Whatever the genre, Redgraves have had a leading role

A French festival, 'Typiquement British', celebrates the achievements of a century of cinema - and one family gets a whole month to itself
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Three generations of the Redgrave acting dynasty are due in Paris today to launch the largest festival of British films ever to be held outside the country.

Three generations of the Redgrave acting dynasty are due in Paris today to launch the largest festival of British films ever to be held outside the country.

The first part of the five-month festival is a tribute to 62 years of Redgrave films - the first retrospective to cover the work of the entire family.

Members of the dynasty present at the Centre Georges Pompidou for the launch tonight will include Lady Redgrave, 90, the widow of Sir Michael and - as Rachel Kempson- the star of three of the festival's films. The others will be two of her children, Vanessa and Corin, and her grand-daughters, Vanessa's daughters Joely and Natasha Richardson, and Jemma Redgrave, Corin's daughter. Lynn, Lady Redgrave's other daughter, is on location in America and unable to attend.

The overall festival, "Typiquement British", is a joint production by the Pompidou Centre, the British Council and the British Film Institute. More than 300 works will be shown, starting with pioneering films of the 1890s and encompassing every genre from Ealing comedies to Hammer horror films. Alfred Hitchcock, James Bond and Wallace and Gromit are all represented.

The film-loving French were dismissive of British movies at one time. The French director François Truffaut, although a great fan of Hitchcock, once said that the "words British and cinema should never be used in the same sentence".

The success of films such as The Full Monty and works by Mike Leigh and Ken Loach have changed all that. Several recent British films have been seen by more people in France than in their home country (partly because the French industry is not as dominated by large Hollywood-oriented cinema-owning groups).

Barbara Dent of the British Council office in Paris, who helped to organise the festival, said: "There was a time when French movie people were rude about British films. We were seen as frivolous, shallow, entertainment-oriented, while they were the serious producers of films d'auteurs.

"That has changed, but one of the aims of this festival is to show the French how much good British cinema there has always been. There are plenty of classics in the programmes but also some movies which deserve to be classics which are relatively unknown in France."

Several films in the last category occur in the "Redgrave season", beginning with a special showing tonight of The Captive Heart (1946), directed by Basil Dearden and starring both Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson. The Secretary of State for Culture, Chris Smith, and his French counterpart, Catherine Tasca, are expected to attend.

Other Redgrave classics will include Blow-Up (1966), Georgy Girl (1966) and Dead of Night (1945) - a medley of horror shorts in which Sir Michael played a ventriloquist taken over by his dummy.

Ms Dent said: "The idea of a Redgrave season came from the French side but it is extraordinary how many genres and periods of the British film industry the family covers, from Hitchcock to the Swinging Sixties and even right up to the present day. The Redgraves themselves were delighted and have been a great help in preparing the season."

One sub-section of the festival which is guaranteed to have the French rolling in the aisles is a collection of classic British images of France, such as Hitchcock's Champagne (1928). They tend to give an ooh-la-la portrait of the French as over-sexed, over-emotional and under-reliable, including the Hitchcock film which has scenes (daring for its time) of Parisian women kissing each other passionately.