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French Films to Entertain Moviegoers in Shanghai
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The best of recent French cinema will be screened from May 1-4 at five cinemas in Shanghai. Films from the last two years include comedy, romance, drama, thrillers, historical features, animation and shorts. For decades, French movies have captivated audiences worldwide for their intellectual content and artistry, setting them apart from many Hollywood productions. But today's fare is wide-ranging and engaging - art house plus.

From May 1-4, Shanghai movie fans, especially lovers of French cinema, will be entertained with 11 French features and 12 shorts during the "Panorama of French Cinema." They will be screened at the Shanghai Film Art Center, Studio City Cinema, Cathay Theater, Wanda International Cinema and Stellar Cinema City.

Most of the films have been released within the past two years and represent the recent development of French filmmaking. They include comedy, romance, historical drama, animation, and thrillers.

The cultural gala will be presented by UniFrance that facilitates the distribution and promotion of French films worldwide, the French Embassy and China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

This is the fourth French film festival in Shanghai, coming here after Beijing and moves on to Chengdu and Nanjing. It is a collaboration with the organizing committee of the 10th Shanghai International Film Festival on June 16-24.

During the exhibition, around 10 top French filmmakers and artists such as director Catherine Corsini and former James Bond temptress Carole Bouquet will speak with audiences.

The French film exhibition is the last cultural project before the Shanghai International Film Festival, says Tang Lijun, an official of the organizing committee.

"We hope to offer a clear picture of brilliant French film art and culture," he says.

During the panorama, don't miss Santiago Amigorena's atmospheric thriller A Few Days in September. The movie that stars Juliette Binoche and Margaux Chatelier is in some ways Europe's answer to World Trade Center attack.

Set against the backdrop of the days leading up to September 11, 2001, the story begins with the disappearance of Elliot, an American CIA agent holding top-secret information on the immediate security of the world.

Elliot's sole aim is to meet his daughter Orlando, whom he abandoned 10 years before. His friend and his adoptive son help him and lead the girl to her father on September 11.

Compared with Oliver Stone's sentimental and simplistic blockbuster about the tragedy on that date, this high-voltage tale of espionage, betrayal and financial maneuvers is more intelligent and complex.

However, Bamako by Abderrahmane Sissako features a different flavor of sharp satire. It is also the winner of the Grand Public Award at last year's Cannes Film Festival.

The movie centers on the injustices Africa has faced at the hands of the World Bank, and how they influence the relationship between Mele, a bar singer and her unemployed husband Chaka. The couple is on the verge of breaking up.

Aurore, the feature debut of Nils Tavernier, is another sensational and romantic piece for the whole family.

There was a kingdom where dance had been banned for many years. Nevertheless, Aurore, a young princess, continues to dance, keeping in mind her mother's advice: "Never forget to dance, even if you are sad." She then falls in love with the court painter, a penniless man who lives for his art, and must choose between the crown or love.

The heart of the film is the dance. And almost all the dancers belong to the Paris Opera Ballet. The heroine is played by Margaux Chatelier.

Animated film Asterix and the Vikings, directed by Stefan Fjeldmark and Jesper Moller, will be a favorite for kids.

This US$25-million animation is based on the hugely popular comic book by Albert Uderzo. The plot centers around an invasion of Gaul by the ferocious Vikings, who don't know the meaning of fear and believe that, if they can learn how, they will be able to fly.

Short films will also be showcased. Christine Pernin, an organizer of the film exhibition, says that France has a long tradition of producing avant-garde shorts. Many celebrated filmmakers like Luc Besson are keen to discover and support young talented directors through making short films.

The 12 short films (mostly five minutes in length) to be shown include Cyril Cohen's Big Family, Stefan Lay's Kiss and Samuel Miralles' Flame.

During the festival, each showing includes a feature preceded by a short film. All the movies are screened in their original French version with both English and Chinese subtitles.

(Shanghai Daily April 27, 2007)

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