Director Regis Roinsard was particularly excited when his film, Populaire, opened the annual Rendez-vous with French Cinema at the Paris Theater. He exulted introducing his stars, Romain Duris and Deborah Francois. Evoking Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn movies, Populaire follows this festival's first night traditions as a frothy comedy with old-fashioned sexist overtones, charming as only the French can make them! Populaire turns out to be a pink typewriter Francois's character uses to win a '50s-era typing competition and land the man of her dreams played with fetching allure by Duris. What surprises, as Roinsard explained at the French Cultural Services afterparty, is that this was a first feature, based on a historic typing competition. Influenced by American movies, he wanted to make it into a love story. Of course, at the end, as the tap tap tap accelerates, the industrial types imagine the word machine's future: the ball, with all the letters of the alphabet contained in a golfball-sized metal sphere, rotating as it makes its marks.
Audrey Tautou attended the opening night as well. The Amelie girl, delightful and sprite-like in her breakthrough movie that was nominated for Best Foreign Film, plays dour in Therese Desqueyroux. Claude Miller's final film, adapted from the novel by Francois Mauriac, this is a tale of two young women, best friends, and the narrow lives they are expected to live. Confined, kowtowing to husbands, the girls' main mission is to marry well. This is a lushly filmed period piece that ends surprisingly well, feminist forward. Let us say, by the end Audrey Tautou cracks a crooked smile. An earlier version of this story starring Emmanuelle Riva was also screened. Other highlights of this yearly French festival are Bad Girl, a contemporary drama with Carole Bouquet as a former model dying of cancer. Bob Geldof, as, what else, a rock musician, plays her ex-husband. And Three Worlds, Catherine Corsini's film about a hit and run incident and its tragic consequences for the driver has an undercurrent of class frisson that offers a fresh glimpse into French multicultural society.
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