One of the best little thrillers I’ve seen lately is Espion(s) (translated with bizarre spelling as a Spy(ies) ) with charismatic Guillaume Canet as a baggage handler blackmailed into working for MI-5 in London, helping them trap a businessman smuggling explosives from Damascus. It’s a highlight among a promising group of French films, none shown in the U.S. before, available online as part of My French Film Festival.
The festival, running Jan. 14-29, is part of a strategy by the cultural agency Unifrance to call attention to French films at a time when foreign-language movies have a hard time making it to theaters. Ten new features and ten shorts will be available (about $4. for an individual feature, around $20. for a full package) all with subtitles, and viewers can vote for competition winners. To most of us, though, the so-called “festival” is simply a great chance to sample intriguing movies.
The lineup is eclectic, from Christopher Thompson’s Bus Palladium, about a group of friends who form a band in the 80’s, to All About Actresses (Le Bal des Actrices), with Charlotte Rampling, a fiction film about a director shooting a documentary about actresses. I’ve dipped into a few of the films, and Espion(s) is the one that grabbed me.
It’s not the most plausible story, but director Nicolas Saada never lets your attention flag. Canet, also the director of the brilliant thriller Tell No One, is Vincent, a guy with a murky past who acts like a renegade spy in London, even falling for the businessman’s French wife. The wonderful supporting cast includes Stephen Rea and Archie Panjabi (Kalinda from The Good Wife) as Vincent’s British intelligence contacts.
Here’s the trailer for Espion(s).
The website for My French Film Festival has more trailers and full info.