Long live England! Vive l'entente cordiale!

One annual French film festival entirely devoted to British cinema would be a curiosity; to stage two is a welcome aberration. Dinard and Cherbourg, just 150 kilometres apart along the north coast of France, both hold Britfests each autumn. Cherbourg has been around for longer, but Dinard (at least the locals claim) is the bigger deal. Whatever the case, during the long slump from which our cinema is gingerly emerging, the organisers must have often wondered if there were enough new films to go around.

Now in its sixth year, Dinard takes place in mid-September, which gives it a month's start on Cherbourg, although this year the timing was unfortunate as everyone's ears were ringing from the French nuclear tests. There was talk of a protest, which would have somewhat dampened the spirit of entente cordiale, but film-makers settled for a brief statement.

The highlights of the four-day event were the retrospectives dedicated to Alexander Korda and the late Alan Clarke, a brilliant director who, perhaps because he did his best work for television, never achieved the recognition he deserved during his lifetime. Blunt, ferocious, endlessly energetic, Made in Britain (1983), Road (1986) and The Firm (1988) emerged as keynote films of the Thatcher era. In an access of anglophilia, the organisers had covered all the seats in the cinema with naff Union Jack slip covers, which, after seeing Tim Roth's violent, amoral, swastika- tattooed skinhead in Made in Britain took on a suddenly sinister aspect.

The six new films in competition represented a strong line-up and were enthusiastically attended, but included little that British visitors hadn't already seen - smaller festivals lack the clout to command a major world premiere. The main prize, the Golden Hitchcock, went to Funny Bones, an unsurprising choice since it stars Jerry Lewis, a man practically worshipped as a god on French shores.

Perhaps the main point of Dinard is the deal-making. The festival generously flies the great, the good and the ugly of the British film industry out to Brittany en masse in a specially chartered plane. Anglo-French co-production is generally on the menu at the impromptu meetings in the town's many seafood restaurants. This year something else came out of the oyster lunches: plans to test-release an unnamed French film in the UK in a dubbed version. Dinard has proved an excellent showcase for British cinema, but this idea seems a slightly dodgy way of returning the compliment.

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