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French Tacoma

Passion and tradition subtly hit the South Sound.

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Passion is a mainstay in both French film and French cuisine, as are tradition and technique. Can a country that elevates food, wine and film to the highest levels of art attainable be bad?

I think not.

The five films that the Tournées Festival, coming to The Grand Cinema courtesy of Pierce College and an alliance with the French American Cultural Exchange, will showcase are all new. The term “new” is used loosely, as in, current cinema in the last five years

But the films hint back to the history of French film and the elements that mark the entity as unique.

Like its cuisine and wine, France’s cinema has a rich background, starting with the Lumiére brothers, arguably the first cinematographers and the first people to project moving images in public with their Cinematograph.  From there on, a rich tradition of innovation and art paralleled the culture of Paris itself, with major philosophical theories — such as existentialism and surrealism — political thought, and literature showing on the screen for audiences to enjoy and later discuss in the cafés whilst wearing berets and smoking cigarettes.

French cinema took a turn for the daring in the late ‘50s, with a new crop of innovators — those same beret-wearing conversationalists — showing up.  Starting as critics, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Claude Charbol and Jaques Rivette observed an emergence of certain key directors as “authors” of their films, giving birth to auteur theory as well as their own careers as directors; these men helped shaped film (and film studies) as surely as the French vintners set the bar for wines.

Their movement in film, referred to as la Nouvelle Vague or the New Wave, brought to the screen classics such as Godard’s  “A Bout de Souffle” (“Breathless,” 1960), as well as Truffaut’s “Les Quatre Cent Coups” (“The 400 Blows,” 1959.)

The latter film follows Antoine Doinel, a boy whose family life is crap, and who finds himself in a disciplinary situation much like that shown in “Les Choiristes” (The Choir, 2005), the film being screened on April 12 at 2:15, 4:30, 7 and 9 p.m. at The Grand Cinema.  All the films of the series will be shown at these times, and after the 7 p.m. showing of each film, there will be a post-film discussion led by French faculty from local colleges and universities.

Today, “8 Femmes” (8 Women, 2002) will show, followed by a conversation with Tacoma Community College’s Johanna Needham.

On April 12, Pierce College’s Dan Skeldon will moderate the post-film discussion of the aforementioned “Les Choiristes.” Then, on April 19, University of Puget Sound Professor and Grand Cinema board of directors volunteer Michel Rocchi will talk about “Etre et Avoir” (To Be and to Have, 2002), with Pacific Lutheran University’s Scott Taylor moderating “L’Enfant” (The Child, 2005) the following Thursday (April 26), and with PLU’s Mark Jensen acting as the last moderator for “Les Invasion Barbares” (The Barbarian Invasions, 2003.) on May 3.

The five films will illustrate where France has come in more than a century of film production.

But your own experiences with French culture don’t have to end with the Tournées Festival, since Tacoma dishes up more French than you may think.

Stadium Bistro, with French-trained chef Pete Weikel serving up French-prepped northwest food fusion, illustrates the evolution of French Cuisine as it can be applied to regional foods, while similarly (and just down the street) Tacoma Wine Merchants (and Enoteca) illustrate the traditions of French wine and cheese, with a fair selection of both.

More French Cuisine can be tested, tasted, and relished at Babblin’ Bab’s Bistro, in the Proctor District, with Chef William Mueller’s take on the cuisine style he learned at Dumas Pere L’ Ecole de la Cuisine Francaise in Illinois; farther south in Steilacoom, at La Crème Brulee, you can even get a hint of a (is it real?) French accent with your French dining experience.

For French élan in shopping, Trouve in the heart of the Theatre district offers a myriad of cool Francophile fun, with French hand-milled soaps, scented candles, and adornments such as French poster-art and an assortment of other French décor items.

While not, strictly speaking, French, Folie A Deux in the Sanford and Son shops offers up art, embellishments, candles, and much other girlie cool stuff to make a soul say “oui, oui!”

[Stadium Bistro, 204 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.683.4150]

[Tacoma Wine Merchants and Enoteca, 21 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma, 253.779.8258]

[Babblin’ Babs’ Bistro, 2724 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, 253.761.9099]

[La Creme Brulee, 1606 Lafayette St., Steilacoom, 253.589.3001]

[Trouve, 762 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.627.0657]

[Folie A Deux, mid-level at Sanford & Son Antiques, 743 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.272.0334]

The Tournées Festival

What: A celebration of French film with refreshments provided by Corina Bakery, Metropolitan Market, Stadium Bistro, Stadium Thriftway, and Trader Joe’s.

When: April 5-May 3, Thursdays showing at 2:15, 4:30, 7 (followed by moderated discussions) and 9 p.m.

Where: The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett, Tacoma, 253.572.6062.

Admission: $8, $6 matinees, seniors, students, military and children

For more information, go to art/tournees.

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