NOTRE DAME ON FIRE & OTHER MUST-WATCH TITLES AT SG’S FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL

Even though I don’t consider myself a Francophile, some of the most memorable films I watched were French. From steampunk dreamscape The City Of Lost Children (1998) to the magical realism adventure that is Amélie (2001), the allure of French cinema lies in its inimitable ability to entertain and draw viewers in with its emotionally-charged storytelling.

Ride Above.

In celebration of vOilah! France Singapore Festival 2022, the French Film Festival makes a comeback with its 38th edition. Paying tribute to the pioneer of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard, the line-up of 30 films beautifully captures the diversity of French cinema. Playing from now until November 27, the festival opens with Ride Above, directed by Christian Duguay and starring Mélanie Laurent, Pio Marmaï, and Carole Bouquet. An adaptation of young adult novel “Tempête au Haras” by Chris Donner, the film tells the story of Zoé, who, born and raised around horses, is driven by the dream of following her father’s footsteps in becoming a successful jockey.

Kitchen Brigade.

Viewers who prefer something more light-hearted can opt for Kitchen Brigade featuring Cathy, a determined sous-chef who dreams of opening her own gourmet restaurant; Tenor, starring beatboxing world champion MB14, and tells the uplifting story of a talented young underdog who rises from suburban stress to the grand stage of the Paris Opéra; or Champagne! by Nicolas Vanier with Elsa Zylberstein, which takes place during springtime in the French vineyards of Champagne.

Champagne!

My favourite has to be Notre Dame On Fire, a disaster film based on the real-life incident in 2019. An artful combination of both actual footage and fictional material, the cinematography kept us on our edges on our seats throughout the whole one hour and fifty minutes. Dramatised by Jean-Jacques Annaud (“The Lover”, 1992, “Seven Years in Tibet”, 1997), the film pays tribute to
the Paris firefighters’ exceptional commitment during fire.

Notre Dame On Fire.

What I love most about the film was how it captured often-missed details like the small spark of a flint which escalated into raging flames, the frustrating grid-locked traffic preventing the fire trucks from getting to their destination, as well as the deft contrast between the intense fire-fighting scenes and the daily lives of the Parisians and their seemingly insignificant problems in the grand scheme of things—like a lady’s kitten stuck on the roof. Although the dialogue tends to be clunky at best, the split-screen technique allows the news footage and fictional storytelling to meld together seamlessly in a slickly staged documentary.

Finally, make a beeline for symbolic films such as Pierrot le Fou, Band of Outsiders, and Breathless, which all pay tribute to the late Jean-Luc Godard, the pioneer of the French New Wave movement in cinematography.

Whether you’re familiar with French cinema or curious about what it’s got to offer, there’s bound to be something worth your while at Singapore’s 38th French Film Festival.

More information here.

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