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Truffaut Lives: Arnaud Desplechin, who has been hailed as the new Truffaut, will be represented at the festival with a screening of 'Kings and Queen.'

Vive la France

The newest of the New Wave speak and screen at Stanford French film festival

By Sura Wood

NEARLY A half-century ago, François Truffaut and his fellow subversives of the New Wave formulated the auteur theory. Fifty years later, French cinema is thriving with a fresh crop of young French filmmaker/provocateurs whose films often receive limited or no theatrical distribution in the United States. In order to find them, one must turn to specialty film festivals such as From Script to Screen: Conversations on Contemporary French Cinema. The series, featuring high-profile French directors and actors in conjunction with forums and insightful commentary by film professionals and critics, was established at Stanford University in 2003.

"We created this festival to bring contemporary French culture and the artists who shape it to the academic world, in response to the increasing separation between academia, criticism and the arts," says festival co-founder Cécile Alduy, assistant professor in the department of French and Italian at Stanford. "We believe that there's nothing better than cinema to bridge this gap, as it reflects social tensions, political issues, aesthetic trends and psychological problems of a given generation, country [or] gender."

This year's program, which runs Feb. 22 to March 1, includes works by Nicolas Philibert (To Be and to Have), Arnaud Desplechin (My Sex Life ...or How I Got Into an Argument, Esther Kahn) and a round table moderated by Jean-Michel Frodon, editor-in-chief of Cahiers du Cinéma. For those who may have missed it, Philibert's inspiring documentary, To Be and to Have (Être et avoir), is a portrait of an extraordinary grade-school teacher in rural France. The film opened to positive reviews when it was released in the United States and was a hit in France, where it made the director a celebrity. Philibert, a meticulous director attuned to small, telling moments, spent many painstaking months shooting in the one-room schoolhouse where teacher George Lopez shaped and guided young minds in his care. Philibert will attend a seminar after the screening of that film and Land of the Deaf (Le pays des sourds), which transports viewers to the world of the deaf, a realm with its own culture and rich, evocative language.

The festival wraps with the West Coast premiere of Desplechin's Kings and Queen (Rois et reine). Desplechin, who has been compared to Truffaut, will join Cahiers du Cinéma's Frodon in conversation following the film. Frodon will also give a lecture and moderate a panel discussion on "The French Cultural Exception," a phrase that refers to the preservation of national cultural identity and resistance to Hollywood's dominance of the film industry. The invasion of American movies and pop culture, a hot topic in France, should make for a lively exchange of ideas. "Through concrete images and aesthetic decisions," says Alduy, "films offer the material texture of the culture that produced them: how people live, love, think, talk, eat, rebel and interact."

From Script to Screen takes place Feb. 22­March 1 at Stanford. 'To Be and to Have' screens Feb. 22, 6pm, at Cubberley Auditorium. 'Land of the Deaf' screens Feb. 23, 5pm, at Memorial Auditorium. An evening with Arnaud Desplechin takes place Feb. 28, with a seminar at 4:15pm at Building 300, Room 300, followed by a screening of 'Leo Playing "In the Company of Men"' at 6pm at Cubberley. Jean-Michel Frodon leads a round table on March 1 at 3:30pm at Building 370, Room 370, followed by 'Kings and Queen' at 6pm at Cubberley.

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From the February 16-22, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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