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Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu?


Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu?

I first saw this film when I was staying near Paris in 2014. At that time my French wasn't up to understanding much of the dialogue, although the story is so self-evident that it almost didn't matter. I awaited the day that an English subtitled version would appear, but it seems that it never did, save for some unofficial downloads or separate subtitle files that can be found on the internet. One can, however, find an English subtitled trailer (below), perhaps made in readiness for something that never happened.

With my French now much improved, I bought a copy of the DVD with French subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (sourds et malentendants). This certainly allowed me to understand a great deal more of what was being said but, as I've found in the past, the subtitles often didn't correspond precisely with the spoken words. This leaves you simultaneously trying to understand effectively two streams of French, which isn't easy. Needless to say, there was still quite a bit of dialogue not completely understood.

It seems that the film never officially made it across the water to Britain and America because English speaking audience "would never allow themselves these days to laugh at blacks, Jews or Asians." Our loss, as this is an extremely funny film.

I haven't a great deal more to add to my original review, which is itself quite short. I was going to say that if you have good French comprehension don't miss it but, on reflection, if that is the case I guess you've probably already seen it, as it went down a storm in France.


A Ghost Story


A Ghost Story

This film didn't make our Cineworld multiplex, so when the DVD appeared we decided to watch it, based on some very interesting positive reviews. It's number nine in the Guardian's top 50 films of 2017.

It is different, and I would suggest very different from any supernatural film that you may have seen. It's not horror, and to an extent it's not even spooky. And even though the ghost has a few malevolent moments, it's not really scary.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a young couple living in a bit of a shack of a home in Texas. She wants to move, and he doesn't. We only know him as C, and her as M, not that proper names are that important to the story. One night they are disturbed by the sound of somebody 'crashing' the keyboard of his piano. They cannot discover why this happened, and at this point you think it's the beginning of the ghost story. But it isn't, and all will be revealed much later.

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Mon Oncle


Mon Oncle


Mon Oncle
, starring and directed by Jacques Tati, is a classic of French cinema that also won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1958. I knew of it, but not very much about it, so everything came as a surprise when I started watching. At first I thought it was a silent movie, since although there was a very lively soundtrack nobody was speaking, or at least when they did speak it was for the most part inaudible. As things developed there were snatches of clearer dialogue, but I was left with the impression that Tati wanted to convey everything from the action. There is a Chaplin feel to the film.

My other surprise was what appeared to be a major American influence. The plot involves a plastics factory that produces tubes, and Monsieur Arpel is the manager, who arrives every day in his large American car. And he isn't the only one driving such a car, as shots of the traffic show that most people are driving similar vehicles. Whether that was representative of this period in France, I don't know. Monsieur and Madame Arpel live in an ultra modern house, which is very un-French, with a geometric garden, minimal furniture and an automated kitchen that would have been extremely futuristic in 1958. Meanwhile everything around them is very French. A small town with run-down houses, a market and a tabac with les hommes passing the time of day drinking coffee or beer.

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Passengers


Passengers

Helen had seen Passengers at the cinema when it was released and thought I would enjoy it. So today we picked up the DVD.

After the success of Gravity I had become a bit wary of copy-cat films, but I must say that Passengers occupies an entirely different space - excuse the pun! However, like Gravity, for most of the time there are really only two people in it, Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Aurora Lane, and Chris Pratt as Jim Preston. Michael Sheen is also present as the android barkeeper, Arthur, while Laurence Fishburne makes a fairly brief appearance as the chief deck officer, Gus Mancuso.

The scenario is a futuristic space craft that is travelling to a remote colony carrying 5000 colonists and 258 crew members in suspended animation. The journey time is 120 years but 30 years into the trip a large asteroid isn't completely deflected by the ship's forward shield, causing a glitch in the systems that results in Jim's hibernation pod waking early. Confused he meanders around the ship looking for the other travellers, while the onboard support systems react with him as if the full journey has been completed. The truth quickly dawns on him and after a frantic search to find a way of re-entering hibernation, he becomes resigned to the fact that he will die on the way to Homestead II. He lets himself go and even contemplates suicide, but after seeing Aurora in her pod, and finding out about her, he becomes enamoured and starts to contemplate the idea of waking her. This he discusses with Arthur, who politely replies that the questions posed by Preston are not ones that you ask a computer.

