The beginning of flamboyance, especially in cinema

A typically tranquil moment in <span style="">La Haine</span>.

A typically tranquil moment in La Haine.

Unquestionably, the road to a vigorous film scene is paved with good film festivals. One of ours, the fifth annual Sacramento French Film Festival, gets under way this weekend at the Crest Theatre, 1013 K Street. This year’s fest, spanning two weekends and intermittently scored with live gypsy jazz by Le Swing Hot, will feature a raffle for the chance to win two round-trip tickets to Paris—and, of course, several big-screen reminders of how freaking great that would be.

This isn’t to suggest that our romanticized and sometimes reductive notions of Gallic grandeur should be allowed to go unexamined. Part of this festival’s appeal is its range—more than a dozen highly varied features, plus a batch of shorts. Examination apparently is encouraged.

For instance: Temperamentally, Les Vacances de Monsiuer Hulot (1953), Jacques Tati’s unhurried, gently laconic—and iconic—comedy of manners, differs quite drastically from La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz’s embittered, urgent—and prescient—1995 report on race and class relations. To take these classics together, however, is to fully appreciate the multitudes that French cinema, and life, can contain.

Strategic programming also may remind you how La Haine has set Kassovitz up as a sort of heir to Jean-Luc Godard, whose nervy Weekend (1967)—the perfect, potent Godard dose for any self-respecting young French film festival—forecasted France’s revolutionary social turbulence of May 1968. Two films by Gaspard Noé (the grand provocatuer, or grand guignol, depending on whom you ask) will be shown as midnight movies, after which you may have trouble sleeping anyway.

Start lightly with the opening reception, Friday at 6 p.m. Various festival passes range from $30 to $75; single tickets, from $8 to $12. Visit for more information.