French Movies Make Strong Showing at Filmfest

The most vivid trend at this year's New York Film Festival was the strong presence of French movies on the program, suggesting that France may be rebuilding the special relationship it had with American moviegoers in previous decades.

Combining this trend with the recent tendency for popular movies to focus on very young characters, Maurice Pialat deals with family life in Le Garu, starring French superstar Grard Depardieu as a businessman who dotes on his young son while paradoxically juggling relationships with his wife, former wife, and current girlfriend. Challenging in its structure but deeply sincere in its concern for the bonds between parents and children, the drama reconfirms Pialat as one of today's most thought-provoking European filmmakers.

Les Voleurs, also known as "Thieves," tells the tale of two brothers who weave a tangled web of conflicting emotions around themselves and the women in their lives. The story often seems a bit cool and distanced, as in other films by Andr Tchin, but its energy and imagination are impressive.

How I Got Into an Argument ... (My Sex Life) comes from Arnaud Desplechin, the thoughtful young filmmaker who established a major reputation with "La Sentinelle" four years ago. Less sensual than its title might suggest, it centers on a longtime graduate student who struggles to find a fulfilling love relationship while wrestling with the realization that sometime he'll have to leave his school career behind.

More frolicsome fare is found in Olivier Assayas's antic Irma Vep, with Hong Kong movie star Maggie Cheung as herself, visiting Paris to make a film that goes haywire when its burned-out director loses control. A Self-Made Hero, by Jacques Audiard, studies a Frenchman who turns himself into a bogus Resistance leader long after the Nazis have been defeated. Three Lives and Only One Death, by Ral Ruiz, stars Marcello Mastroianni as a man with changing personalities.

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