Film fest

Viva la French Cinema! during July in Chicago

Eiffel Tower at night with fireworks

Movie fans will be shouting viva la France this weekend as the 6th annual French Film Festival begins today at the Music Box Theatre.

The festival, which runs July 22 through July 28, kicks off with the fantasy / comedy The Brand New Testament–a controversial film showing God in human form with a 10-year-old daughter who wants to follow in her brother’s footsteps and create a new testament. Other highlights over the weekend include Michel Gondry’s latest, Microbe & Gasoline (2015), a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age road picture (click here to read our exclusive interview with Gondry), the animated adventure Phantom Boy (2015), from the team behind the Oscar-nominated A Cat in Paris (2012) and a restored digital copy of Andre Techine’s Scene of the Crime (1986), celebrating its 30th anniversary.

While the success of the festival is not a surprise to the Music Box, spokesperson Stephanie Berlin points out that the festival started when Facets Multimedia discontinued its own French film festival. Believing that a city as big as Chicago deserved its own annual festival (New York and Los Angeles have one), the Music Box programmed it into their calendar year.

Chicago has been having a love affair with French cinema this year. In addition to the film festival at the Music Box, the Gene Siskel Film Center is screening its Young French Cinema series running until August 3, which highlights 10 films by new French filmmakers. These films are showing in the final weeks.

  • Vincent (2014), directed by and starring Thomas Salvador, about a man with “superpowers.”
  • Portrait of the Artist (2015), directed by Antoine Barraud, is described as a “nod to Luis Bunuel.”
  • Story of Judas (2014), directed by Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche, filmed in the Algerian desert, retells the famous story.
  • Sense of Humor (2014) is directed by and stars Marilynne Canto

There will also be a free outdoor film series called Films on the Lake (running between July 21 and August 21), which as part of the Chicago Park District’s annual Movies in the Park series, will include Jacques Demy’s Oscar-nominated The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), the Oscar-nominated drama The Class (2008) and the award-winning animated film, The Triplets of Belleville (2003).

The popularity of French cinema can be explained by the important role France has played in the history of cinema. France is often referred to as the birthplace of cinema (thanks to the Lumiere Brothers) and is responsible for one of the most famous film movements, La Nouvelle Vague (the French New Wave), which gave us such filmmakers as Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer. The French were also responsible for what is known as modern film theory, which introduced such concepts as the auteur theory.

A total of 11 movies are part of the Music Box’s French Film Festival with a majority of them being screened more than once. Only the dramatic thriller Disorder (2015) starring Diane Kruger will have one screening (July 23). Some of the movies (Microbe & Gasoline, Phantom Boy and The Brand New Testament) will have limited theatrical runs at the Music Box as well.

Prior to the screening of The Brand New Testament, an opening night reception will be held in the Music Box Theatre lounge exclusively for pass-holders. For more information on the French Film Festival, including showtimes and ticket prices, visit the Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport) website here. For more information on the Films on the Lake series click here and visit the Gene Siskel Film Center website here for showtimes and ticket prices for the Young French Cinema series.

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