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The world is going to end — and very soon.

That is the problem Robinson, a French bathtub salesman, faces in the film "Les derniers jours du monde" (Happy Ends), which premiered Thursday night at the Cable Car Cinema. Robinson greets this looming global end with sexually ecstatic fury, leaving his wife and child to pursue a new lover in the hopes of achieving a sense of romantic fulfillment. With dreamy pacing, "Les derniers jours du monde" explores a somewhat tired movie trope — how to deal with the apocalypse — from a quirky, surreal angle.

Directed by Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu, this 2009 film is one of 21 films to be shown at the Cable Car from now until March 4 as part of the annual French Film Festival. Since 1994, the French and Modern Culture and Media departments have teamed up with the Cable Car to bring films from French-speaking countries to select silver screens.

"The goal is to bring French films to Providence, but not just the ones picked up for American distribution," said Shoggy Waryn, senior lecturer in French Studies and the festival's director. According to Waryn, American film distributors select only around 20 of the 150 or so French-produced films each year. He added that these selections typically rely on narrow-minded conceptions of what American audiences expect from French films — a soft focus shot of gloomy cigarette smoke, snaking out of some blase nostrils at a Parisian cafe.

Each year, Waryn scours big festivals like the Cannes Film Festival and small cinemas for appealing films to bring back and share with Francophiles and film buffs alike. He lives in Paris every third year, running the Brown in Paris program through the Office of International Programs.

"The focus this year is on the diversity of not just French, but of French-speaking films," said Waryn. This year's lineup includes pieces from Belgium, Quebec, Algeria and elsewhere.

Echoing the jazzy nostalgia of this year's silent film smash "The Artist," several of these French flicks have little or no dialogue. "La mémoire dans la chair" (Flesh Memories), set in 1975, follows a man named Thomas as he returns to Spain after a 15-year exile. Thomas seeks to bury his ardently Republican father who was jailed during Francisco Franco's tight-fisted regime. While "La mémoire dans la chair," directed by Dominique Maillet, is not truly unspoken, it is told through mostly incomprehensible murmurs — relying heavily on the actors' physical performances.

Actor and director Chris Thompson '88 addressed the audience after a showing of "Bus Palladium," which he directed, Wednesday at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. Set amid the gritty glory of 1980s French rock, "Bus Palladium" was shot in 2010. His next film, "Cannes," begins shooting this spring.

All of this year's films will be shown at the Cable Car. Tickets cost $9 for general admission and $7 for students. The festival's schedule, along with the complete list of films and their descriptions, can be found online at the festival's website.



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