Home French La Belle Époque shines at French Film Festival

La Belle Époque shines at French Film Festival

by Bernard O'Shea

Want to know which films are expected to be the big hits at the Alliance Française French Film Festival in Australia? The films chosen for the opening and closing nights are obvious ones, but there’s a third that Bernardo (c’est moi) can reveal: it’s the film aired at a sneak preview for the media before the festival starts. In Sydney, this usually takes place at the Palace Verona, where we are treated to beautiful French cheeses and wines (the jostling for prime positions near the food table is always fun to watch) and hear the festival’s artistic director run through his choices. For the 2020 festival, the media treat was La Belle Époque.

In this funny film within a film, the excellent cast led by Daniel Auteuil and Fanny Ardant have to flip between the present and their belle époque, the 1970s. Yes, that means bell-bottom pants, hippie shirts, big sideburns and moustaches, trippy drugs and enough cigarette smoke to make modern cinema audiences want to choke. Quelle horreur! Check it out.


La Belle Époque did really well at the 45th César Awards, winning:

  • Best original screenplay for Nicolas Bedos (who also directed)
  • Best supporting actress for Fanny Ardent
  • Best production design for Stéphane Rozenbaum

It was also nominated for best film, best director, best cinematography, best editing, best sound and best costume design, while Daniel Auteuil and Doria Tillier (pictured at top) were nominated for best actor and actress respectively.

Why you should see La Belle Époque

This is a superb and very amusing piece of storytelling; the screenplay is clever, and the concept so unusual – time travelling with a difference – that you can never guess how things will pan out or what’s likely to happen next. It’s basically a nostalgia trip but also a warning against the dangers of romanticising the past and not appreciating what you have in the present. Beneath the humour and bonhomie there’s a touching pathos which adds resonance. Daniel Auteuil and Fanny Ardent are, of course, giants of French cinema, but in La Belle Époque it’s really Doria Tillier who stands out. She has to switch between two roles – her ‘own’ character, a struggling actor for hire, plus the role assigned to her by her theatrical employer, Time Travellers – the younger version of Ardent’s character. She’s superb. M5R

Read more about La Belle Époque here on the festival website.  Photo courtesy of the Alliance Française French Film Festival.

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