When the topic of French cinema is broached, most American film buffs wax poetic about the strident feminism of Catherine Breillat or the rich narrative tapestries of Claire Denis. But for every French movie that's a meta-meditation on the dynamic of self and society are ten giddy romantic comedies that bear a closer resemblance to Sleepless in Seattle than any Truffaut or Godard flick. This weekend's France Cinema Miami chooses to take a more populist approach. From the sex-tinged nostalgia of Ghyslaine Côté's The Five of Us to the quirky sentimentalism of Christian Vincent's The Children (top right), the films here are more accessible to a broader audience.
"Most Americans have a very outdated view of French cinema," comments Alliance Franaise Miami executive director Philippe Timon, who helped curate the festival. "Cinema is the expression of society. Every movie has a very special sensitivity that is manifested from the country that created it. We wanted to widen the scope of the films in order to reflect all aspects of French cinema.... We didn't want to select movies that would only appeal to a certain elite market."
Alliance Franaise Miami is an independent nonprofit organization that is part of an Alliance Franaise worldwide network, which includes 140 charters in the United States alone. Floridian Francophiles founded the Miami chapter 25 years ago and watched it grow to become the third largest in the nation, behind only Chicago and New York. Timon sees the film festival as giving exposure to the work his foundation has done in propagating French culture in South Florida and intends to export it to other cities. He hopes the festival will provide an antidote to some of the recent rifts between our two countries. "We need to look beyond political activity," Timon declares. "We want to build a bridge between our two societies."
The festival runs today through Sunday, November 13, at the AMC CocoWalk, 3015 Grand Ave., Coconut Grove. Tickets cost $9, $75 for a ten-screening pass. Call 305-859-8760, or visit www.francecinemamiami.com for showtimes and to purchase tickets. Sam Chennault
David Castillo shacks up in Wynwood
When it comes to the art biz, David Castillo macks serious behind-the-scenes cred. The art consultant snagged sheepskins in art history from Yale University and the Vatican and has crafted a Midas reputation among tyros whose collections he's polished.
The savvy player is hanging up his shingle in Wynwood just in the nick of time for Art Basel and christening David Castillo Modern & Contemporary Art (2234 NW Second Ave., Miami) with the work of Arturo Rodriguez and a performance by Alfredo Triff's Trio tonight at 6:00.
The exhibit, "Interior," marks Rodriguez's first show in three years and will feature nearly twenty paintings examining interior states of being and themes of displacement. His human figures hum with a note of improvisation and are influenced by his passion for the blues and jazz. The unusual characters appear uncomfortable in their own skins and wondering whether they're trapped in a tragedy or a comedy. "These paintings are stories without narratives, where many different approaches coexist on the same surface, like the logic of a poem, the fabric of a dream, or the texture of memory," Rodriguez muses. Call 305-573-8110, or visit www.castilloart.com. Carlos Suarez De Jesus
Sisters with International Style
Foreign fashion rocks FIU
The ladies of Florida International University's Phi Sigma Sigma sorority have learned how to put on a spectacular fashion show. Their fourth annual charity fashion extravaganza is themed "Cruisin' in Style," and fans of elegant global designs are in for a treat. Fashionistas can admire the latest threads by local designers and retailers, and Argentine designer Pablo Battaglia will make his American debut. "His dresses are amazing," gushes event organizer Wendy Jauregui. "He designs for celebrities in Europe and South America. Nobody here knows him yet, so this is a special preview." Expect to see everything from hip bohemian gear to magnificent wedding dresses. A hefty percentage of the event's proceeds will go to the Miami Children's Hospital Miracle Network to help purchase medical equipment and supplies. The charitable, fashionable fun begins tonight at 8:00 at Florida International University's ballroom, 11200 SW Eighth St., Miami. Tickets cost ten dollars at the door. Call 786-423-2515. Learn more about Phi Sigma Sigma at www.fiu.edu/~phisig. Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik
Big Man on Canvas
It's the rare artist who experiences the storybook success Hernan Bas has. His star is sizzling following a two-year run of sold-out shows, and collectors are queued up on a waiting list longer than gas-station lines after a hurricane. Even Tinseltown has noticed. A character in the hit comedy Wedding Crashers was modeled on the quirky twentysomething. Bas, as they'd say in Hollywood, is a box office commodity.
So where would he seek inspiration for the next chapter of a fairy-tale career after his wild comet ride? Try Monet's back yard in Giverny, France, where he spent the summer painting giants. "Hernan Bas: Once Upon a Time...," opening tonight at 7:30 at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery (2247 NW First Pl., Miami), features a trove of teensy-weensy paintings of the Shaq-size mythical figures. They are infused with "fleeting moments of beauty that quickly die, like a kite or fireworks or lightning bugs trapped in a jar," Bas explains. Fee fi fo fun! Call 305-448-8976, or visit www.snitzer.com. Carlos Suarez De Jesus