Film Critic Jean Oppenheimer on the upcoming City of Lights, City of Angels (COLCOA) Film Festival in LA, From April 16-April 23

Film critic Jean Oppenheimer gives us a run-down of highlights of the upcoming City of Lights, City of Angeles Film Festival.

Lovers of French cinema, listen up.  The 16th annual City of Lights, City of Angels (COLCOA) Film Festival opens at the Directors Guild this coming Monday, April 16, and runs through the 23rd. For those unfamiliar with this fantastic event, it is a weeklong smorgasbord of recent French films –- thrillers, dramas, comedies — almost all of them released in France in 2011. This year’s program consists of 34 features and documentaries and 21 shorts, including numerous Cesar and Cannes winners. The Intouchables [sic] is an affecting comedy, starring Francois Cluzet and Cesar-winner Omar Sy, about the unlikely bond that develops between a wealthy, disabled aristocrat and the young man, just out of jail, who is hired to take care of him. It is France’s third highest grossing film of all time. One of the most powerful films you are likely to see anywhere this year is the drama Early One Morning, about a man (Jean-Pierre Darroussin in a rare tragic role) who is driven to extremes by the callousness and corruption that surround him at work. Also screening: the 1938 Marcel Carne film Hotel Du Nord and the 1975 romantic adventure Call Me Savage, starring Yves Montand and Catherine Deneuve. Actress/writer/director Julie Delpy is this year’s artist-in-residence.  COLCOA is presented by the Franco-American Cultural Fund, a group of French and American guild and cultural organizations.

Why is this festival so much fun? For one thing, it is unusually low-key and personable; nobody cares about the pecking order here. Most of the filmmakers and many of the stars attend and everybody is approachable. You don’t have to be fluent in French, but it’s easier to eavesdrop if you are. Not every film is a winner, but COLCOA has a pretty enviable track record. Past offerings have included My Afternoons with Margueritte, Mesrine, Inferno, The Secret of the Grain and the two Jean Dujardin OSS 117 spy parodies. Some of this year’s films already have been picked up for American distribution. For more information, and to order tickets (which quickly sell out), go to