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Jeune et Jolie


Jeune et Jolie

We popped into a DVD/music store in Peterborough today and I picked up a couple of French films. Jeune et Jolie was one of them and we watched it this afternoon. Translated as Young and Beautiful it follows the life of a 17-year-old woman, who after a less than fulfilling first sexual experience while on holiday, embarks on a life of prostitution. Isabelle, the said young woman, is indeed beautiful, and also enigmatic. What drives her to behave how she does is far from clear, at least until later in the film when she receives counselling, and even then you feel that she hasn't revealed all. What she does reveal is that in an immature way she is treating the whole thing as a kind of game.

In a loving family with her mother and step father, and a younger brother, it's not a question of her needing the money. She is clearly getting a form of fulfilment from her actions, if not from the actual sexual acts. One client, Georges, becomes a bit more than just a customer. An older man, he is kind and one detects that Isabelle actual enjoys being with him. More so than some of the other clients who are much less caring. Her dalliances continue unbeknown to her mother, while she attends the lycée with her close friend, Claire, who thinks that Isabelle is still a virgin. The sexual encounters are filmed to convey the different experiences she encounters, and her associated feelings, without being overly graphic although there is of course a fair amount of nudity.

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By the Sea

As the review in the Guardian says, "only a star of Angelina Jolie Pitt’s immense clout could get a film like By the Sea made." It stars Jolie and her (now estranged) husband, Brad Pitt, as Vanessa and Roland, a couple whose marriage is not in a good place. Vanessa is constantly morose, for reasons that are only revealed well into the film. While Roland is a writer. They've travelled to the south of France ostensibly, it would appear, to inspire Roland in writing a new book. He seems to do far more drinking than writing, having established a friendship of sorts with the local bar owner, who himself is still mourning the loss of his wife. His love for his departed wife contrasts starkly with the state of Roland and Vanessa's relationship.

By the Sea

A lot of the very sparse dialogue is in French, and given that I could hardly hear the softly muttered English dialogue at times, subtitles were indispensable. The film moves at a pedestrian pace, with the first half hour or more seeming to comprise of Roland going to the bar, Vanessa reclining on the bed or the balcony, and the two of them constantly at odds. Things change, however, when a newly married French couple occupy the adjacent room. By chance Vanessa found a peep-hole giving a view of the couple's bedroom and it isn't long before she is spying on them. One assumes she is envious of their relationship rather than looking for titillation. At the same time she is sure that Roland wants to have sex with the young woman, although there's absolutely nothing to substantiate her accusations.

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A Bigger Splash

Helen bought a couple of DVDs this week, one of which was this film. We watched it yesterday evening.

A Bigger Splash

A bit of research informs me that it is a remake of Jacques Deray's 1969 psychological thriller, La Piscine (The Swimming Pool). Certainly the swimming pool features strongly, particularly at the end.

It has a main cast of four. Tilda Swinton plays Marianne, a famous rock star who is taking time out with her partner, Paul, played by Matthias Schoenarts. Marianne is under orders not to speak as she tries to recover her voice. Their tranquility is shattered by the arrival of Harry, brilliantly played by Ralph Fiennes, a record producer who was once Mariannes lover, and who brings with him his daughter Penelope, played by Dakota Johnson of 50 Shades of Grey fame.

The frisson generated by the arrival of Harry and his daughter is immediate. He obviously isn't over Marianne, while Penelope has immediate eyes for Paul. To say Harry is over the top is an understatement. He never stops talking, is hyperactive, seems worryingly interested in his daughter and has a habit of stripping off for the pool, never mind everybody's presence. Meanwhile Paul remains reserved but is clearly uneasy. We learn that Harry actually introduced him to Marianne.

