French Film Festival

French Film Festival at HPU

The Department of Arts, Humanities, and Languages of the College of Liberal Arts, with a grant from the FACE Foundation, is pleased to present a  six week virtual French Film festival.  Tournées is a program of the FACE Foundation, which brings French cinema to American college and university campuses.  This year’s program will be virtual. Each film will be introduced at a Zoom discussion on Thursday night. Links to screen the films will be provided at the end of the discussion. 

 Joan of Arc                                                       Zoom Discussion  March 18, 6 P.M.

The movie focuses on the battles, trial, and execution that turned the Maid of Orleans into France’s national heroine. Director Bruno Dumont, who is predictable only in his unpredictability, keeps us on our toes by casting ten-year-old Lise Leplat-Prudhomme, the actress who played young Joan in the first film, in the role of mature Joan. Seeing the child in armor, then standing up to the cross-examination of English grandees in a trial for heresy, has an uncanny effect: one naturally responds to her vulnerability, but Leplat-rudhomme’s steely performance also conveys an otherworldly resilience that gives Joan’s spirituality a concrete presence, suggesting a bold new approach to this oft-told tale.



Portrait of a lady on Fire                       Zoom Discussion, March 25, 6 P.M. 

Five years after her international triumph Girlhood, writer-director Céline Sciamma returns with a poignant feminist revision of the historical romance. In the late eighteenth-century, Marianne, a free-spirited painter, travels to a remote island off the coast of Brittany to paint a portrait of Héloïse, a young woman whose mother has recently taken her out of a convent to marry her to an Italian nobleman whom she has never met. But Héloïse refuses to sit for a portrait she knows will be offered to her prospective husband. Marianne must paint her in secret, pretending merely to keep Héloïse company while trying to memorize her features as they walk on the beach. Sciamma’s masterful command of her art has rarely been more delightful to behold than in the way she teases out the shift from the artist’s dispassionate gaze to the yearning admirer’s look of desire. As the two young women experience a brief burst of love and freedom, a kind of utopia that will remain with them for the rest of their lives, Sciamma challenges the viewer to guess who is looking at who, raising complicated questions not only about desire but the history of artists and their models.


Synonyms                                                     Zoom Discussion,  April 1, 6 P.M.

With his third feature and first film set in France, Israeli writer-director Nadav Lapid provides an incendiary reminder that cinema is most powerful when it raises questions rather than provides answers, when every shot seems born of the desire to try out a new idea rather than bow to narrative convention, and when every scene feels as inevitable as it is surprising. With Synonyms, Lapid turned to his own experience as a young exile in France twenty years ago to tell the story of Yoav, a young Israeli who arrives in Paris knowing no one and barely speaking French but committed to forgetting his homeland and becoming a Frenchman. On his first night in Paris, Yoav is robbed of everything he owns and throws himself on the mercy of a bourgeois couple who will become his guides in the French approach to art, friendship, and sex. But the shadow of Yoav’s troubled native land is never far away. Subversively funny, brilliantly executed, constantly astonishing, and tragic in its political implications, Synonyms won a richly deserved Golden Bear at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival, confirming Nadav Lapid’s reputation as one of the most promising filmmakers to emerge in the last decade.

The Freshmen                                            Zoom Discussion, April 8, 6 p.m.

Over the last few years, practicing physician Thomas Lilti has carved out a unique place for himself in French cinema as a commercially successful writer-director with a specialization in the medical field. His nearly anthropological but always engrossing approach to various aspects of contemporary French medicine has unfolded in a series of entertaining fiction films. After tackling life in under-staffed, over-stressed hospitals and the struggles of France’s rare country doctors, Lilti turns to the first year of medical school, with an utterly fascinating—not to say terrifying—account of the preparations medical students must go through for a make or break examination that will alone determine whether they are able to pursue a medical career. The Freshmen tells the story of Antoine and Benjamin, two young men who become study buddies in the hellish months of relentless cramming leading up to this life-changing test. While Antoine is on his third try and desperate to succeed, Benjamin, the son of a prominent surgeon, is fresh out of high school, unsure what he wants, but naturally gifted at medicine. Their differing fortunes highlight the injustices of a savagely competitive, in many ways antiquated system that tends to perpetuate class differences.

The Mystery of Picasso                      Zoom Discussion, April 15, 6 P.m.

Pablo Picasso and Henri-Georges Clouzot, the director of masterpieces of suspense such as Le Corbeau and The Wages of Fear, had been friends for thirty years when they decided to rent a studio in Nice in the summer of 1955 and make a film. The result is one of cinema’s most vivid documents of a great artist at work, lifted by two brilliant decisions Clouzot made in his approach to Picasso. The first was to avoid the anecdotal, entirely eschewing interviews and explicatory material, while the second and most important was to ask Picasso to paint on a semi-transparent canvas that is filmed from behind, filling the frame, so that viewers see Picasso’s art take shape before their eyes. The choice to show Picasso’s lines without his hand allows for his act of artistic creation to become a beguiling animated spectacle, but also plays on film’s unique ability to share a point-of-view, giving viewers rare insight into how a genius might see his work. The wonder of seeing this great artist wrestling with a composition and, as Picasso put it, of seeing the painting beneath the paintings, is enhanced by this bright, sharp restoration, which makes it seem like Picasso is still at his easel today.

By tHe Grace of God                             Zoom Discussion,  APril 22, 6 P.M.

This gripping dramatization of the events that led to the exposure of the most significant sex abuse scandal to date in the French Catholic church is a departure for prolific writer-director François Ozon, an auteur best known as a playful, virtuosic stylist. Here, Ozon sticks to the facts and to a masterfully understated, sensitive style of filmmaking to tell the story of three men who founded an organization to confront the Archdiocese of Lyon’s decades-long protection of Father Bernard Preynat, a Catholic priest and boy scout leader who had abused them and dozens of other children. But this is neither a film about a manhunt or a courtroom drama: the focus here is on what happens to victims once they speak their truth. As such, it is an important contribution not only to our awareness of the international problem of sexual abuse in the Church, but to the general conversation in the era of #MeToo. After winning the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, By the Grace of God was a tremendous box office success in France, leading to greater recognition of a problem hitherto barely acknowledged by the French Catholic Church

Tournées Film Festival is made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S., the Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée (CNC), the French American Cultural Fund, Florence Gould Foundation, and Highbrow Entertainment.


Contact  Dr. Chadia Chambers-Samadi for more information