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[whitespace] Terrence Stamp
Poison Pen: Terrence Stamp plays an editor out for revenge in 'Tiré à Part.'

Ciné Fest

The Palo Alto French Film Festival highlights 10 French-language films

By Richard von Busack

ECLECTICALLY PROGRAMMED AND INDEPENDENTLY RUN, the second annual Palo Alto French Film Festival offers up 10 films over the Halloween weekend. Director Hayet Ennabli, formerly attached to Cinequest, presents a number of films linked only by their use of the French language. The range here includes everything from the new Bertrand Tavernier picture to a full-length African animated cartoon.

La Nouvelle Eve by Catherine Corsini (playing on Oct 28, 8:20pm) is a sharp comedy full of charm and frankness. Feisty Karen Viard plays Camille, a lady deep in a bad stage in her life. She's terminally needy, quite promiscuous yet hopelessly dreaming of some perfect love--an embarrassment to herself and all around her. Looking for connection, Camille goes in for sport-sex but ends up bird-dogging a stable, socialist artist (Pierre-Loup Rajot) who is happily married and has two daughters. When she tires of being the other woman, Camille impulsively marries her part-time boyfriend, a bisexual truck driver (Sergi Lopez.) Why this all works is a puzzle, and that puzzle can only be solved by saying that star power makes it work. Viard's too sweet and funny to be really dangerous--let alone annoying--even in the worst stages of her impulsive behavior. One can't wait to see what mess she'll get herself in next.

Bertrand Tavernier's Ça Commence Aujourd'hui (It All Starts Today) (playing Oct 29 at 7:40pm) exposes the discontents of an early child care system. In this local premiere by the director of Coup de Torchon and Round Midnight, Daniel Lefebvre (Philipe Torreton) plays a teacher in an impoverished rustbelt town in Northern France. Daniel copes with troubled parents on one side and an apathetic bureaucracy on the other.

Beyrouth Fantôme by Ghassan Salhab explores the tribulations of the divided city of Beirut--director Salhab will be in attendance (Oct 28, 3:45pm). And the festival offers several films from North Africa, where formerly colonized nations still speak French. Opening night is Tiré à Part (Limited Edition)(Oct 27, 7:30pm) starring Terence Stamp as a conniving British editor who heads to Tunis to take care of some unfinished business. Kirikou and the Sorceress by Michale Ocelot is an African cartoon based on folktales. It was a French hit, and it tries to be sensitive to African modes of music and thought, but the sorceress villain is arrayed like a bare-breasted chorus girl at the Folies Bergère--you can't get away from its Disneyfied quality. For a more indigenous look at Africa today, see Tilai, the 1990 Cannes Grand Prize winner by Burkina Faso's Idrissa Ouedraogo (Oct. 29, 2pm). Plus two films from Morocco: Dans la Maison de Mon Père (Oct 29, 4pm) is a Dutch documentary mostly on the fanatical subject of the importance of virginity. Les Casablancais by Abdelkader Lagata (Oct 29 at 5:40pm), with its visions of a chilly, nondescript, bustling town, will permanently vanquish images of Rick's Café Americain from your mind when you think of Casablanca. The film is a Short Cuts-style profile of a dozen characters pressured by the rise of fundamentalist Islam in the formerly liberalized city.

The three-day Palo Alto French Film Festival is held Oct 27-29 at the Spangenberg Auditorium at Gunn High School, 780 Arastradero Road, in Palo Alto. Admission per day is $8 nonmembers/$6 members; passes range from $30-$45 for members and $65-$80 for nonmembers. (650. 261.1014 or 510.601.TWEB)

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From the October 26-November 1, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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