Who would have thought that a film based on the horrific aftermath of the Great War’s blood-soaked battlefields could become a whimsical, light-hearted thriller?
See You Up There is French, which probably accounts for its Gallic light touch – one of 50 films in this year’s Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, opening Perth on March 14 and running until April 4.
Director Albert Dupontel not only wrote the script of See You Up There, based on the best-selling novel by Pierre Lemaitre, but he also stars as Albert Maillard, a French infantryman battling to survive as the war grinds to an end in November 1918.
Maillard is nearly buried alive in a final assault ordered by his sadistic captain Pradelle (Laurent Lafitte) but is saved by fellow soldier Edouard Pericourt (Perez Biscayart), whose face is then blown half off by mortar fire.
The grateful Maillard dedicates himself to supporting Pericourt in the grim months that follow.
Pericourt, a talented artist, cannot contemplate showing his disfigured face to the world, let alone to his disapproving banker father.
He fakes his death and hides his identity behind a series of fantastic masks.
He also becomes addicted to morphine and conceives a crazy scheme which involves the two men selling phoney monuments to French towns looking to honour the dead.
All this is played out as a surreal 1920s drama, with Vincent Matthias’s camerawork graded to look like old Autochrome images.
Pierre Queffelean’s ornate sets are a delight and strong performances by the excellent cast carry the often twisted tale to a satisfactory conclusion.
The festival will kick off at Cinema Paradiso on March 14 with the witty rom-com C’est La Vie, followed by an after party at Connections Night Club. The film will also open that night at Luna on SX, with drinks and delicacies on arrival.
Full details of the festival program are on the French Film Festival website – https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org – or on program booklets available at Luna Leederville, Luna on SX, Cinema Paradiso and the Windsor Cinema.