Paris has many charms, some obvious, others more hidden from the plain eyesight. But a keen eye is a happy eye, as it might not miss the event that causes queues in Forum des imges, the 2nd and 3rd week of September. This year, it is 23rd time for L‘Étrange Festival to open its gate. In a way, its (hi)story is a story of love, passion and a bit of stubbornness, as it happens with most film festivals.
The festival actually took off 24 years ago (1993), surviving a two-year gap of reconstruction of its premises in 2007 and 2008, as an event of and for cinephiles on a very small budget, showing “old“ genre and fantastic films with wide selection ranges. It could have been Mario Bava, Seijun Suzuki or a French film that had gotten an (unjustly) short distribution run.
L‘Étrange Festival (re)discovers little big gems of marginal and marginalized cinemas, very early showing respects to Takashi Miike, Sion Sono, Nicolas Windig Refn or Alex de Iglesias, François Ozon or Guillero del Toro, or reminding of George Franjou, Henri-Georges Clouzot or Alejandro Jodorowski, some of them making it to the festival in person.
Each edition planned ahead, so every January or February the programming team of three (Frédéric Temps, Philippe Lux, Marc Troonen) has quite a precise idea to bring to life and polish; to help them, more hands join in (a dozen during the year, times 10 during the festival itself). Yet, some programme sidebars like carte blanche or homage might take years (5-6-7) to finalize because here one trio‘s wish collides with other people‘s working schedules. It is only logical that exaltation of the audience pretty much mirrors zeal of the festival people.
With programming putting together Frank Henenlotter, Andrzej Zulawski, Shohei Imamura, Asian action or horror flicks, indie genre films, extraordinary animation or documentaries of the marginalized cinemas, no wonder the L‘Étrange not only managed to build up addiction in audience, and is further spreading it across beyond the city limits, across the borders and generations.
And what has the festival to offer this year? Well, for example, three focuses: a Happy 50th Anniversary Focus Catalan: Sitges Turns 50!, an homage to Sitges Int‘l Fantastic Film Festival, where plenty of marvelous, horror, fantasy, gore, action, the bizarre and the strange can be found, and two focuses dedicated to Spanish Álex de la Iglesia and Belge Boris Szilinger, Cartes Blanches selected by Marc Caro and Jean Jeunet, Jaime Babagueró and by François Angelier & Mauvais genres. And never underestimate the selections for International Competition and Short Competition.