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FIAF Presents "Looking Back: From Powdered Wigs to Pagnol"

Image: The Black Book of Father Dinis by Valeria Sarmiento

From the courts of Versailles to pre-war Provence, FIAF’s Virtual CinéSalon will transport audiences to the past with Looking Back: From Powdered Wigs to Pagnol. Running from November 3 to January 4, these period films are more than escapist fantasies; they vividly and lavishly enliven classic French novels, revisit cinematic masterpieces, and reexamine social mores and gender roles through a contemporary lens. All nine films will be available to rent on Kino Now, the streaming platform for Kino Lorber. Films are free for FIAF members.

In addition to this series, FIAF will present the exclusive New York virtual release of Valeria Sarmiento’s The Black Book of Father Dinis (2018). A companion piece to the epic Mysteries of Lisbon (2010) by Sarmiento’s late partner Raul Ruiz, it follows the adventures of a peasant maid and an orphan through Italy, France, and England at the end of the 18th century.

Here's the full program : 

Farewell, My Queen (Les Adieux à la Reine) 
Dir. Benoît Jacquot, 2011, 100 min 
With Léa Seydoux, Diane Kruger, Virginie Ledoyen 
In French with English subtitles 
Available on Kino Now - November 3–November 9, 2020 

Acclaimed director Benoît Jacquot brilliantly captures the passions, debauchery, occasional glimpses of nobility, but ultimately the chaos that engulfed the court of Marie Antoinette in her final days at the court of Versailles. Based on the best-selling novel by Chantal Thomas, the film stars Léa Seydoux as one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting. Seemingly innocent she quietly insinuates herself into mistress’s favors, until history tosses her fate onto a decidedly different path. Moving effortlessly between the gilded drawing rooms of the nobility to the back quarters of those who serve them, this period film is at once sumptuous and accurate in its visual details, while capturing authentic and emotional performances from a strong cast that boasts Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette and Virginie Ledoyen as her confidant, Gabrielle de Polignac.

Click here for more info.

The Well-Digger’s Daughter (La Fille du puisatier) 
Dir. Daniel Auteuil, 2011, 105 min 
With Daniel Auteuil, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Nicolas Duvauchelle 
In French with English subtitles 
Available on Kino Now - November 10–November 16, 2020

The first of three Daniel Auteuil films based on a Marcel Pagnol source that FIAF will present in Looking Back—and his directorial debut—tells the sweeping saga of the widower and well-digger Pascal Amoretti (Auteuil), who is raising a small army of young girls in the Provençal countryside in the early days of World War II. When the eldest of the six, Patricia (the luminous Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), begins an illicit affair with a rich and dashing air force pilot Jacques (Nicolas Duvauchelle), she puts the family's reputation at risk. After Jacques is called to duty, Pascal has to make a heart-wrenching decision about the fate of his wayward child.

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A Woman’s Life (Une Vie) 
Dir. Stéphane Brizé, 2015, 119 min 
With Judith Chemla, Swann Arlaud, Nina Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Darroussin 
In French with English subtitles 
Available on Kino Now - November 17–November 23, 2020 

Adapted from the classic Guy de Maupassant novel, A Woman’s Life(Une Vie) is a tale of tormented love embedded in the restrictive social and moral codes in 19th-century Normandy. Upon finishing her schooling in a convent, young aristocrat Jeanne (Judith Chemla) marries local Viscount Julien de Lamare (Swann Arlaud), who soon reveals himself to be a miserly and unfaithful husband. As she navigates his infidelity, pressures from both family and community, as well as the alternating joys and burdens of motherhood, Jeanne’s rosy illusions about her privileged world are slowly stripped away. Using a constricted 4:3 Academy ratio, director Stéphane Brizé creates a tightly composed work that precisely translates de Maupassant’s portrayal of life’s indifferences.

Click here for more info.

The Black Book of Father Dinis (Le Cahier Noir) - Exclusive NYC Virtual Film Release 
Dir. Valeria Sarmiento, 2018, 103 min 
With Lou de Laâge, Stanislas Merhar, Niels Schneider, Jenna Thiam 
In French with English subtitles 
A Music Box Films release, available on Eventive - November 20–December 7, 2020 

The tumultuous lives of Laura (Lou de Laâge), a peasant maid, and Sebastian (Vasco Varela da Silva), the young orphan in her charge, unfold against a backdrop of overflowing passion and revolutionary intrigue in Europe at the twilight of the 18th century. An unlikely adventure yarn that strides the continent, from Rome and Venice to London and Paris, with whispers of conspiracies from the clergy, the military, and the gentry, this sumptuous period piece ponders the intertwined nature of fate, desire, and duty. Conceived by director Valeria Sarmiento as an appendix to the expansive literary maze of her late partner Raul Ruiz’s landmark Mysteries of Lisbon, this picaresque chronicle both enriches the earlier work and stands on its own as a grand meditation of the stories we construct about ourselves.

Click here for more info.

