More? Mais oui!

Find César winners and free breakfasts with this quick guide to the new, improved Sacramento French Film Festival

For the first time, the Sacramento French Film Festival is spread over two weekends—July 15-17 and 23-24—at the Crest Theatre. To simplify the schedule for those who want to see it all, every film except the midnight movies will be screened in the 975-seat main auditorium of the gorgeous art-deco movie palace.

Other huge news is that the festival is showing all the winners of the major 2005 César Awards (the French equivalent of the Academy Awards). “It’s really quite a coup,” said the festival’s administrative director, Connie Georgiu. “One of [our] nightmares is that it is going to be a year when there are no decent films.” This is certainly not one of those years.

Following the festival’s traditional opening-night reception is a screening of the whimsical Quand la Mer Monte (When the Sea Rises), in which the star of a one-woman show traveling through northern France becomes an object of attraction for a young parade-float conductor. The film won two Césars, for best actress and best first work. New Yorker Films struck a print just for the Sacramento festival, because it significantly predates the film’s 2006 U.S. release date.

Closing the festival is De Battre Mon Coeur S’est Arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped). This remake of James Toback’s Fingers is about a man torn between loyalty to his shady father, violent crime and classical music. The film will be followed by a new festival addition, the closing-night champagne reception.

In between are several contemporary films of varied content. À La Petite Semaine (Nickel and Dime) is based on the true story of a petty criminal who wants to be an actor. Clean finds the junkie wife (César-nominee Maggie Cheung) of a dead rock icon trying to rebuild her life with support from her father-in-law (Nick Nolte). During the gaily comic Crustacés et Coquillages (Côte d’Azur), a family’s summer vacation implodes in a chaotic sexual awakening (and a pair of musical numbers). High-schoolers in a housing project experience love and conflict during the rehearsal of a play in L’ Esquive (Games of Love and Chance). The film won four César Awards, including one for best picture. Lastly, Rois et reine (Kings and Queen) features the winner of this year’s César for best actor (and was nominated for six others).

Another new festival feature is the free breakfasts, courtesy of the Jump Start Café, that follow the two Saturday midnight screenings. In Catherine Breillat’s sexually explicit Anatomie de l’enfer (Anatomy of hell), a woman pays a gay male stranger to watch her “where she is unwatchable.” Olivier Assayas’ Demonlover involves corporate corruption, 3-D pornography and an interactive torture Web site.

The entire event is pulled together with assistance from eight year-long volunteers and 25 others who work at the festival itself. “It is helpful to have people with skills approach you and say how they can help make it better,” said Georgiu. “Just the other day, a professor from UC Davis contacted us and said, ‘Oh, that film that you are showing at the midnight screening [Anatomy of hell], that’s my favorite director, and I did a study on her,’ so she will be on hand to lead a discussion.”

Find out more about all of this year’s films at Tickets can be purchased for individual films or the entire festival, but be forewarned that sales at the door will be in cash only. If you’re super committed, maybe the festival pass is right for you. A local urban legend has it that watching the entire festival will render the viewer fluent in French. Not a bad side effect!