5 Must-See Movies at the 2013 Sacramento French Film Festival

Words by James Barone

France. The very name seems to stand for all things romantic and pretentious; beautiful and despondent. Maybe it’s these dichotomies that have made the country such a ripe place for the arts over its rich and colorful history. Claude Monet, Honoré de Balzac and Jean-Luc Godard are just a few of the vaunted artists to come from France; and that’s not even counting all the creative minds who’ve flocked there in hopes of tapping into whatever it is the country seems to have that inspires artistic minds to create great works. Sacramento may be far from Paris (more than 5,500 miles), but that’s no reason you can’t bask in France’s je ne sai quoi from the comfort of your own city, and from June 21 through 30, you’ll have the opportunity to do just that via the magic of cinema.

Organized by the Sacramento French Cultural Society, the Sacramento French Film Festival is entering its 12th year. For the 2013 installment, the festival organizers have brought a host of Sacramento premiers and a handful of notable classics from across the Atlantic to delight local moviegoers, all of which will be shown at the historic Crest Theatre. Here’s a rundown of five of the films that you won’t want to miss.


Cloclo (2012)

Screening: June 21 at 8:30 p.m.

The SFFF gets off to a show-y start with this film about French pop star Claude François, who is best known for composing “Comme d’habitud,” which served as the basis for Frank Sinatra’s classic “My Way.” Starring Jeremie Renier (who appeared in the high-octane French action classic Brotherhood of the Wolf and alongside Colin Farrell in In Bruges), Cloclo (aka My Way) follows François from his upbringing in Egypt, through his rise to fame in Paris until his untimely death in 1978. This sprawling bio-pic features lush camera work and plenty of ‘70s style glam. You’ll only have one chance to catch Cloclo at the SFFF, and its lone screening will be preceded by the festival’s opening reception, starting at 6 p.m. in the Crest Theatre lobby. The reception will feature sets from DJs Christophe and Roger; food provided by Selland’s Market Cafe, Estelle’s Patisserie, Hot Italian and more; and an open bar courtesy of Barefoot Wine and Track 7 Brewery. If that’s not a good way to start a festival, I’m not sure what is.


Starbuck (2012)

June 22 at 1:05 p.m.;
June 23 at 1:20 p.m.

For something a bit lighter, check out Starbuck, a comedy that mushroomed into an unlikely international hit. The film follows the story of David, a forty-something slacker, who donated his sperm to a bank to make some extra cash. Due to a mix-up, his sperm went on to father more than 500 children, and 20 years after many of them are now filing a lawsuit to find out who’s the daddy (known only under the alias of Starbuck). If this sounds familiar, it’s because Hollywood is currently working on its own version of this film, Delivery Man, starring Vince Vaughn due out later this year. Check out the original French version first, so you can act all holier than thou when the American version is released (it’s fun, trust me). This is a fun, accessible film that shatters the myth that French films are all cigarette smoke and sadness (not that we don’t like those things too).


Les Miserables (1958)

Screening: June 30 at 1:25 p.m.

Maybe you were one of the many who swooned over the latest Hollywood musical reinterpretation of Les Miserables last winter? Well, this isn’t anything like that. You won’t find any tear-jerking songs, but you will be treated to perhaps the truest adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel ever to grace the silver screen. This is a bona fide big screen epic clocking in at more than three hours in length (this screening will also have a 20-minute intermission). Adapted and directed by Jean-Paul le Chanois and starring Jean Gabin as Jean Valjean, this is majestic filmmaking on par with classic Hollywood epics such as Ben Hur or Cleopatra.


Aaltra (2004)

Screening: June 29 at Midnight

The SFFF also has a couple of late night options for moviegoers who like films that push the envelope. When an altercation ends in two feuding neighbors getting their legs crushed by farm equipment, the duo must set out on the road across Europe to Finland to track down the tractor’s manufacturer. Aaltra seems to follow typical road trip mode, where two characters who really don’t get along are forced to band together and journey a great distance so comedy may ensue, but unlike other road trip movies, our two protagonists here make most of the trip via wheelchair. This dark comedy will probably make you feel bad for laughing at its jokes. Don’t worry, it’s just a movie. Laugh away. You won’t go to hell, I promise.


Thérèse (2012)

Screening: June 30 at 7:45 p.m.

American audiences fell hopelessly in love (at least I did) with French actress Audrey Tautou when Amelie made a huge splash here in the States. While that hasn’t necessarily translated into a huge career in Hollywood, the actress is still breaking hearts overseas with her Audrey Hepburn-esque looks and sensitive performances. Thérèse, based on the novel by François Mauriac, is the final film Claude Miller completed before he died and closed out last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Thérèse will have the same honors here at the SFFF and for good reason. This harrowing historical drama tells the story of a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who never loses her free spirit. Tautou is also featured in another film shown at the SFFF, Delicacy, which will be screened June 28 at 6:15 p.m. and June 29 at 12:50 p.m. Thérèse will be followed by the festival’s closing night’s champagne party, which will also be held in the Crest Theatre lobby.

For more information and a full rundown of all the films featured in the Sacramento French Film Festival, go to Sacramentofrenchfilmfestival.org.