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La Fée

Another French film, but one that I find extremely difficult to review. It's a combination of fantasy, love and slapstick comedy. The notes on the DVD refer to burlesque comedy and physical comedy. Do you get the gist?

La Fée - image 1

Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon, a couple in real life, play Dom and Fiona, having directed the film with Bruno Romey, who plays the visually challenged patron of the L'Amour Flou (Fuzzy Love) café.

Dom works in a hotel and one evening Fiona comes in and announces she's a fairy, and grants him three wishes. The first is for a scooter (he has a very unreliable bike) and the second is for petrol to keep it running. After Fiona carries out an interesting variation of the Heimlich manoeuvre on Dom, who gets the top of a tomato ketchup bottle stuck in his throat (you need to watch the film to see why), Dom falls asleep, and wakes up in the morning to find a scooter in the hotel foyer. Later Fiona gives him the key to a petrol storage tank in the nearby refinery. And so a romance is kindled.

La Fée - image 2

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Heartbreaker

My latest French film is Heartbreaker. Or to give it its French title, L'Arnacoeur, which is a phonetic play on words, the actual word being arnaqueur, being somebody who practises arnaque, which is a word for a swindle or a con.

Heartbreaker

Alex, with the help of his sister and her husband, operate a rather unusual business. Basically they break up relationships, which may sound somewhat harsh, but we're led to believe that it's only where the woman is at risk of marrying somebody unsuitable. Needless to say somebody, usually the woman's father, pays them to perform this service.

His ultimate challenge arrives in the form of Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) who is hopelessly in love with her soon to be husband, a rather boring Englishman - from a French perspective, if you want boring in a love-related scenario, I guess casting an English bloke doesn't need much thought!

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Le Goût des Autres

Another French film and another gentle comedy.

Le Goût des Autres

Castella is a rich but lonely business man. He is negotiating a deal that obviously exposes him to possible danger, so everywhere he goes he is accompanied by a bodyguard and his chauffeur. As a subplot said bodyguard and chauffeur become involved with a young woman in the local brasserie. The chauffeur having slept with her in the past, a fact he has completely forgotten when she reminds him of it. Meanwhile the bodyguard is far more worldly wise and soon forms a relationship with her.

Castella has also hired a 'sharp' college boy type as an assistant to help him with his 'big deal'. He rubs Castella up the wrong way while also suggesting to him that he should learn English to help in his business dealings.

Clara, an English teacher, is interviewed and promptly discounted, but a little later Castella comes across her again as an actress and is completely mesmerised by her performance in Racine's "Bérénice". From this point on he endeavours to meet her, breaking into her social circle, where he is politely ridiculed. Meanwhile his relationship with his wife, which had already become distant, is failing completely, her main emotional interest seeming to be her dog.

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OSS117: Rio Ne Répond Plus

Having watched OSS 117: Le Caire - Nid d'Espions, it was suggested that I also watch Rio Ne Répond Plus.

OSS117: Rio Ne Répond Plus

It carries on nicely from the earlier film, with our agent upsetting just about everybody and surviving not from any innate skill but from sheer luck and help from his often incredulous partners.

In this outing he's off to Rio to recover microfilms from an ex Nazi, which contain the names of French collaborators. He's told that he has been selected because he's the 'best', which he immodestly acknowledges, but we later find out that there is a more compelling reason.

Posing as a reporter on holiday, which of course nobody believes, he ends up with Mossad agents who want to get the said Nazi back to Israel for trial. In the earlier film the Muslims were the recipients of his insults, whereas this time it's the Jews. He, of course, doesn't actually realise he is insulting people.

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Les Femmes du 6e Ètage

This is the second of the French films I've watched after buying some previously owned DVDs from the Amazon Marketplace.

One of the reviews on the DVD case for this film says: "Une comédie délicate, enlevée et drôle", which I think describes it quite nicely.

as Femmes du 6e Ètage

In Paris, in the 60s, Jean-Louis, a stockbroker, and his wife Suzanne live in a grand apartment. Above, on the sixth floor, there are a group of Spanish house maids (les bonnes) who might as well not exist as far as Jean-Louis and Suzanne are concerned.

