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VCU's eighth edition of its French Film Festival continues to present some of Europe's biggest stars and directors. 

Parlez Vous Cinema?

Eight years ago, Peter S. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., worried what the level of attendance might be for a film fest offering strictly French fare. He needn't have.

From that first year, attendance at VCU's French Film Festival has grown steadily; last year, more than 6,000 people took advantage of the festival's unique slate of premiŠres, discussions and chats with France's leading directors, actors and writers.

Originally, the filmmakers interacted with festival participants through satellite teleconferences. As both the fest's fame and attendance has grown, so has the level of participation. Now, French filmmakers eagerly agree to attend the festival in person.

This year's festival, which takes place April 1-2 at the Byrd Theatre, has quite a slate of films and guests. Its showstopper screening is none other than the U.S. premiŠre of "Le pique-nique de Lulu Kreutz." Starring the talented Philippe Noiret as a world-renowned cellist who's lost his passion for the music, "Lulu Kreutz's Picnic" depicts a tempestuous outing that may transform both his life and music. Director Didier Martiny will introduce the film along with its award-winning screenwriter Yasmina Reza. (presented at 4:15 p.m. April 1)

Besides "Picnic," the festival will screen four other feature films and a series of eight short films. Director Jean-Loup Hubert ("Marthe," "Le Grand Chemin") is also among the stellar artists who will discuss their work. Hubert will introduce the festival's opening-day screening of several short films as well as the full-length "Rembrandt," winner of a 2000 César award in France (9:30 a.m. April 1).

But the real gem of this year's festival has to be the participation of Claude Lelouch. The famed director and writer will be presenting via telephone conference "Une pour toutes" (10:45 a.m. April 2). Even by telephone, the chance to hear Lelouch discuss his work is an incredible opportunity for anyone interested in the art of film.

"Une pour toutes" is a modernized, female take on the Musketeers. It seems three thirtysomething women are frustrated by their floundering acting careers. Until, that is, the Parisian trio comes up with a scheme to profit more directly from their careers as well as their feminine wiles.

The Oscar-winning Lelouch ("A Man and A Woman") ranks among the leading directors of modern French cinema. Lelouch, who made his first film at the age of 13 and won a Cannes Amateur Film Festival award for that first effort, rightfully enjoys a lofty spot in the hearts of film lovers. His participation would be a coup for any film festival.

Do not let a lack of language skills keep you away; speaking French is not a prerequisite to enjoying the festival. All films are presented with English subtitles, and translators accompany each presenter, if needed.

Varying levels of festival passes are available. For a list of prices and a complete program of VCU's 8th Annual Film Festival, call the festival hotline at 278-0210 or visit www.vcu.edu/outreach/FrenchFilmFestival
For ticket information, call 357-FILM.

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