Monday, October 23, 2023

Rendez-vous with the Festival Polar de Cognac

French Village Diaries Festival Polar de Cognac Rendez-Vous Avec Le Crime
Cognac Crime Festival

Festival Polar de Cognac


Last Thursday evening we went out. We finished work, we dressed up, well I discarded my cosy leggings on the bed and found jeans, a blouse and some jewellery, and we got in the car to drive to Cognac, an hour away. This was already way more excitement than we are used to for a week night.


Cognac was holding its 28th crime festival, Le Festival Polar de Cognac. This brings together novels, comic books, films and television series for a four-day festival of screenings, book sales and meet the author/stars events, that culminates with a prize-giving ceremony on the Sunday.

French Village Diaries Festival Polar de Cognac Rendez-Vous Avec Le Crime
Rare night out excitement at the Festival Polar de Cognac


Our date was with Rendez-Vous avec le Crime 2, “Le mouton noir”, the third of three films selected for the television series prize. This is the French TV adaptation of Date With Malice, book two in Julia Chapman’s Dales Detective series of novels. I’ve been friends with Julia, thanks to this blog, for many years, even lunching with her in York back in 2014. Adrian and I have read all her books in English and watched the first of the TV films last Christmas, on France 3, with English subtitles. We couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to watch this one, on a big screen, so close to home. 


We opted for the free tickets but could have bought a Priority Pass that would have given us queue-free VIP access to all events. As we would only be there for one screening, a short queue up the back staircase, that was decorated with delicate stained-glass windows, wasn’t an issue. The theatre had filled up nicely by the time we got in, but we easily found two seats a few rows back from the front, which we sunk into nicely. They were the cosiest, softest cinema seats I’d ever sat in, like a bright red velvety hug, that was great until a hot flush snuck up on me during the film. Looking around, we think we were some of the youngest in the audience and from the chatter we’d overheard on the staircase, probably the only non-locals and likely the only British too. Even before we’d sat down, I’d fallen in love with the venue when I read the fabulous sign warning that no eating is allowed during the film, including sweets or my absolute pet hate, chewing gum.

French Village Diaries Festival Polar de Cognac Rendez-Vous Avec Le Crime
Some of the cast and crew of Rendez-Vous Avec Le Crime 2


The evening began with an introduction and a few words from some of the production team as well as two of the actors, where we learned it was an avant premiere, so the first ever showing and not even the cast had yet seen the finished film, what a privilege for us, even without the priority pass, I felt like a VIP. The lights dimmed, the film started, and the low hubbub that built around us seemed to agree with our confused looks – they were showing the wrong film. It was easy to imagine the furtive fumbling going on in the projection room as we were left staring at a blank screen, before the man with the mic appeared back on stage to apologise. For the first time in 28 years, two films with identical running times were on the schedule, and one of them had been downloaded twice! He promised it would only be a short wait while they ‘found’ the correct film, which it was, and soon we were whisked off to the wilds of Brittany.


There was enough of a gasp of shock from the audience when the killer was revealed, to lead me to think that not many of them had read the books, but the enthusiastic clapping at the end was proof they had enjoyed it. With a French cast and location, it has an obvious French feel to it, but while it may lack a bit of Yorkshire heritage, it hasn’t lost any of the wit, humour or chemistry of the original books we both love. 


On Sunday night, it was lovely to read that the Grand Prix for the television series category had gone to Rendez-Vous Avec Le Crime 2, a well-deserved win and we will enjoy watching it again when it comes to France 3. I know that there is also a UK based production company who are looking into making a version for British TV, set in Yorkshire, which is fabulous news.


I am 100% sure that even though Adrian is known to indulge my many whims that take us to some weird and wonderful places, he wouldn’t have been up for a two-hour round trip, on a dark and biblically wet night after work just to watch a French film, unless it was based on a Julia Chapman book. 


Ed is now working for a film festival in Poitiers, so it is rather remiss of us that this was our first taste of a festival, but it won’t be our last.


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