But when their French maid is dismissed (Suzanne and her didn't get on after the death of Jean-Louis' mother) Suzanne is introduced to the fact that she can find a Spanish maid, and she takes on trial the recently arrived Maria. With a bit of clandestine help from her friends on the sixth floor, the young Maria makes a good impression, and is duly appointed.

Jean-Louis soon becomes infatuated with Maria. His wife suspects something is going on, but misses the obvious and mistakenly accuses her husband of having an affair with an attractive new female client. He choses to admit to this imaginary affair rather than to his real feelings for Maria. Suzanne duly kicks him out.

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OSS 117: Le Caire - Nid d'Espions

I've recently acquired a few French films from Amazon's used DVD marketplace, and I've just watched OSS 117: Le Caire - Nid d'Espions (Cairo - Nest of Spies).

OSS 117: Le Caire - Nid d'Espions

This is a spoof of the spy film genre and draws heavily from the early Bond films. Jean Dujardin plays the Bond-type character, interestingly named Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath. His female co-star is played by Bérénice Bejo, and those of you who take an interest in such things will recognise this duo from the Oscar winning silent film of 2011, The Artist.

Hubert is, of course, God's gift to women and has no respect whatsoever for the religion of the local people, as shown by his silencing of the Muezzin, whose call to prayer wakes him up on his first morning in Cairo. He bumbles along and through sheer happenstance "saves the Middle East".

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Toutes nos Envies

To help me learn French I often watch French films with French subtitles. I recently saw Toutes nos Envies (All our Desires), a sad story but also one of courage. Unfortunately a lot of the dialogue was very quietly spoken and, consequently, difficult to understand. The subtitles also often appeared to show different words to those that the actors spoke. However, the story was easy to follow and I enjoyed this film. The performances were strong and the relationship between the main characters had depth.

Toutes nos Envies

Claire is a young judge who takes on finance companies in order to help clients who have taken on loans without realising that the interest rate is too high to pay. But she becomes unwell and discovers that she has an untreatable brain tumour.

Stéphane is an acquaintance who helps her by providing legal advice and a strong platonic relationship develops between them. She confides in Stéphane that she is going to die, but hasn't told her husband. This creates a very emotionally complicated situation.

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Blue is the Warmest Colour

Blue is the Warmest Colour
I was bought this DVD for Christmas. I had read about this film after it's release but was a bit surprised when I got it as a present. Obviously any French film helps me 'train my ears' to the sound of French, even though the dialogue is usually at the tricky/impossible end of the scale. The DVD was, however, an English language release with sub-titles.

When I read about this film there was much attention given to its explicit sexual nature. There's no denying that the lesbian sex scenes are as explicit as you are likely to see in any main-stream film. However, to reduce what is an amazing film to the sex is doing the production a great disservice.

The two leading female actors are absolutely amazing and I'm not surprised that both won a Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2013, as did the film and the director. Adèle Exarchopoulos (who plays Adéle) in particular gives an amazing performance. From the time when she discovers her sexuality, in late adolescence, up until the moment when she realises that her relationship with Emma (played by Léa Seydoux) is over, we witness the emotions of a young woman finding true love, playing out that love with unbridled passion and finally losing somebody who has taken over her soul. The scene in the bar where Adéle finally realises that there is no longer any hope of reconciliation must rate as one of the best emotional portrayals ever put on film.

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La Femme Nikita

Nikita
I watch French films but find it difficult always to understand spoken dialogue. To help, if possible I buy films with French subtitles. Unfortunately it's not easy to find these films in England. I bought several when I was in Paris and more recently I bought some from Amazon France. It's very easy to do. You can use your Amazon UK email username and password and delivery is quick, and not too expensive.

One of the films was La Femme Nikita, which I watched last week. I was impressed. This genre is these days commonplace but I don't think that the more recent films are better. In fact, I think that Nikita by Luc Besson is still one of the best examples.