IFI French Film Festival: Opening

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DAY 1: Thursday 18th November

The 2010 IFI French Film Festival kicked off in appropriate style last night with the opening-night screening of Michel Leclerc’s The Names of Love (Le nom des gens). The film was followed by a gala reception where wine and cheese ensured some lively post-film conversation.

The Names of Love, which stars Sara Forestier and Jacques Gamblin, is an earthy comedy that keeps a tight reign on the political satire it is structured around. Forestier plays Bahia – a vivacious free spirit of Algerian descent – who seeks to convert right-wing men by making love (not war) to them while whispering more than sweet nothings in their ear in an attempt to influence their unconscious. When she meets Gamblin’s Arthur Martin (‘like the cookers’), she initially takes him to be another potential convert, but things of course turn out other than expected.

While often commenting on historical, cultural and racial identity in France, the film succeeds as a result of its comic charm and in particular on the back of its two leads, whose performances provide a satisfactory counterbalance. Forestier’s physical comedy and eccentricities play well along Gamblin’s low-key caution. Leclerc directs with style and controls the story tightly with clever use of narrative devices, including characters interacting with their younger selves. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, particularly the dinner scene that brings the families of the two lovers together – recalling Basil Fawlty’s insistence on not mentioning the war at a table of Germans. Though sometimes slipping into the overly sentimental, The Names of Love proved itself to be a winner with the audience on the festival’s opening night.

The Names of Love will screen again on Friday, 26th November followed by a Q&A with Michel Leclerc.

Click here for details of the festival’s programme of events.

Steven Galvin

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