There’s nothing more délicieux for French film junkies than the New York City-based festival, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. This year’s lovefest begins today, March 2. The 28th edition, presented by Unifrance and Film at Lincoln Center, boasts 21 films that range from anticipated new work from cinematic superstars like Arnaud Desplechin, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and Dominik Moll, to promising debuts from the newcomers everyone’s buzzing about.
The festivities begin with director Alice Winocour and her leading lady, Virginie Efira, introducing the much fêted opening night film Revoir Paris. In a performance that won her the 2022 César award for Best Actress, Efira plays Mia, a translator who finds herself unable to move past the mass shooting she survived in a Paris bistro. Instead of dropping back into her everyday life, she keeps returning to the scene of the event, where she connects with fellow survivors over their shared trauma.
From there, the lineup fabuleux is enough to make a cinephile’s heart skip a beat. Here are a few standouts that are likely to hit screens big and small near you in the upcoming months.
Brother and Sister, directed by Arnaud Desplechin
Beloved director Arnaud Desplechin returns to the volatile, messy lives of the Vuillard family at the heart of his earlier films Kings and Queen (2004) and A Christmas Tale (2008). Here, estranged siblings Louis (Melvil Poupaud) and Alice (Marion Cotillard) are forced into the same room with each other after their parents nearly die in a car accident. The March 5 screening will be followed by a Q&A with Poupaud.
The Five Devils, directed by Léa Mysius
Celebrated screenwriter Léa Mysius collaborated with iconic filmmakers Jacques Audiard, Claire Denis, and Arnaud Desplechin before turning to directing herself. Her second feature (after Ava, which appeared in Rendez-Vous in 2018) tells the story of Vicky (Sally Dramé), a young girl with an unusual superpower that comes into play when the reappearance of a mysterious aunt causes family secrets to bubble up to the surface. A Q&A with Léa Mysius will follow the March 4 screening.
The Innocent, directed by Louis Garrel
The latest comedy from writer-director-star Louis Garrel (and winner of the César Award for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Noémie Merlant) follows Abel (Garrel), a normal guy who gets swept up in the criminal underworld when his beloved maman marries a convict just before his release from prison.
Mother and Son, directed by Léonor Serraille
The director of Montparnasse Bienvenüe (Rendez-Vous, 2018) returns with a story that covers 20 years of a complicated relationship between hard-partying Ivory Coast immigrant Rose (Annabelle Lengronne) and her serious sons, Jean (played by Stéphane Bak in adulthood) and Ernest (Ahmed Sylla).
The Night of the 12th, directed by Dominik Moll
In the film that swept the 2022 Césars, winning awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Bouli Lanners), Best Male Newcomer (Bastien Bouillon), and Best Sound, two detectives investigate the murder of a young woman who was set on fire one night after leaving a party in a small quiet Alpine town. The thriller from the director best known for With a Friend Like Harry… (2000) and Only the Animals (2019) digs into the true crime genre to excavate misogyny in contemporary French society. The March 10 screening will be followed by a Q&A with Dominik Moll and cowriter Gilles Marchand. (Frenchly will follow with an interview with Moll in the coming weeks.)
The Origin of Evil, directed by Sébastien Marnier
The inimitable Laure Calamy (Call my Agent!) stars as Stéphane, an amusingly unreliable protagonist who shows up at the seaside mansion of a wealthy businessman to announce that she’s his long-lost daughter. The reception from the women in the house—wife, daughter, granddaughter, maid—is beyond chilly. So begins the amusingly twisty-turny thriller that keeps you guessing till the very end. The March 3 screening will be followed by a Q&A with Sébastien Marnier.
Other People’s Children, directed by Rebecca Zlotowski
Writer-director Rebecca Zlotowski (An Easy Girl, Rendez-Vous, 2020) draws from her own life in this moving story of Rachel (Virginie Efira), a 40-something woman who falls in love with a single father (Roschdy Zem). Becoming increasingly attached to his four-year-old daughter (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves) makes her realize just how much she wants a child over her own. Her gynecologist who thinks it might be too late is played by documentary filmmaker extraordinaire, Frederick Wiseman. Efira endows Rachel with vulnerability and passion as a woman forced to face the pressures that society imposes on women who don’t follow the expected married-with-children-by-30 path. A Q&A with Zlotowski & Efira will follow the March 3 screening.
Saturn Bowling, directed by Patricia Mazuy
Named one of the 10 best films of 2022 by the esteemed journal Cahiers du cinema, this contemporary noir stars Arieh Worthalter as Guillaume, a police detective who gifts the family bowling alley to his estranged half-brother, Armand (Achille Reggiani), following the death of their father. As if haunted, the transaction sets into motion a dark trajectory further complicated by a series of murders Guillaume can’t seem to solve. A Q&A with Patricia Mazuy will follow the March 5 screening.
Three Nights a Week, directed by Florent Gouëlou
Struggling photographer Baptiste (Pablo Pauly) finds new inspiration in Cookie Kunty (Romain Eck), a drag performer he meets while volunteering at a public-health clinic. Documenting Cookie’s world leads him on a profound journey of self-discovery. Himself a drag performer, director Gouëlou takes viewers on a deep dive into drag culture enhanced by the contributions of 40 French drag artists both in front of and behind the camera. A Q&A with Florent Gouëlou will follow the March 11 screening.
The Worst Ones, directed by Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret
In this behind-the-scenes drama, Belgian director Gabriel (Johan Heldenbergh) arrives in the small town of Boulogne-sur-Mer to cast non-professional teenagers for his debut feature, but the locals object to his choices, worried the troubled teens from the housing projects will make the town look bad. Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret’s debut film and winner of the Un Certain Regard section at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, “walks a remarkably fine line between fact and fiction, allowing their young performers to give star-making turns as ‘themselves’ while considering the ways in which ostensibly well-meaning documentary and fiction films can exploit nonperformers in the name of authenticity.” A Q&A with Lise Akoka and Matthias Jacquin will follow the March 5 screening.
Additional free events include a conversation with Revoir Paris and Other People’s Children star Virginie Efira (March 3); an interview with writer, director and star of The Innocent, Louis Garrel (March 4); and a panel discussion about Queer Identities On Screen (March 10).
Rendez-Vous with French Cinema tickets are available here.
Andrea Meyer has written creative treatments for commercial directors, a sex & the movies column for IFC, and a horror screenplay for MGM. Her first novel, Room for Love (St. Martin’s Press) is a romantic comedy based on an article she wrote for the New York Post, for which she pretended to look for a roommate as a ploy to meet men. A long-time film and entertainment journalist and former indieWIRE editor, Andrea has interviewed more actors and directors than she can remember. Her articles and essays have appeared in such publications as Elle, Glamour, Variety, Time Out NY, and the Boston Globe.