Cork French Film Festival: Opening Night

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The gala opening night of the Cork French Film Festival was an exciting affair with actor/director Mathieu Amalric presenting his latest film “La Chambre Bleue” to a packed audience at the Gate Cinema in Cork

The Cork French Film Festival continued last night with a retrospective of Amalric’s impressive portfolio of work with the screening of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon) – a role for which he received an Oscar nomination as former Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby.

With the mounting excitement palpable in the large Screen 1 of the Cork cinema, Amalric took centre stage after some introductory words from Festival President Nora Callanan and Guest Curator Julien Planté.

The 49-year-old actor – who has long-established affectionate connections with West Cork – appeared nervous as he spoke with some passion and humour about his film “The Blue Room” (La Chambre Bleue). The movie is based on the novel of the same name by the late Belgian writer (and creator of fictional detective Maigret) Georges Simenon.

Before the feature, there was also a short film by Amalric “Next to Last” – an introspective study of the painting “Sun in an Empty Room”; American artist Edward Hopper’s penultimate painting.

The main event itself was a superbly atmospheric piece that worked well as an erotically-charge and moody homage to a well-loved novel. Amalric’s performance behind the lens featured some very fine flourishes to prove that he was no flash-in-the-pan with his previous directorial work in “On Tour”. His portrayal in the central role as an adulterous agricultural machinery rep was, as ever, natural and convincing, with equally excellent support from Stéphanie Cléau, Léa Drucker and Laurent Poitrenaux.

The narrative struggled at times in a film that may have stuck too faithfully to the original text, but the director had forewarned the audience beforehand that one should never look for a neat conclusion when it comes to stories by Simenon: “In fact, the book tells you less at the end than my film does.”

As the crowds filed out at the end of the evening into a cold Cork night, however, there was only a sense of satisfaction at having seen a fine film to kick off a major cultural event.

See the full programme of events below…

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