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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

It's really fascinating to read reviews after one has seen a film. In this case they reflect the chasm that exists between the professional critics and an average audience. Quoting Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian's film critic: "Populated by Downtown Abbey graduates, this glutinous postwar rom-dram is a load of cobblers." But set against that is the 81% audience satisfaction on Rotten Tomatoes, and a packed audience at our cinema when we saw it on Wednesday afternoon, quite a rare occurrence I assure you. Its problem, if it has one, is that it's a bit twee. But compared to some of the other stuff reaching the cinemas lately, it was quite a delight to watch.

Set in Guernsey immediately after the war, with flashbacks into the time of occupation, it is based around the unlikely sounding Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The society was started in a moment of crisis, when a group of residents were stopped by Germans during the evening curfew, and needed to come up with a reason for being out. The Potato Peel Pie aspect comes from the fact the islanders were close to starving, the said dish being one of their efforts to feed themselves.

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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.


Mal de pierres (From the Land of the Moon)


Mal de Pierres

Back to French films after the excitement of Black Panther. And this time it is a drama set in 1950s Provence, starring Marion Cotillard as a troubled young woman, Gabrielle, seeking more from life than her humble existence on a lavender farm is offering. The film actually starts years later with Gabrielle, her husband, José, and son, Marc, going to a music competition, where Marc is to play. On the way their taxi is held up by a double-parked lorry in Lyon, and as Gabrielle gazes out of the car window she spots a street name that has a great significance for her, but at this point we don't know why that is.

We then cut to her as a much younger woman, standing in a stream with the water seemingly stimulating sexually her as it rushes between her legs while she wears no underwear. From there, she goes to a school, where the teacher is alone as she sits down at the back of the room. When she does approach him it becomes clear that she has a serious sexual crush on him, feelings that he in no way reciprocates. Back at home, her mother in particular is very disturbed by Gabrielles behaviour, matters coming to a head when Gabrielle, having once again not managed to gain the teacher's attention, assaults him at the post-harvest party. After this she runs off into the countryside, resulting in the need for a search party, that finds her collapsed with exhaustion on an embankment.

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The Shape of Water


The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro has an eye for fantasy, as anybody who saw Pan's Labyrinth will testify. The Shape of Water is no less fantastic. Set in the 1960's, within an entirely believable secret research establishment, the scientists have captured a humanoid sea creature, regarded as a god in its native South America. But in the USA it is an asset, a scientific specimen that is horrendously maltreated by its capturer, Colonel Richard Strickland. He brandishes an electric cattle prod, which he employs to the point where the creature is rendered almost lifeless. He doesn't, however, have things all his own way, losing two fingers in one encounter, which doesn't improve his feelings towards his captive.

Despite the high security level at the establishment, there is a staff of female cleaners who access the restricted areas almost at will, presumably because the bosses don't regard them as a security risk. Among them is Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute orphan who was found by the river as a baby. Esposito in old Italian was a surname given to foundlings. Elisa lives in a flat next to Giles, a graphic designer, who is himself a bit of an odd fellow, but he and Elisa get on just fine. A sort of platonic friendship where each appreciates the other foibles, communication being by sign language. Elis'a morning routine opens the film, a bizarre sequence wherein she puts eggs in water, sets the timer, and then proceeds to take a bath while masturbating. It would seem that this is in fact her regular daily routine. Read More…

Battle of the Sexes


Battle of the Sexes

Once again we saw a film on its opening day. I can't remember watching the original match upon which this film is based, although I do recollect the news around it at the time. And I knew who won.

While Emma Stone is a good look-alike for Billie Jean King, Steve Carrell is even more of a doppelganger for Bobby Riggs. And both convey well the respective personalities and beliefs of the people they are playing. An impassioned believer in sexual equality pitted against the chauvinistic misogynist.

