Twenty-first birthdays in Australia normally conjure visions of beer-soaked depravity and over-sized keys. I’ve even been to one at which a hired French maid stripped off all her garments; to the surprise of the coming-of-aged’s great aunt Maisie. One suspects, however, that in the distantly remembered homeland of the aforementioned ‘hired help’, these transitions into adulthood are conducted with a touch more je ne sais quoi. The much-loved French Film Festival is sashaying into Sydney for the 21st time through March, bearing a 43-movie dégustation for the finer palate. First course: Micmacs, the latest offering from Amélie and Delicatessen director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who will be out here to introduce the film on the festival’s opening night. For some meat in the middle there’s the wonderfully nuanced family drama-cum-character sketch, Making Plans For Lena; a sad but utterly compelling look at a woman’s response to her disintegrated marriage, replete with the certain charming reality to its familial interactions the French do very well. Similarly elegant is the simple Queen to Play, a strangely moving tale of a cleaner’s growing obsession with, well, chess. The game has never seemed so erotic. For palate cleansers, there is the Sophie Marceau-starring mother/daughter/textspeak comedy LOL, the painfully soppy-sweet boy-meets-girler Every Jack Has A Jill (part of an entire section dedicated to films about l’amour at first sight, sigh), or a directorial debut comedy from actor Jean-Baptiste about a French-West Indian family’s trip to the very white slopes, First Snow. Make sure you save room for un dessert delicately prepared by graphic novelist Joann Sfar: a surrealistic exploration of the life of the incomparable Serge Gainsbourg. With so much on offer it’s a feast worth an anticipatory fast.
March 2-21, Palace Academy, Verona & Norton Street Cinemas, $14-30 ($240 for a 20-film pass), 1300 306 776, frenchfilmfestival.org