The IFI French Film Festival
Wednesday, 16th November 2011
The IFI have some Gallic treats in store for cinemagoers at this year’s French Film Festival. The line-up promises a 12-day feast of the best that French cinema has to offer.
The festival kicked off to a packed house on Wednesday evening with the screening of Yves Caumon’s beautiful film The Bird. Caumon was in attendance himself to provide some sublime insights into both himself and the film. He won over the crowd with a series of self-effacing and humourous responses to questions.
The film itself went down well – with an impressive central performance by Sandrine Kiberlain, (unfortunately unable to attend due to illness) who once again shows why she is one of France’s greatest actresses. She plays Anne, a grief-ridden woman in her early 40s who has become a recluse – living alone and maintaining a distance from her co-workers. When she frees a pigeon trapped in the wall of her house Anne begins to rediscover her feelings.
The film is heavy on atmosphere and sprinkled with moments of dry humour. A beautiful, evocative score subtly underpins the material of the film. Caumon’s slow, meticulous direction focuses on Anne’s internal emotions, which are remarkably portrayed by Kiberlain, whose eyes at times express so much. Her story is slowly revealed and her disconnected exterior is gradually chipped away at – when it is, it makes for some tender scenes, such as when she is watching Kenji Mizoguchi’s classic The Life of Oharu at the cinema.
Despite its sensitive subject matter, The Bird never falls into sentimentality and Caumon refuses to become emotionally attached to Anne. Behind the camera he very much remains a detached observer, allowing the story to tell itself. His measured direction makes for a particular moving scene when Anne returns to the family home. Where other directors would have overplayed this scene to manipulate the audience, Caumon’s subtle restraint makes the scene all the more effective.
The Bird was a fitting start to what promises to be another excellent IFI French Film Festival programme. Give yourself a treat and get yourself down to the IFI over the next 12 days – you won’t be disappointed…
The Bird screens again on 17th November at 18.15
Check out the festival programme here