However, this isn't really a film about tennis. Yes, we see parts of the famous match, but you don't need to be a tennis aficionado to recognise that the tennis we see isn't consistent with Billie Jean King at the top of her game. But there's only so much an actor can do to inhabit a role. No, this is a story about King's fight for equality in the game, and a far less public battle with her own sexuality.

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The Mountain Between Us


The Mountain Between Us


The professional critics' reviews of this film are far from positive, most crediting Idris Elba and Kate Winslet with rescuing what would otherwise be a complete flop. I sometimes think these critics lose sight of the fact that most people go to the cinema to be entertained, and I think that this film meets that criterion. Yes, the plot is pushing probability; yes, the romance is a bit contrived; but we all need a bit of escapism and if we want really hard reality, there are other films that meet this need.

Elba and Winslet, playing neurosurgeon Ben Bass and photo journalist Alex Martin respectively, are thrown together, so to speak, when all flights from Idaho are cancelled because of an impending storm. Both have an urgent need to get places. He is to operate to save a 10-year-old child, while she is to be married the next day in New York. With all hopes of a scheduled flight gone, Alex negotiates a charter flight in a light aircraft. The pilot Walter (Beau Bridges) is a bit of a character, the plane doesn't inspire confidence, and things go desperately wrong when Walter has a stroke over the Uintas Mountains. The plane comes down on high ground, leaving Alex, Ben and the pilot's Labrador dog stranded. Walter doesn't make it. The scenery is breathtaking but that's of little comfort to our two travellers. Ben is bruised but conscious, while Alex is alive but unconscious, and with a bad leg injury.

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Home Again


Home Again


We had a choice of three films at the cinema yesterday: Flatliners, Goodbye Christopher Robin and Home again. I really didn't fancy Flatliners and was put off Christopher Robin by the Guardian review. So we went for Home Again.

Reese Witherspoon stars in what is an archetypical American RomCom. She plays a single mum, Alice Kinney, with two children, who has moved back to her late father's house in LA, leaving an estranged husband in New York where he is 'always busy' with his music business. As single mums go she isn't doing too badly. The house is drop-dead gorgeous and her chosen profession is to be an interior designer. Hardly up against it, although the eldest daughter, Isabel, is suffering a bit of a confidence crisis.

We are also introduced to a male trio, Harry, Teddy and George, who are ambitious fledgling film makers looking for an intro to the industry, and financial backing to launch their first movie. Worlds collide, literally, when Harry bumps into Alice, who's on a girls night out to celebrate her birthday. Despite the age difference, 40 v 27, Harry is immediately taken with Alice, and the boys and girls get together for the rest of the evening, all ending up back at Alice's. Harry and Alice's relationship is well on the way to being consummated when Harry's alcoholic excesses catch up with him, requiring a rush to the bathroom. That sort of put a damper on things.

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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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Baby Driver


Baby Driver

Baby Driver was released today and we went to see it. The trailer whetted my interest and a number of positive reviews reinforced my first impressions.

With quite a lot of film genres around that start to get repetitive, it's good when something comes along that's a bit different. You will no doubt think to yourself that there have been plenty of driving movies, but while the driving is certainly integral to this film, it's not really what marks it out as special. Baby, the young man who gives the film it's name, is in hock to master criminal Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, after he stole his car not realising from whom he was stealing. Doc found out a bit about Baby, so rather than killing him, he employed him as a driver for a series of heists. Baby has to work off the debt, but he is to find out that once he is in with people like Doc, it is difficult to break free.

The lead-in to the film shows us one such heist, with Baby producing some impressive manoeuvres in a 2007 Subaru WRX. All the car action in this film is realistic, with no CGI or 'green screen' effects, and there's certainly some very impressive driving on display. Baby is constantly listening to his iPod. When other members of the gang question why he does this, Doc explains he has tinnitus, and the music blocks out the ringing in his ears. This isn't the whole story, however, and we learn that his mother was a singer, and that a traumatic incident in his childhood influences much of what he does. We also are introduced to his foster father, and the very special relationship between them. We come to understand that Baby is a complex person.