Return of the Hero (Le Retour du héros) 
Dir. Laurent Tirard, 2017, 90 min 
With Jean Dujardin, Mélanie Laurent, Noémie Merlant 
In French with English subtitles 
Available on Kino Now - November 24–November 30, 2020 

Set in France in 1809, the charming Captain Neuville (Jean Dujardin) prepares to marry naïve Pauline when war breaks out, forcing Neuville to join Napoleon on the battlefield. As months pass with nary a word from the captain, Pauline falls ill with worry, pushing her older sister Elizabeth (Mélanie Laurent) to assuage her woe with forged letters purportedly written by Neuville himself. Elizabeth assumed he wouldn’t come back, but three years later Neuville does return—a drunk, war deserter, and an opportunistic coward. Determined to expose the real Neuville while covering up her own deceit, Elizabeth wages a cat-and-mouse game that sparks more than just contempt.

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Diary of a Chambermaid (Journal d’une femme de chambre) 
Dir. Benoît Jacquot, 2015, 96 min 
With Léa Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Clotilde Mollet, Vincent Lacoste 
In French with English subtitles 
Available on Kino Now - December 1–December 7, 2020 

Following the success of Farewell, My Queen, director Benoît Jacquot and Léa Seydoux reunited four years later on another period piece: the often revisited 1900 novel by Octave Mirbeau. Seydoux follows in the footsteps of Paulette Goddard and Jeanne Moreau as Célestine, a resentful young Parisian chambermaid exiled to the provinces where she immediately encounters the noxious iron rules and pettiness of her high-handed bourgeois mistress (Clotilde Mollet), the groping advances of Monsieur (Hervé Pierre), and a fascination with the brooding gardener Joseph (Vincent Lindon). Meanwhile, Jacquot—like Jean Renoir and Luis Buñuel before him—adapts the novel through the lens of contemporary France, finding current echoes in the sense of growing entitlement, social inequality, and anti-Semitism.

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Dir. Xavier Giannoli, 2015, 119 min 
With Catherine Frot, André Marcon, Michel Fau 
In French, English, and Italian with English subtitles 
Available on Kino Now - December 8–December 14, 2020 

Every year, Marguerite Dumont invites an array of music lovers to gather at her lavish château outside of Paris to celebrate her passion for singing while raising money for a good cause. Her background and the source of her money mystify the roaring twenties crowd, but most peculiar is her voice. It’s terrible. The more ardently she projects the worse she sounds. For years Marguerite has been living in a bubble, reinforced by a hypocritical audience, who unbeknownst to her, is only looking for a good laugh. When a provocative journalist further exploits Marguerite’s delusions by writing a rave review, she decides to mount her first public recital. Loosely based on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins, Marguerite won four César Awards, including Best Actress for Catherine Frot.

Click here for more info.

A Sunday in the Country (Un Dimanche à la campagne) 
Dir. Bertand Tavernier, 1984, 90 min 
With Louis Ducreux, Michel Aumont, Sabine Azéma 
In French with English subtitles 
Available on Kino Now - December 15–December 21, 2020 

Bertrand Tavernier’s lovingly shot and exquisitely acted portrait of a French family on a summer Sunday in 1910 is an “Impressionist painting come to life,” according to The New York Times. Monsieur Ladmiral (Louis Ducreaux), a painter cut from more conservative cloth than his Impressionist contemporaries, prepares his countryside home for a weekly family visit. A widower in his twilight years, he welcomes his son Gonzague (Michel Aumont), who now answers to the name Edouard at the insistence of his wife. But it is his daughter Irene (Sabine Azema) who clearly is the favored child. By the time the afternoon is over, her vibrant spirit shakes the family to its core, revealing the hopes, disappointments, and small joys of family as a father's life reaches its autumn season.

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Dir. Daniel Auteuil, 2013, 93 min 
With Daniel Auteuil, Raphaël Personnaz, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Victoire Bélézy 
In French with English subtitles 
Available on Kino Now - December 22–December 28, 2020 

Following his acclaimed film The Well-Digger’s Daughter, Daniel Auteuil turned again to the work of Marcel Pagnol for inspiration, embarking on a retelling of his classic "Marseille Trilogy." In this first part, Marius (Raphaël Personnaz), the strapping young son of blustery café owner César (Auteuil), is torn between his love for the pretty fishmonger Fanny (Victoire Bélézy) and his dreams of a life at sea. Meanwhile, the kindly old shop-owner Panisse (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) is also courting Fanny, setting up a love triangle that will propel the entire trilogy. As Marius and Fanny must choose between freedom and responsibility, each decision leads to greater heartbreak.

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Dir. Daniel Auteuil, 2013, 102 min 
With Daniel Auteuil, Raphaël Personnaz, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Victoire Bélézy                    In French with English subtitles 
Available on Kino Now - December 29–January 4, 2020 

The second part of Marcel Pagnol’s classic trilogy following love and loss in a Marseille port community, actor/director Daniel Auteuil faithfully and beautifully breathes new life into this beloved text. At it opens, Fanny (Victoire Bélézy) finds herself abandoned, pregnant, and fearful for her unborn child. To secure the baby’s future, she agrees to marry the wealthy merchant Panisse (Jean-Pierre Daroussin), who guarantees a comfortable, if loveless, future. As she adjusts to her new reality, Marius reappears in her life, reigniting the once repressed but newly powerful emotions she thought she had extinguished.

Click here for more info.

About FIAF 
The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is the premier French cultural and language center in New York. FIAF's mission is to create and offer innovative and unique programs in education and the arts that explore the evolving diversity and richness of French cultures. FIAF seeks to generate new ideas and promote cross-cultural dialogue through partnerships and new platforms of expression.