This year it’s as hard as ever to get a handle on the annual Alliance Française French Film Festival, the biggest and oldest of all the national screen festivals. I just counted more than 40 films in the program, including one documentary, a few family movies and one old title in revival ( Purple Noon, starring Alain Delon as Patricia Highsmith’s murderer Tom Ripley), though the exact number various between cities.

Celine Sciamma’s Petite Maman, her wonderful and very different follow-up to The Portrait of a Lady on Fire,is for example not screening in Sydney, presumably because it screened in the Sydney Film Festival at the end of last year. It is a splendid example of how to use a fertile imagination to create a spell over the viewer despite extremely limited resources.


The protagonist is eight-year Nelly, who, following the death of her maternal grandmother, travels with her mother, Marion, to the house on the edge of the woods where the latter grew up. Playing in the woods one day Nelly encounters another girl who looks identical to her (the...