a real-life seniors’ choir formed in Dunkerque in 2010. You can learn more about their story here.

Jack Mimoum and the Secrets of Val Verde Jack Mimoum et les secrets de Val Verde 

A far-fetched but very enjoyable spoof of the Indiana Jones, Tarzan, Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe stories, set among gorgeous locations  in Thailand. Malik Bentalha directs and stars as Mimoum, a celebrity adventurer who’s not so daring in real life as he appears on TV. But when he meets a beautiful young woman Aurélie (Joséphine Japy, pictured) who’s on a mission to find the legendary bejewelled sword of famed French pirate La Buse (real name Olivier Levasseur, whose looted treasure has never been found) he agrees to help – something that he’ll soon regret.

Joining them on the caper are Mimoum’s hapless manager played by Jérôme Commandeur (above right), and a crazy helicopter pilot and mercenary, Belgian actor François Damiens (above centre) in terrific form. M5R

Photos courtesy of the Alliance Française French Film Festival.

See also

The best dramas of the 2023 French Film Festival

French Film Festival goes big in 2023

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