The Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF46), presented by the California Film Institute, has announced all of the films selected for the 46th edition of the Festival, from October 5 to 15, 2023. The Festival will present films from the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, from Berlin International Film Festival, and many other festivals around the world.

We have focused on the French and French-speaking selection (directors, actors, or subjects) but the programming is much broader. If the film is in French, it has English subtitles.

ANATOMY OF A FALL (Anatomie d’un chute) – France –  Director Justine Triet

Palme d’Or of the Cannes Film Festival 2023, this movie is a must-see. It’s as gripping as a thriller.

Sandra (Sandra Hüller), Samuel, and their visually impaired 11-year-old son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) have been living away from it all in the Alps mountains for a year. One day, Samuel is found dead at the foot of their house. An investigation for suspicious death is opened. Sandra is soon charged, although there is some doubt as to whether it was suicide or homicide. A year later, Daniel attends his mother’s trial, a veritable dissection of his parents’ couple. Swann Arlaud in the role of Sandra’s lawyer is great as usual.

In French, German with English subtitles

THE CRIME IS MINE (Mon Crime) –  France – Director François Ozon

In 1930s Paris, Madeleine Verdier (Nadia Tereszkiewicz), a pretty young actress with no money and no talent, is accused of murdering a famous producer. With the help of her flatmate and best friend Pauline (Rebecca Marder), a young unemployed lawyer, she is acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. A new life of fame and success begins until the truth comes out… This movie has the charm of retro and features Fabrice Lucchini, Isabelle Huppert, and Dany Boon but the real stars are those two talented young French actresses Marder and Tereszkiewicz.

In  French with English subtitles

GOODBYE JULIA , Director Mohamed Kordonafi

Sudan’s first film at Cannes — and at MVFF — is a powerful drama set against its 2011 split into two countries, the story of two extraordinary women brought together by the violence of men and racist politics. Mona (Eiman Yousif) is a Muslim woman who, when driving while distracted, accidentally hits a young boy and drives off in a panic. The boy’s mother is the titular Julia (Siren Riak), a Christian woman from the south, whose family is facing religious prejudice despite temporary peace accords. In the wake of tragic events brought about by the hit-and-run, Julia goes to work for Mona, and a fragile friendship develops despite their differences in religion and social standing. Buried deceptions are at play, however, involving Julia’s husband’s disappearance and Mona’s thankless marriage. In addition to eliciting two riveting central performances, debut director Mohamed Kordofani seamlessly interweaves personal and political themes, unifying these elements in a vibrant and resonant fashion. —Rod Armstrong

In Arabic with English subtitles

INSHALLAH BOY (Inshallah un fils) – Jordan, France, 113 min, Director Amjad Al Rasheed

After her husband Adnan’s sudden death, Nawal and her daughter are threatened with the loss of their home in this suspenseful and devastating look at a woman driven to desperate extremes by Iran’s patriarchal marital laws. With Adnan’s grave still warm, his brother claims ownership of the property since Nawal isn’t listed as co-owner and doesn’t have a male heir, so she pulls a rabbit out of her hat and claims to be pregnant to buy time. The increasingly complicated web she must construct in order to delay the process enmeshes her with the wealthy family she works for and brings her face to face with the misogyny of her country — as well as the benefits that can be gained if one has enough money. Director Amjad Al Rasheed based elements of his story on a female relative’s experience in this superlative feature debut that powerfully tackles social injustice within an unforgettable and constantly surprising narrative framework. — Rod Armstrong

In Arabic with English subtitles

KIDNAPPED (L’enlèvement) – Italy, France, Germany 2023, 134 min, Director Marco Bellochio

Marco Bellocchio’s (Blood of My Blood, The Traitor) riveting historical drama is based on the true story of Edgardo Mortara, a young Jewish boy in 1857 Bologna secretly baptized in his cradle by a Christian maid. Six years later, authorities became aware of the baptism and ripped the child away from his family, in accordance with Papal States norms. But Mortara never forgets his faith, practicing Judaism in secret even as he is raised in a Catholic environment. His parents’ quest to reclaim their son intertwines with a broader political conflict, and Pope Pius IX decides to take it as a personal cause. Mortara’s harrowing journey navigates the intricate balance between faith and dogma. This poignant film authentically portrays universal emotions while paying homage to 19th-century aesthetics. Bellocchio’s skill shines once more in an essential and unexpected classic. —João Federici

In Italian with English subtitles

THE NATURE OF LOVE (Simple comme Sylvain) – Canda, France 2023, 111 min, Director Monia Chokri

Sophia (luminous Magalie Lépine-Blondeau), at the cusp of 40, is lively, erudite, and bored. A university lecturer awaiting her chance at a tenure-track post (“probably not before menopause sets in”), she teaches courses for seniors part-time on the philosophical nature of love. Spinoza: desire is life; Socrates: we desire what we do not possess. When sent by her long-time partner Xavier (Francis-William Rhéaume) to supervise renovations at their country chalet, Sophia meets general contractor Sylvain (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), and their erotic coup de foudre threatens to scorch all bystanders within range. But working-class Sylvain is not as “simple” as privileged Sophia fantasizes him to be. His presence in her world exposes her judgmental side, and her presence in his reveals the misogyny and xenophobia of his social milieu. Triple-threat writer-director-actor Monia Chokri (Heartbeats, MVFF33) expertly weaves the delicate threads of love into sparkling patterns of human desire. — KD Davis

In French with English subtitles

ROBOTS DREAM (Mon ami Robot) – Spain, France 2023, 103 min, Director Pablo Berger

