The 2015 Chicago French Film Festival

Friday, July 31st – Thursday, August 6th, 2015


Vive le cinema!

The 5th annual Chicago French Film Festival is coming July 31st – August 6th, 2015, celebrating the best in recent French cinema.

<cite>SK1 (L’affaire SK1)</cite>

SK1 (L’affaire SK1)

directed by Frédéric Tellier in French

In this gripping period thriller, SK1 is French police jargon for “Serial Killer 1,” the codename given in the 1990s to a rapist and murderer who preyed on young women in eastern Paris. The culprit was not the country’s first serial killer, but he was the first to be caught via DNA analysis — even if cops had to overcome years of bureaucratic bungling and bad luck to finally get to him. The debonair Raphael Personnaz stars as an obsessive detective who finds his personal and professional lives upended by the case.

<cite>The King and the Mockingbird</cite>

The King and the Mockingbird

directed by Paul Grimault in French

“PERFECT FOR CHILDREN! PERFECT FOR ADULTS! Begun in 1948, completed in 1979 and adored by, among others, Studio Ghibli legend Hayao Miyazaki, Grimault’s influential cartoon contains some of the most beautiful animation ever, melding the dreamy weirdness of a Giorgio de Chirico painting with folk-art sweetness. Jacques Prévert’s witty script is equally eccentric. There are actually two kings. One exists in a painting but goes on to usurp the real, despotic ruler because he’s fallen in love with another image — of a shepherdess.” – London Evening Standard

<cite>Forbidden Games</cite>

Forbidden Games

directed by René Clément in French

A timeless evocation of childhood innocence corrupted, Forbidden Games tells the story of a young girl orphaned by WWII and the farm boy she joins in a fantastical world of macabre play. At once mythical and heartbreakingly real, this unique film features astonishing performances by its child stars and was honored with a foreign language film Academy Award in 1952.

“Over the years, countless films have been made about war, its horrors and its devastations. Few, however have been as moving and heartfelt as Forbidden Games.” – David Ehrenstein

<cite>Blame it on Voltaire (La faute à Voltaire)</cite>

Blame it on Voltaire (La faute à Voltaire)

directed by Abdellatif Kechiche in French starring Sami Bouajila, Aure Atika, Elodie Bouchez

In Kechiche’s debut feature, an illegal immigrant from North Africa lands in France to try his luck. From encounter to encounter, hostel to social welfare group, he makes his way through a Paris of outcasts. Although failing to amass riches, he discovers and shares the mutual support of society’s disenfranchised. Winner of Best First Film & Young Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival.

“This is not in the sociological sense a movie about the condition of immigrants in France, but something much more strange and valuable.” —New York Times

<cite>Number One Fan (Elle l’adore)</cite>

Number One Fan (Elle l’adore)

directed by Jeanne Herry in French

When a pop singer accidentally kills his girlfriend, he turns to his most devoted groupie to help clean up the mess in this exceptionally well-polished French thriller, which satisfyingly delves into the characters and the darkly satirical undercurrent that runs beneath the suspenseful scenario. Starring 2014 Cesar winner Sandrine Kiberlain (nominated again for this performance) as the not-all-there beautician who would do anything for her idol (played by Laurent Lafitte).

“A clever example of mainstream French cinema from director Jeanne Herry, the daughter of Miou-Miou and Julien Clerc.” —Variety

<cite>Tokyo Fiancee</cite>

Tokyo Fiancee

directed by Stefan Liberski in French

A Belgian free spirit recalls a winsome cross-cultural romance with her Japanese French-language student in this charming, free adaptation of one of prolific author Amélie Nothomb’s semi-autobiographical novels. Working on multiple levels, Belgian director Stefan Liberski’s film is also a coming-of-age story, a portrait of the artist as a young woman who grows to understand what she wants and what is most important. Mixing playfulness, intellect and contemporary events, the whimsical film “plays like Amélie meets Lost in Translation.”—The Hollywood Reporter

<cite>Games of Love and Chance (L’esquive)</cite>

Games of Love and Chance (L’esquive)

directed by Abdellatif Kechiche in French

Kechiche’s second feature is a spirited and insightful comedy of manners that connects France’s classical literary heritage with its contemporary social reality. At a high school in the banlieue, shy, sweet 15-year-old Krimo takes on the male lead in a school production of a Marivaux play, hoping it might serve as the script to his own seduction of his leading lady, the diva-ish Lydia. The reversals and obstructions of Marivaux’s comic plot filter through the confused mores and conflicting desires of various girls and boys. Winner of four César awards.

<cite>The Chef’s Wife (On a failli etre amies)</cite>

The Chef’s Wife (On a failli etre amies)

directed by Anne Ly Ny in French

Food. . . love. . . friendship. . . betrayal. . . Emmanuelle Devos (Violette), and Karin Viard (Polisse), team up on-screen for the very first time and have terrific chemistry in this accomplished comedy-drama, as two women who want more out of life in the workplace and the bedroom but are unsure how to obtain it and tentatively bond over their desire for change, though the husband of one of them is a complicating factor.