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My Cousin Rachel


My Cousin Rachel

From Daphne du Maurier's 1951 novel, which I haven't read, this period drama treats us to some beautiful cinematography and a story that leaves you undecided as to whether the eponymous Rachel is a woman or a witch.

Philip Ashley was raised by his cousin Ambrose, who he regards and loves as a father. When Ambrose becomes ill he goes to Florence for the more beneficial climate, and while there falls in love with Rachel. His letters back to Philip initially contain nothing but praise for this woman, but after he marries her the tone changes completely. He accuses her of blocking his letters and worse, and pleads to come home to get away from this devil woman. Philip travels to Italy to see Ambrose but when he arrives it's too late. His cousin has died and Rachel has gone. He meets Rainaldi, who turns out to be Rachel's co-conspirator, if indeed a conspiracy is involved. At this stage Philip promises retribution on Rachel.

When Rachel ultimately appears at Philip's house all thoughts of retribution melt away. He is clearly enthralled by her from the moment they first meet. And so he becomes deeper and deeper absorbed, losing interest in his close friend Louise, who clearly has feelings for him and is becoming increasingly concerned. Philip's 25th birthday is approaching, when he will inherit everything that is held in trust. His feelings for Rachel cause him to draft a new will that leaves everything to her, on condition she will forfeit everything if she remarries. He also removes all the family jewellery from the safe keeping of his solicitor. With the jewellery in a bag and the will in his pocket, he romantically climbs the ivy up to Rachel's room, where at the stroke of midnight he fulfils his desire to be intimate with her. But in the morning she has gone, leaving him to celebrate his birthday alone. She later returns having gone to Philip's godfather, Nick Kendall, Louise's father, where she says she sought to clarify certain aspects of the will. After a less than romantic bit of love making in the bluebells, Rachel later rejects Philip's assumption that they will marry and we know that his feelings for her are not being returned.

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The Promise


The Promise

This is a film that takes an important if much contested historical event as the setting for a love triangle. The event is the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, although Turkey has never accepted the term genocide for what took place. The love triangle is between Mikael, an Armenian medical student, Ana, an Armenian raised largely in Paris and her boyfriend, Chris, an American journalist.

Mikael has left his village for Constantinople to study medicine. He is betrothed to Maral back in his village, the dowry he received funding his studies. Mikael's father has told him to contact an uncle in Constantinople who runs a successful business and it is when Mikael goes to his uncle's house that he meets Ana, who appears to be a form of governess for the children. Meanwhile, in medical school Mikael makes friends with Emre, a reluctant student but the son of high-ranking Turkish official. At a reception at Emre's house Mikael again meets Ana who's with her boyfriend Chris. Ana and Mikael, who are mutually attracted to each other, subsequently begin a relationship

It isn't long before things turn nasty as Armenians are rounded up and fear spreads. Mikael is temporarily reprieved thanks to his friend Emre, but as a result Emre himself incurs the displeasure of his father. Ana and Mikael witness the ransacked shop of his uncle and Mikael goes to try to secure his uncle's release. Emre again tries to help, but this time his influence isn't strong enough and Mikael ends up doing hard labour on a railway construction project under the eyes of brutal Turkish soldiers. A chain of events result in his escape and he eventually makes his way back to his village where his family and Maral are waiting. Maral's father insists on a quick wedding after which the couple move to a remote cabin.

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Their Finest


Their Finest

Their Finest
is set in London in 1940 and takes us into the cinematic world of wartime propaganda. The Dunkirk evacuation is still raw in the minds of the public and the Ministry of Information is keen to raise moral while at the same time seeking to convince the Americans that they should join the war. Catrin, played by Gemma Arterton, has been identified as a possible script copywriter, bringing the female perspective to these public information films. She has come to London from Wales to be with her husband, Ellis, an artist whose work isn't actually mainstream, and unsurprisingly isn't selling well. Thus it falls to Catrin to earn some money.

