Arts & Culture

Cable Car Cinema to show selection of French films

Local Providence theater celebrates week-long French festival with 15 film screenings

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cable Car Cinema will show 15 highly acclaimed French films as part of the week-long Providence French Festival. The Modern Culture and Media and French departments worked alongside Cable Car’s owner to select films.

Starting today, Providence’s Francophiles and cinephiles can unite at the Cable Car Cinema, where the Providence French Festival will run through March 3. In honor of the country that is credited as the birthplace of cinema and brought viewers “Amelié” and “The Intouchables” among many other subtitled sensations, the theater will screen roughly three French films each weekday and six on the weekends.

“Film has always been very, very important in French culture,” said festival director and former Visiting Associate Professor of French Studies Richard Blakely.

To select this year’s films, the Modern Culture and Media and French departments reached out to Daniel Kamil, the owner of Cable Car. In one long on-going email chain, all parties pitched in potential titles. After brainstorming, Kamil, Blakely and a few other experts narrowed down the lengthy list of 50 films to just 15.

With curatorial skill, the film aficionados produced a finalized list, composed almost entirely of “regional premieres,” films touching down in Providence for the first time. Some haven’t even reached New York or Boston, Kamil said.

One film hadn’t breached the U.S. border. “Le Petit Prince,” a movie not yet commercially available anywhere in the United States, will be on display on Saturday, Feb. 27, only at the Cable Car.

Unfortunately, it has already sold out. But the festival offers 14 other highly acclaimed French films for those more drawn to dramas than the light-hearted animations of “Le Petit Prince.”

Though the festival has been held for 20 years, Blakely says this year’s sheer “number of first-rate films” sets the production apart from past festivals.

Of the eight films nominated for best film in the Cesar Awards, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, four are featured in Cable Car’s lineup. Of the seven films nominated for best director, four will be screened at the festival. And, as a testament to the curator’s sensibility, all nominations were released after the festival’s list was finalized.

Though the 15 films represent the cinematic cream of the crop, Blakely and Kamil each have films they’re especially excited for.

Kamil is eagerly anticipating “Marguerite,” a piece centered on a wealthy Parisian woman who, fooled by her family into believing she has a voice meant for the stage, brings her questionable singing voice to an audience.

Blakely finds himself most looking forward to “The Measure of a Man.” After having seen the film on his trip to France, he was “absolutely astonished by how good it is and how good the acting is.” Once again, Blakely’s taste was endorsed by critics — this time, the Cannes Film Festival.  The  lead of the film, Vincent Lindon, was selected as best actor in Cannes in 2015.

The festival could have been hosted at any theater or in any screening room on campus. The movies could even have been made available to stream from the comfort of a dorm room. But, Blakely says, the festival needed the intimacy of a small community theater like the Cable Car.

“I would always insist that my students see the films for (my) course together in a screening room, not just on their screens or, God forbid, on a smart phone,” he says. “Sitting there laughing together, getting upset — there’s a participatory aspect of cinema that I think is extremely important.”