Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy in COL•COA Closing Night Film The Intouchables

Billed as the largest festival in Hollywood dedicated to foreign cinema, City of Lights, City of Angels (COL•COA) has been bringing the best of French cinema from Paris to Los Angeles for the last decade and a half. This will be the first year I’ve covered the festival for Living in Cinema and last night I ventured over the hill to the Residence of France in Beverly Hills for the announcement of the 16th annual program. I spoke briefly with festival director and programmer Francois Truffart and I congratulated him and his country on what has been an unusually spectacular year for French cinema which saw a record number of features in 2011 (272) and culminating in the multiple wins for The Artist at this year’s Oscars. Truffart noted that this was an especially difficult year to narrow down the festival schedule.

Kicking the festival off on April 16th is the North American Premiere of Florent-Emilio Siri’s My Way (“CloClo”), a bio of French pop icon Claude Francois. Though not widely known in the U.S., Francois co-wrote (along with Jacques Revaux) the song Comme d’habitude (“As Usual”) which Paul Anka reworked in English as My Way and which of course became one of Frank Sinatra’s signature tunes.

Wrapping up COL•COA on the 22nd (award winners will be re-screened Monday the 23rd), The Weinstein Company presents the smash hit French comedy The Intouchables starring Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy who won a Cesar this year for Best Actor for his work in the film.

In between there will be 32 more features (and 21 shorts) including Maiwenn’s Cannes Jury Special Prize-winning drama Polisse, Benoit Jacquot’s Farewell My Queen, Pierre Schoeller’s Cesar-nominated The Minister, the festival’s first 3D film in Bibo Bergeron’s animated A Monster in Paris produced by Luc Besson, Lucas Belvaux’s thriller 38 Witnesses, Emmanuel Mouret’s comedy The Art of Love, the Cesar-winning documentary Leadersheep and actress Sylvie Testud’s directorial debut Another Woman’s Life.

Speaking of actresses, this year’s Focus on a Filmmaker series honors actress-writer-director-singer Julie Delpy and her newest film Le SkyLab.

While the lineup includes 10 North American/U.S. Premieres and 14 West Coast Premieres, there are a few classics on offering as well. Georges Méliès’ wonderful A Trip to the Moon (recently celebrated in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo) is being presented with its original colors restored alongside a documentary on film preservation. Writer director Alexander Payne presents Marcel Carne’s classic Hotel Du Nord and a restored print of Call Me Savage (“Le Sauvage”) is screening as part of a tribute to the great Yves Montand.

Screenings take place at the Directors Guild of American on Sunset. Individual tickets are $10 with special deals for seniors, students, the disabled and assorted guilds and film clubs. Passes are also available and there are a number of free screenings. Check out the COL•COA website for the full lineup and more information.

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