Catrin is dispatched to interview two sisters who 'borrowed' their father's boat to join the Dunkirk evacuation. This is seen as an ideal story upon which to base a moral-lifting film. Catrin is to work with Tom, who first spotted a piece she had written. Tom's sarcasm and dismissiveness of women's dialogue as 'slop' leads to a continuing and often amusing banter between them, although it soon becomes apparent that he is attracted to her. The third member of the team is Raymond, who largely just watches on as the other two trade words. Phyl Moore, played by Rachel Stirling, keeps tabs on the team on behalf of the Ministry, her clear preference for women playing well with Tom's brand of sarcasm.

After an initial hiccup, the decision to make the film is made, and Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) is to play the sister's uncle. This was a role reluctantly accepted, as Ambrose, once famous for a screen detective, wants to play Johnny, the young rescued soldier. At risk of losing his agent, Ambrose eventually agrees to the lesser role. Things are progressing well when the team are told that they must incorporate an American serviceman in the cast, the handsome Norwegian Carl Lundbeck (even Phyl's head is turned), but unfortunately he can't act. Catrin is called upon to pander to Ambrose's ego when they want him to help Carl deliver his lines. In fact, Catrin, who earlier in the film has a brush with Ambrose, becomes his trusted scriptwriter, upon whom he comes to depend.

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Julieta


Julieta

Looking for a film to watch on Amazon Prime yesterday evening we decided on the well-reviewed Julieta. Not a French film this time, but Spanish, and a slight hiccup at the beginning when I had to work out how to display the missing subtitles.

The film starts with Julieta (Emma Suárez) packing to leave for Portugal, bubble-wrapping a small statuette the significance of which is revealed much later in the story. It is to be a new life with Lorenzo. But a chance meeting with a childhood friend of her estranged daughter stops her in her tracks. Beatriz (Bea), the friend, tells Julieta that she had met her daughter, Antía, in Switzerland, where she was living with three children. Julieta subsequently informs Lorenzo that she won't be going to Portugal, leaving him totally baffled.

We are then taken back to Juileta's youth, with Adriana Ugarte now playing the younger woman. She is on a train and declines an invitation to chat with a man who sits opposite, instead going to the lounge car. This results in two major emotional episodes, the first being that she meets Xoan, a fisherman, who will become her partner, and the second that the man she moved away from commits suicide, something for which she feels in some way responsible.

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Mon Roi (My King)


Mon Roi (My King)

Directed by French actress Maïwenn Le Besco, this film certainly offers a female perspective of what it must be like to be a woman in love with an absolute jerk. I felt sorry for her and embarrassed by his shameless mistreatment. Vincent Cassel plays the said jerk, Georgio, while Emmanuelle Bercot is his long suffering girlfriend/wife Tony.

The film starts in the mountains where Tony launches into an aggressive downhill ski slope, this being the prequel to us seeing her in convalescence recovering from a serious leg injury. During this recovery she reflects back on her relationship with Georgio, the good, the bad and the awful. In fact the film continually jumps between the convalescence home and their past, to the point that at the end I wasn't too sure what time frame I was watching.

Their relationship starts in a club, where Tony eyes Georgio, prior to flicking water in his face. In doing this she is emulating what she had seen him do years before, when she was serving in a bar. It was part of his chat-up technique. They are instantly attracted to each other and thus begins a fun-filled period, which is portrayed as being everything one could wish from a relationship. The only problem is that Georgio had a girlfriend, Agnès, a model, who calmly informs Tony that she has stolen her man. It transpires that Georgio has known quite a few models: quite a few women in fact. And Georgio hasn't quite fully broken off his relationship with Agnès, so when she attempts suicide and ends up seriously ill in hospital, Georgio starts to spend more and more time with her, and less with Tony.