A poignant animated tale of friendship in 1980s Manhattan unfolds in this adaptation of Sara Varon’s graphic novel, scripted by the author in collaboration with award-winning director Pablo Berger (Blancanieves). After Dog, a lonely canine, purchases Robot, their bond thrives in a vibrant city populated by funny anthropomorphized animals in the subways, bars, movie theaters, and streets. What begins as a tale of inseparable friendship takes a bittersweet turn when circumstances force Dog, with a heavy heart, to leave Robot on a moonlit beach, illuminating their nascent connection’s fragility. Set against old New York’s melancholic beauty, this hand-drawn tragicomedy resonates with themes of acceptance, diversity, and enduring companionship. It also makes fine use of the music and sounds of the era, creating an enchanting and moving ode to companionship while leaving a lasting cinematic impression. —João Federici

In Spanish with English subtitles

THE TASTE OF THINGS (La passion de Dodin Bouffant) – France – 145 mn – Director Trần Anh Hùng

Trần Anh Hùng won Best Director at Cannes for this sumptuous and impossibly romantic film that pays tribute to love, food, and joie de vivre. Based on a Marcel Rouff novel, The Taste of Things stars Juliette Binoche as Eugénie, a renowned 19th-century chef who partners with the gourmet Dodin (Benoît Magimel) to create gustatory pleasures. They’ve become lovers over the years, but Eugénie refuses to marry him, citing a desire to maintain her independence. That tension brings additional spice to a film inclined to linger over delicious dishes, charting a nuanced and touching relationship between strong-willed, deeply affectionate individuals with intertwined yet separate lives. Trần (The Scent of Green Papaya, Norwegian Wood) deftly presents this culinary world as a reminder of how our passions give us meaning. The cast is superb, with Binoche especially divine as a witty, elegant cook who sees in every meal the possibility for creativity and personal expression. No wonder Dodin adores Eugénie so — viewers will feel the same. —Tim Grierson

In French with English subtitles

  • Oct 11th, and Oct 12th, 2023
  • Details

THEY SHOT THE PIANO PLAYER – Spain, France – 2023 – Directors Javier Mariscal, Fernando Trueba

Jeff Goldblum’s voice alluringly leads this animated jewel from Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal (the genius duo behind Chico & Rita), as a New York music journalist investigating Brazilian piano virtuoso Francisco Tenório Júnior’s 1976 disappearance in Argentina. The film sets forth on a captivating odyssey, gathering luminaries like João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Vinicius de Moraes, and Chico Buarque, and weaving their musical prowess into the rich tapestry of Tenório’s brilliance. The narrative flourishes as a vibrant celebration of bossa nova set against the 1960s and ’70s, when Brazil and Argentina edged toward dictatorships. With innovative and colorful animation, and no shortage of history-altering music, Trueba and Mariscal’s film pays moving tribute to a brilliant creative life, tragically curtailed, while crystallizing a pivotal era of creative emancipation in Brazil. —João Federici

In English

  • Oct 11th, and Oct 12th, 2023
  • Details

TOTEM – Mexico, France, Denmark – 2023 – 95mn  – Director Lila Avilés

Lila Avilés follows up her excellent 2018 debut The Chambermaid with this similarly impressionistic tale that places a child at the center of a family in crisis. Over the course of a single day, seven-year-old Sol (Naíma Sentíes) musters all her will in wishing her dying father back to health, while lively preparations for his final birthday celebration go on around her. Nothing is explained as Avilés burrows deep into the beautifully textured intimacies of this large, lived-in hive of a home. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, pets, and insects come and go to a homebound soundtrack of clinking dishes, giggling children, whispered worries, sudden anger, and the padded thuds of farewell hugs. As Sol eavesdrops into the nooks and crannies of the adult world, listening for word of her father’s salvation, we eavesdrop, too, until what at first seems fragmentary accumulates into the full weight of Sol’s joy and sorrow, now also substantial within us. —Shari Kizirian

In English

  • Oct 13th, and Oct 14th, 2023
  • Details

SIROCCO AND THE KINGDOM OF THE WINDS (Sirocco et le royaume des courants d’air) – France, Belgium 2023 – 80 mn, Director Benoit Chieux

Echoes of everything from Little Nemo in Slumberland to _The Wizard of Oz _to Howl’s Moving Castle hold this animated French fantasy aloft. When an author of children’s books babysits her friend’s two young daughters for the weekend, she’s just pulled a writing all-nighter and needs a nap. Unsupervised, the girls promptly tumble into trouble — somehow entering the world of their minder’s fictional creations. There, Carmen and Juliette ally with ethereal singing star Selma as they flee the realm’s mean mayor and his Goodie Gobblers. The trio is wary of the great sorcerer Sirocco, whose moods are literally stormy…but he may also be the key to the kiddies — who’ve magically transformed into kitties! — getting home. Charming and surreal, this vividly colored whimsy finds our wee heroines coping with various bizarre perils as if naturally suited to it. As Selma says, “Adventure is like riding a bike — you never forget.” —Dennis Harvey

Age 8+ In French with English subtitles

If you are not familiar with the MVFF, be careful, tickets sell out quickly. For those who want to enjoy the MVFF without leaving their sofa, there is a full online offer. Ticket sales here

MVFF46 Bay Area Screening Venues:
San Rafael: Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center
Mill Valley: CinéArts Sequoia
Mill Valley: Outdoor art club
Mill Valley: Sweet Valley Music Hall
Larkspur: Lark Theater
Berkeley: BAMPFA
San Francisco: The Roxie Theater

Thank you Mill Valley Film Festival, thank you California Film Institute!

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