French cinema at its best took over Hollywood April 21 – 28 at the 2014 COLCOA, City of Lights, City of Angels, with a record breaking 20,000 in attendance at The Directors Guild of America. COLCOA wrapped Monday with the North American premieres of two films, “In the Yard” starring Catherine Deneuve and “Mea Culpa” starring Vincent Lindon. Although, the Cannes Film Festival still enjoys its famous reputation, a lot of that glamour and elite French cinema can be experienced in California at COLCOA.
Now in its 18th year, COLCOA: A Week of French Film Premieres in Los Angeles, was founded by The Franco-American Cultural Fund and joined by many supporters. This year, it realized an all time high with amazing spirit and excitement. The quantity and quality of these films and attendance of the hottest filmmakers in France can be attributed to COLCOA’s diligent and dedicated executive director and programmer, Francois Truffart, who welcomed filmmakers and fans at every screening from early morning to late in the evening. His creative planning and his loyal staff made this year’s French Film Festival a huge success.
With the avid endorsement of French Consul General in Los Angeles, Axel Gruau, COLCOA kicked off, just days before French filmmakers arrived to California shores, at a lively reception at the Consul’s Beverly Hills residence. This enthusiasm extended to the Opening Night Gala party with dining treats organized by Club Culinaire French Cuisine, featuring some of the top chefs in the city and plenty of French champagne and wines — an extraordinary event.
It was with admiration and appreciation that COLCOA welcomed legendary Academy Award-winning filmmaker Claude Lelouch to premiere his 44th film for the opening “We Love You, You Bastard” directed by Lelouch and written by Claude Lelouch and his partner Valerie Perrin.
The opening film starred French rock icon Johnny Hallyday, who now makes his home in Los Angeles and welcomed the sold out crowd; he stars in the film with another famed French singer and actor, Eddy Mitchell. The story, close to Lelouch’s heart, was about a man with four wives and five daughters, none of which are close with their father. Lelouch, who’s had five wives and seven children, is an inspiration for this film.
The film begins as the estranged daughters come together to face a crisis, but moves on to twists that develop into a mystery and is enhanced by spectacular scenery and an ever-present all-knowing bald eagle. Fans who remember “A Man and A Woman,” “Bolero,” and “And Now My Love” were pleased that Claude Lelouch spent the week talking about his film with fans and the press, as well as teaching a Master Class to students, an opportunity for a young group of French film admirers to have a communication with a Master Filmmaker.
Claude Lelouch said, “All my life, I worked with the greatest screenwriter, which is life. My film school was life.” He emphasized, “When I tell a story, the characters are more important than the story.”
In its effort to reach out to youth, COLCOA offers screenings to about 2200 teachers and students in the Los Angeles area. It is a positive achievement for many young people to connect with French cinema. In addition, the Master Class Program featured Katell Quillevere, young writer/director of ”Suzanne,” and legendary writer/director Claude Lelouch’s “We Love You, You Bastard” for viewing their films and engaging in an in-depth discussion.
Every afternoon the Happy Hour Talks provided insight into the creative processes of filmmakers. The Delegation Talk included Katell Quillevere (“Suzanne”), Diane Kurys (“For A Woman”), newcomer Victoire Belezy (”Marius & Fanny”), Alice David & Philippe Larcheau (“Babysitting”), Helier Cisterne (“Vandal”), Albert Dupontel (“9 Month Stretch”) and Claude Lelouch & Valerie Perrin (“We Love You, You Bastard”).
Happy Talk with Cedric Klapisch was an opportunity to get to know this popular writer and director and his latest film “Chinese Puzzle.” His longtime collaboration with actor Roman Duris and producer Bruno Levy were also featured in “Chinese Puzzle.” Following all Happy Talks was a friendly wine reception for attendees.
Films are mixed genre, and all films are in French with English subtitles. A number of restored classics were highlighted; noteworthy was “Purple Moon” featuring Alain Delon’s breakout performance, “L’Auberge Espagnole” focusing on the early film of Cedric Klapisch, and the homage to the late great Francois Truffaut, “The Man Who Loved Women,” an autobiographical film. Other classic films were also featured.
Here are some interesting facts about COLCOA: This year a record 61 French films were screened. There is always a surprise film at “Blind Date with a French Film.” Breakfast is served every morning preceding free morning re-runs of a film from the day before. Parking is free for attendees at the Directors Guild. “After 10” is a series of late night films, and they are usually great. On Sunday afternoon, COLCOA has a party with anniversary cake and wine for all; a lucky ticketholder wins a free trip to France for two on Air Tahiti Nui.
My favorite films at COLCOA 2014 were:
- “Venus in Fur” by director Roman Polanski
- “Superchondriac” by writer/director/actor Dany Boon
- “Paulette” by writer/director Jerome Enrico
- “Vandal” by director Helier Cesterne
- My favorite short was “The Audition.”
COLCOA is a great place to savor French cinema and French wines, chat with filmmakers, and meet other French film lovers. For more information, visit the COLCOA website, Facebook page, or Twitter account.
2014 COLCOA LAFCA Critics Awards:
- Critics Award: Vandal
- Critics Special Prize: One of a Kind
- Critics Special Mention: The Rooftops
2014 COLCOA Audience Awards:
- Audience Award: Turning Tide
- Audience Special Prize: Chinese Puzzle
- Audience Special Mention: For A Woman
- First Feature Award: Me Myself and Mom
- Best Documentary: Flore
- Coming Soon Award: Chinese Puzzle
- COLCOA Short Film Award: The Run Away
- Short Film Special Prize: Women’s Letters
- Short Films Special Mention: 5 Metres 80 & 37° 4S
- Short Film Audience Award: The Audition
Photos of the 2014 COLCOA by Barbara Singer. Click to enlarge.