“Two terrific actresses and a nuanced screenplay deliver the goods.” —The Hollywood Reporter

<cite>Breathe (Respire)</cite>

Breathe (Respire)

directed by Mélanie Laurent in French

An assured adaptation of the French young-adult novel Breathe, the second feature by actress-turned-director Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds, Beginnings) is a taut coming-of-age tale, starring talented newcomers Joséphine Japy and Lou De Laâge as two teens whose all-consuming friendship takes a dark and dangerous turn. Virginal 17-year-old Charlie is instantly attracted to wild new transfer student Sarah, who brings with her an air of boldness and danger.

“Mélanie Laurent offers a compelling, superbly acted portrait of an adolescent friendship perched on the brink of obsession.” —Variety

<cite>Black Venus  (Venus noire)</cite>

Black Venus (Venus noire)

directed by Abdellatif Kechiche in French

After winning five awards at the 2007 Venice festival with The Secret of the Grain, Kechiche took on a period piece that illustrates racial science, abolitionism, public entertainments and sexuality in the early nineteenth century. He uses the remarkable story of Saartjie Baartman, the so-called Hottentot Venus, whose outsized features became a freak show attraction in London and Paris. The film is constructed as a series of vignettes that follow Baartman as she is put on display, but Kechiche insists on her inner dignity despite her constant, terrifying humiliation.

<cite>Handmade with Love in France (Le Temps Suspendu)</cite>

Handmade with Love in France (Le Temps Suspendu)

directed by Julie Bernard in French

A delightful look at a vanishing breed, this vibrant documentary affectionately celebrates the artisans who create fabulous haute-couture outfits for Dior, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent: M. Gérard Lognon, a third-generation specialist in pleat-making; M. Bruno Legeron, a designer of perfect artificial flowers whose atelier opened in 1880; and M. Lorenzo Ré, one of three remaining sculptors of wooden forms for hat-making.

It examines the challenges these ateliers face as couture and luxury evolves as a business, including the continuing rise of technology and its impact on handcrafted work.

<cite>Henri, Henri</cite>

Henri, Henri

directed by Martin Talbot in French

Raised in an orphanage run by nuns, Henri continued to live there after reaching adulthood, becoming responsible for the lighting around the property. Forced to leave his longtime home when the convent is sold to real estate developers, the young man lets himself be led by different signs of destiny to a job as a lamplighter. Through encounters with a bitter old businessman who earned and lost a fortune making pickles and a dreamy cashier at the local porn palace, Henri changes people’s lives. Québec’s enchanting answer to Amélie also bears flourishes of Jacques Tati.

<cite>Chubby (Bouboule)</cite>

Chubby (Bouboule)

directed by Bruno Deville

Weighing 220 pounds, 12-year-old Kevin Bouboule’s life is far from easy. Since his father died, he’s been at the mercy of his domineering mother, arrogant sisters and neighborhood bullies. If Kevin doesn’t make an effort to change his lifestyle soon, his outlook seems pretty bleak. Until, that is, he comes across Rocco, a German shepherd belonging to the burly guard Patrick, and befriends both the dog and its owner. With great affection and charm, debuting director Deville tells the story of an outsider you can’t help but like.

<cite>My Friend Victoria (Mon amie Victoria)</cite>

My Friend Victoria (Mon amie Victoria)

directed by Jean-Paul Civeyrac in French

Adapted from a story by Doris Lessing, this complex, poignant portrait of two young black women in contemporary Paris follows them from childhood into adulthood, with the older Fanny narrating the story of her friend and adoptive sister. Aged eight, Victoria spends a night in the home of a wealthy white family; years later, she encounters them again and her life is changed forever. As Fanny and Victoria’s destinies take them in separate directions, the drama offers a distinctly fresh take on racial identity in contemporary France – and on questions of class, privilege and blinkered liberal racism.


  • Individual tickets: $12
  • Members of Alliance Francaise de Chicago: $10/$13
  • See 5 films with a Five Film Pass for $45 (a savings of $18)


A special Opening Reception will be held Friday, July 31st at 6pm in the Music Box Lounge, followed by the opening night screening of the new French thriller SK1.

This year’s festival includes a special tribute to director Abdellatif Kechiche (Blue is the Warmest Color) with screenings of Black Venus, Games of Love and Chance and Blame it On Voltaire.

Other highlights include René Clément’s Oscar-winning classic Forbidden Games, Breathe, the second feature by actress-turned-director Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds), and the beautiful animated family feature The King and the Mockingbird.

All tickets on sale now. Save $18 with a Five Film Festival Pass, available on all ticketing pages.

Co-presented by the Music Box Theatre, the Cultural Services at the Consulate General of France in Chicago and the Institut Francais in Paris.

Other instances of the Chicago French Film Festival

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