Who likes foreign movies? How ’bout a festival? Online..? Maybe not!

If you love movies, if you love foreign films and festivals, but the inherent crowds irk you, then how about MyFrenchFilmFestival.com?  Another way to watch foreign movies online.  This inaugural film festival began on January 14 and finishes on the 30th.

Géraldine Nakache and Leïla Bekhti in "All That Glitters" (courtesy creative commons)

I tried to watch two titles, “All that Glitters” [Tout Ce Qui Brille in French], about two 20-something suburban women who yearn for Paris’ bright lights, and “Spies” [Espions in French] a story that asks “what if James Bond were brilliant and French, but also a misfit, slacker without patriotism?” Several of the 10 titles looked worthwhile. I say tried, even strove, because after 10- or 20-minutes even with a strong, reliable Wifi connections, the movies played as though they were under strobes lights –stuttering, clunky.

While this web-based film festival isn’t the first, or necessarily unique, it is different and special, but also damned irksome. Its predecessors are Babelgum Online Film Festival, which began in 2007, offering movies that mostly avoid or ignore conventional or feature films, and the New York Film Academy and PutItOn.com, which held their second online festival in 2010.  Neither of these seem to offer the opportunity to watch foreign movies online.  So maybe try MyFrenchFilmFestival.com?

Well, while MyFrenchFilmFestival boasts 10 films from emerging French feature filmmakers and many shorts, brace yourself for the internet headaches…  People talk about payback.  The problem is playback, even with a strong Wifi connection.  With this inaugural online film festival, you waste more energy coaxing the movie to play than enjoying it.  It’s a trial for a movie critic to review something that literally almost not watchable.  You try to steady the clunky play back somehow, by making circles in the corner of your screen with the mouse, but…that’s tiresome, and futile.  If you want to pause or come back to watching the film, too bad, so sad. – You’re screwed.

“All that Glitters” would’ve been a romp, watching these young women find their ways and a little bit more about themselves, and reconciling their suburban doldrums and fantasies about Parisian night life.  It’s probably a good romp if the web system cooperates with movie viewers.

Then a few days after struggling to enjoy the story of this female duo, a surge of optimism came.  How about another go of it, with “Spies?” It’s a strong, smart film that has a French version of James Bond, if he lacked the glamour or sense of service. The first half played well enough, making you want to stick with it, even if your attention was split between fiddling with a mouse and actually watching it.  But when the movie starts playing more like a skipping slideshow, and the subtitles seem to fall out-of-sync or drop off entirely, you’re lost – Patience drained. Enthusiasm spent.

Nice try, maybe.  This film festival, or this method makes it hard to watch foreign movies online.  In how many ways can we compare this clunkiness to European politics?