Fireside Chats: A French Connection- Conversation with Alliance Francaise

A shot from Jules et Jim (dir. Francois Truffaut), which is one of the 6 films to be screened.

A shot from Jules et Jim (dir. Francois Truffaut), which is one of the 6 films to be screened.

France. When you mention the name, many an image is conjured. The Eiffel Tower peaking above the Parisian panorama comes to mind. Or perhaps for the more sporty type, the glitz and the glamour of the Parc Des Princes and the star-studded lineup of Paris Saint-Germain dominating the Championnat year after year with exquisite and scintillating displays of the beautiful game. For those of a gastronomic persuasion, the aromas of baguettes, foie gras and a thousand different types of cheese sates the palate.

But it is the cinema that is on the topic here, and the country’s film industry has produced many renowned filmmakers from the past, like Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and in the present, like Luc Besson- and actors, who range from screen veterans such as Gerard Depardieu, Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve, to current sensation and heart-throb Timothee Chalamet.

So without further ado, we at CPN managed to say bonjured and bienvenue to our newly made friends at the Alliance Française and had a little chat with them about classic French cinema- and on the other end it was Valeriane Mathieu that answered some pressing questions.

C: For those who don’t know about Alliance Francaise, please tell us a little bit about who you are, and what your organization does.

V: My name’s Valériane and I’m the PR & Event Coordinator at the Alliance Fran­çaise de Perth (AFP). We are a not for profit French language and Cultural organisation and we aim to encourage cultural, intellectual and artistic exchange between Australia and the French-speaking world. In addition of teaching French, AFP organises a wide range of events such as conferences, exhibitions, concerts, social French events. Our major event is the AF French Film Festival jointly organised every year in March by the 6 main Alliance Françaises of Australia . There are over 850 centres in 133 countries, which make the Alliance Française the largest French language teaching association in the world.

C: Nouvelle Vague is one of French film’s most defining movements, responsible for producing films that stretch the limits of the possible within the medium. Whilst some of us have exposed ourselves to the occasional Truffaut and Godard, there’s plenty who aren’t aware of the historical background- please do sum it up in your own words.

V: New Wave directors started as critics, mainly writing for the French journal called Cahiers du Cinema and they gradually started to make films themselves. They rejected the "cinéma de qualité" ("cinema of quality"), made to impress rather than express. Unlike the mainstream industry, they made films with amateurs actors, sometimes with very little scenery, and used improvised sequences and shots. This Italian Neo-realism inspired type of movie is closer to the public, more realistic, more political with a fresh approach to express complex ideas while still being both direct and emotionally engaging.

C: Obviously, most people in the world know most of France’s culture through its works of art- and this year’s film festival has chosen to celebrate Jeanne Moreau, a legend from the times of Nouvelle Vague. Why have you chosen to commemorate her?

V: Since its debut, the AF Classic Film Festival has been showcasing French cinema classics, honouring the actors and directors who have made an enduring contribution to France’s much celebrated film industry. With the sad passing of Jeanne Moreau, aged 89, last year, the Festival is paying tribute to this legendary actress of La Nouvelle Vague. Moving from stage to cinema in the 50s, Moreau achieved national recognition with starring roles in controversial and landmark films. Her professionalism and strength of character charmed many directors, including Orson Welles who considered her the “best actress in the world”. Her international career was recognized with numerous Awards such as César for Best Actress and honorary César (French equivalent to the Oscars), an honorary Golden Lion, a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress and an honorary Golden Bear at Berlin, to name but a few.

C: The connection between France and Australia isn’t really apparent, unlike say, our relationship with that of the United Kingdom. How does the Alliance Francaise branches in Perth and throughout Australia, help foster and maintain this relationship?

V: Funnily enough, the Alliances Françaises in Australia (30 of them!) are amongst the oldest ones in the world. The AF in Perth was founded in 1911 as the first French language centre in Western Australia, before the WW1 and therefore helped foster this bond between France and Australia. It is one of our duties to remember and commemorate those who served during the Great War. For instance this years, with the support of the French Embassy, in commemoration of the centenary of the WW1, the Alliance Française de Perth organized a Piano Concerto at the Government House. All of our events are French related but are tailored to appeal the Australian public.

C: I always like to close out my interviews (it’s a tradition) by asking my subjects their preferred meal of choice. What do you like to enjoy most for breakfast / lunch / dinner?

V: I tend to skip breakfast as I’m always late in the mornings (I know it’s bad…), but I do miss dipping (soaking?) my baguette with spread butter in a bowl of cocoa milk. That and a warm croissant every Sunday…

As for lunch, at the moment I’m craving for a French veal ragout called ‘Blanquette de Veau’ with rice and carrots. Not very summery… or simply a steak tartare with green lettuce.

Dinner has to be lighter than lunch, but last night I had a ‘lapin à la moutarde’ (mustard rabbit)…. My favorite.

The Alliance Fran­çaise Classic Film Festival runs from 18-21 October. The full program can be viewed here.

Cool Perth Nights have a double pass to give-away to each film screening throughout the festival. Email your full name and which film you’d like to attend to be in the running to win!

Clayton Lin