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Gemma Bovery

I had read about this film when it was released and although it wasn't included in Amazon's free Prime offers, I decided to fork out £3.49 to see it. The attraction was that it had a fair amount of French dialogue and it stars Gemma Arteton, who I find very attractive.

Gemma Bovery

The plot involves a baker, Martin, who, having eschewed the life as a publisher in Paris, has returned to his little home town to run his late father's bakery. Onto the scene arrives Gemma Bovery and Charles her husband, an English couple who have bought a rundown house opposite the baker's home. Martin is immediately taken with Gemma, constantly looking at her to the point of leering - "goodbye to sexual tranquility". But that's not his only interest in her. He is fascinated by the fact that a 'Bovery' has moved into the area, the very region where Gustave Flaubert, the author of Madame Bovary, was born, and where his famous novel was set.

His fascination deepens when Gemma appears to be having a liaison with a young man, Hervé, whose family is local aristocracy. The parallels with Flaubert's novel intrigue Martin. He imagines himself as a director of a film and casts these characters into their present roles. To Martin the parallels with the Madame Bovary novel are glaringly obvious, even if they're not so to his wife and son. Emma and Charles from the novel become Gemma and Charles. In the novel Emma's romantic involvements don't end well, and Martin fears that the same fate awaits Gemma. He therefore takes steps to try to end her affair with Hervè.

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L'Hermine (Courted)

Amazon currently has a number of very good films on offer that are free to watch for Prime members. The latest on my watchlist is L'Hermine, referring to the attire of the criminal court judge in this courtroom drama. The English title, Courted, is a play on words, referring obviously to the court, while also alluding to the romantic story that runs in parallel with the progress of the trial.

L'Hermine (Courted)

Michel Racine is the judge, or more correctly in the French criminal court (cour d'assises), le président of the court. A fact that he takes pains to point out to a number of the witnesses, who mistakingly address him as Monsieur Judge. He has a ruthless reputation, not improved by having a touch of the flu, and is about to try a case where a young man is accused of killing his baby daughter by kicking her. We are shown the preliminaries of the case, including the selection of jurors. During this process, whereby the judge picks names from a pot, the name Ditte Lorensen-Coteret comes out, causing an immediate change in the judge's demeanour. There is obviously history between them.

The trial commences and a recess is called much earlier than usual, caused it seems by Judge Racine's encounter with Ditte. When things recommence the accused, Martial Beclin, refuses to answer any questions, simply saying in response to each that he didn't kill his daughter. The trial progresses with evidence from witnesses and interventions by the lawyers for each side, but it is interesting how the judge himself also asks searching questions. Also, before each witness is dismissed from the stand the jurors are also given the opportunity to ask questions.

During a lunch break Racine contacts Ditte by SMS and eventually they arrange to meet. Apparently such a meeting between the judge and a juror is not illegal but highly unusual. It transpires that Ditte, a nurse, looked after Racine after a serious accident, following which he had effectively fallen in love with her. Attempts then to stay in contact with her had failed. He doesn't want this second encounter to end in the same way and expresses his love for her, while she remains noticeably noncommittal. At a subsequent meeting between them, Ditte's 17 year old daughter is there, having unexpectedly come to court to watch proceedings. Racine and her actually get along very well, although she does take a call when he's part way through reciting verse, prompting him to remark that she obviously wasn't impressed by the poet.

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Hacksaw Ridge

This week's film at the cinema was Hacksaw Ridge. I hadn't researched it beforehand and must say that I was pleasantly surprised.

Hacksaw Ridge

It's a film of two parts. The first charts the early life of Desmond Doss, a country lad from Virginia who learns a salutary lesson early in life when he nearly kills his brother in a fight. This episode, along with the influence of his religious mother, and his Seventh-Day Adventist religion, reinforces in him the commandment that states, 'Thou shalt not kill'. When the young men in the town start signing up to fight in World War II, Desmomd feels that he must too. But his religious and conscientious beliefs mean that he does not want to fight. He wants to save lives as a medic. This desire arose from an incident whereby he effectively saves the life of a young man, an event that also leads to him meeting a nurse, Dorothy Shutte, to whom he is instantly attracted. A rather innocent courtship ensues and the couple arrange to be married on Desmond's first leave period from his army training.

