Five Funny French Films

This year’s crop of Five Funny French Films runs the gamut from charming to satirical, and beyond. There’s sweet and lighthearted Les émotifs anonymes (Romantics Anonymous), by Jean-Pierre Améris, scheduled to screen on Friday. Isabelle Carré stars as the painfully shy Angélique. Her boss, Jean-René (Benoît Poelvoorde), is equally bashful. Strongly attracted to each other, the two begin a comedic courtship dance riddled with awkward moments and false starts. At risk is not only the pair’s future happiness, but the success of the chocolate-making company where they both work.

There’s also the spirited and biting Le nom des gens (The Names of Love) by director Michel Leclerc, which is set for a Sunday showing. It’s the story of a mismatched couple, Sara Forestier as Baya Benmahmoud, and Jacques Gamblin as Arthur Martin (which happens to be the brand name of a popular washing machine). Baya informs us she is the only person with that name in all of France. Arthur, on the other hand, tells us he shares his name with some 12,000 of his countrymen (and that washing machine). She’s young and beautiful, a sexual extrovert with few inhibitions, while he’s a middle-aged, rather plain-looking, repressed loner. The two jump into a passionate love affair.

Leclerc punctuates the humor with biting satire about prejudice, family secrets and political hypocrisies. For example, despite his vanilla-sounding name, Arthur is the Jewish grandson of Holocaust victims, something Baya thinks is wonderful. “It makes you interesting,” she coos. Later, at a dinner with his parents, Arthur warns Baya not to mention the Holocaust. The usually glib Baya is mortified when everything she says seems to bring up images of the tragedy. “I worked at a camp,” she tells Arthur’s mother. “A summer camp, I mean. Before that I worked at the train station,” she stammers before running out of the room.

Intouchables (Untouchable), about a quadriplegic French millionaire and his outspoken Algerian caregiver; Low Cost, about a group of passengers stranded on a hot, stuffy airplane for eight hours; and Et soudain tout le monde me manque (The Day I Saw Your Heart), about a young woman struggling with her 60-year-old father and his much too young, pregnant wife, round out the schedule.

Things kick off today with Les émotifs anonymes at 7 p.m. Screenings continue through Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For a full schedule, call 713-639-7515 or visit $6 to $7.
March 23-25, 2012

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Olivia Flores Alvarez