Fans of puzzle thrillers will enjoy meeting writer-director Nicolas Pleskof, whose tongue-in-cheek contribution to the genre involves an architect (Alice Pol) who visits a country house to meet an eccentric family of potential clients. Soon she is drawn into a deadly game, with parallels with Knives out and the horror comedy of 2019 Ready or Not, though Pleskof is unlikely to have seen either while working on the script. Likewise, you might remember everything from Wes Anderson to Seen films, and there are other echoes that it would be criminal to give.
Fans of the grittier work of writer-director Jacques Audiard (a prophet) may be surprised by this seductive black-and-white romantic comedy, with an ensemble cast that includes Noémie Merlant of Portrait of a lady on fire. The setting is also a surprise, as it doesn’t look much like the Paris most often seen in movies: the French title The Olympiads refers to a collection of high-rise towers, housing highly gendered but bewildered characters who walk in and out of other people’s lives. If you can leave your expectations behind, this is a film that sets a world apart and is a festival highlight.
Margot (Souheila Yacoub) and Alma (Deborah Lukumuena) are best friends in their twenties who have shared many good times and support each other in their acting careers, even when competing for the same roles. Anais Volpe’s film begins with a good, youthful mood, but takes a difficult turn into tearful territory and continues unabated in that direction, while making the most of the chemistry between the two leads. The go-for-broke quality is bolstered by the work of American cinematographer Sean Price Williams, who keeps the frenetic handheld camera work just on the bright side of the chaos.
Patricia Highsmith’s most famous creation, suave psychopath Tom Ripley, has been played over the years by a mystifying array of actors, including Dennis Hopper, Matt Damon and John Malkovich. By far the most glamorous (though not the most convincing American) version was the young Alain Delon, who became a star in René Clément’s 1960 adaptation of The talented Mr Ripley. With Delon on board, Clement doesn’t have to work hard to bring out the homoerotic undertones of Highsmith’s perfectly constructed plot, which features Ripley as a moocher in Italy who becomes increasingly obsessed with his wealthier pal (Maurice Ronet).
The French Film Festival runs from March 3 to April 6 in Melbourne and from March 1 to April 6 in Sydney. affrenchfilmfestival.org