And so to the second part of the film, a much darker and hard-hitting affair. The army isn't ready to receive a recruit who is a conscientious objector, who refuses to contemplate killing and who won't even hold a rifle. His superiors set out to make life so uncomfortable for him that he will chose to seek a discharge. But they hadn't reckoned with his resolve, and after a courts martial hearing that unexpectedly fails to convict Desmond, he is free to join the other troops and go to war unarmed.

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Une Famille à Louer

My latest French language film is a good bit lighter than the last (Éperdument). This time we have an entirely improbable scenario but, in the time-honoured fashion of French films, the characterisations make it appear believable while providing a good deal of amusement.

Une Famille à Louer

Paul-André is a businessman who in making lots of money from software development burnt himself out. He now lives in a palatial if somewhat boring mansion with his butler, appearing to be constantly morose although denying that is the case. Violette is a single mum with two children and has just been released from remand after assaulting a supermarket security guard, who caught her stealing a chicken to feed her family. She is broke and under threat of losing her children to care. Interviewed on TV she makes a heartfelt appeal about the importance of the family and not wanting to lose her children.

Paul-André catches this interview and has the brilliant idea of helping Violette, by paying her debts and renting her family. As I've said, the plot is improbable. His reason is that he wants to experience having a family before committing to have his own. Having dispensed with the assurance that he is not looking for a relationship with Violette, a contract is drawn up for a three-month trial. Violette insists, however, that he lives with them. So we see Paul-André leaving his mansion to move into a house that has the appearance of a shanty.

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La La Land

We went to see La La Land this week. For a change I found myself going to watch a film that had received almost unblemished positive reviews. So did it warrant the hype?

It's a homage to the classic Hollywood musicals and perhaps that's what's holding me back from saying, "Yes, it was everything I expected, a truly wonderful movie." Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are faultless as two young people navigating the uncompromising pitfalls of show business in Los Angeles, but they're not Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It is, therefore, in my opinion wrong to compare it with the remarkable musicals of yesteryear. Once you put that comparison aside then, yes, it is wonderful.

La La Land

In the opening sequence a 'spontaneous' song and dance routine breaks the monotony of an LA traffic jam. It's fun but I'm not sure that it will stick in the eternal memory in the same way as Fame or Grease Lightning. But it serves to introduce us to Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Stone). Sebastian is a frustrated jazz pianist working as a purveyor of trite melodies to diners in a club, a job that's clearly driving him mad. Mia, meanwhile, is working in a diner while trying to break into acting. I found the initial audition scene quite amazing and, quite frankly, if they rejected her, as they did, then whoever got the job must have been truly gifted. Emma Stone is an amazing actress even when she's acting at being a not-so-amazing actress.

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Live by Night

No golf today as it rained all morning, so instead we went to the cinema. Our choice, Live by Night, starring Ben Affleck who also wrote and directed it. We enjoyed it but checking out the reviews when I got home it would appear that we're perhaps in the minority. The Guardian uses one of its recurring descriptions, namely too sanitised. Meanwhile at Rotten Tomatoes neither critics nor audience are overwhelmed. The general consensus seems to be that it is a good story, taken from a good novel, but that it just doesn't quite succeed.

Live by Night

Set in Prohibition Boston, and subsequently in Tampa Florida, Joe Coughlin (Affleck) is a small time 'outlaw', which is what he choses to call himself as distinct from a gangster. Having had his fill of killing, and taking orders, in the First World War, he robs but doesn't kill. Unfortunately the resident 'mobs' don't find his activities acceptable and the head of the 'Irish Gang', Albert White, suggests that he gets rid of his incompetent sidekicks and joins his gang. Things are complicated by the fact that Joe is having a relationship with White's moll, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), a certain death warrant should White find out. A further complication, or one might say surprise, is that Joe's father, Thomas, is a police captain. The final complication is that Maso Pescatore, the Italian Mafias boss, has discovered the affair between Joe and Emma, and threatens blackmail in an attempt to get Joe to kill White.

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Down by Love (Eperdument)

The French title of this film, Éperdument (madly / head over heels), perhaps conveys its story better than the English one. It's based on what was a quite recent real life event, when in 2012 a prison governor, Florent Gonçalves, was jailed for a year after having sexual relations with one of the female inmates at a remand centre at Versailles. The woman concerned, Emma, had been part of a gang that carried out a horrific assault on a young Jewish man who died of his injuries. The governor had a brilliant career in front of him, being at that time the youngest in that position.

The film takes a somewhat more sanitised view of this affair. The woman is named Anna in this dramatisation and we are never told what her crime was, while the governor is Jean Firmino. The casting of Guillaume Gallienne as the governor provides a remarkable likeness to Gonçalves (second photo). Adèle Exarchopoulos plays Anna.

Down by Love (Eperdument)

The way the story is told suggests that what started as a fascination between the two of them slowly developed into a deeper relationship, leading to the point where he was infatuated, thus the film title, jeopardising his job and ruining his relationship with his wife. In the real life story, Emma had lured the young Jewish man to his death, suggesting she was somewhat of a seductress. In the film Anna is shown as falling for Jean rather than overtly seducing him, although at one point she does pose topless for an art session while he is watching, the class being taken rather bizarrely by his wife, who also works in the prison. In fact at this point his wife begins to suspect that there is something between them. However, at an earlier point in the story Anna asks to be transferred because she feared things were getting too serious, and much later she says to her mother that she didn't want Jean to lose his job, or to be responsible for breaking up his family. She certainly doesn't come across as a classic femme fatale.

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Comme un Avion

My latest French film viewing on Amazon Prime. It fascinates me how the English titles of French films are often far removed from the original French. In this case 'Comme un Avion' becomes 'The Sweet Escape'. I can see the reasoning behind each, the change presumably reflecting the distributors take on the different cultures.

Comme un Avion

Michel dreams of being an airmail pilot and spends quite a lot of time walking around with a model plane in his hand simulating flying. Thus you can see where Comme un Avion (as a plane) comes from. Despite being bought flying lessons for his birthday, one suspects that he realises that he will never be an aviator, so when he spots an advert on line for a kayak, his attention is immediately drawn to the similarities of cruising along in a plane and cruising along in a kayak. So he buys the kayak and plans a self-sufficient adventure, having had no training other than practising by walking around on his roof terrace with the frame of the kayak suspended about him as he pretends to paddle.

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Les Anarchistes

I'm back to watching French films on Amazon Prime while I'm on my exercise bike. I've had a break while I watched Season 3 of Arrow, which quite frankly has started to become a bit too daft as they try to develop new plot lines. Everyone's turning into a superhero of sorts!

Anyway, back to Les Anarchistes. As the Guardian reviewer said, "…. a film that couldn’t be any more French if it tried." It opened the Canne's Critics Week in 2015. Set in Paris in 1899, Jean Albertini is a normal policeman who is taken aside by a superior and asked to infiltrate an anarchists' group. He gets himself a job at the nail factory, a hellish sort of place where the workers have plenty to grumble about, and where members of the group are employed. He strikes up a particular friendship with Elisée Mayer, after 'saving' him during a police raid, which itself was a set-up to enable Jean to prove his loyalty to the group.

Les Anarchistes

While Elisée clearly trusts Jean, other members of the group are less sure. Elisée seems not to be in the best of health, and his girlfriend, Judith, soon starts to develop an interest in Jean, feelings that Jean willingly reciprocates. We therefore have the classic dilemma of the infiltrator having split loyalties between his police role and his feelings for Judith.

The anarchists exploits become more and more daring, while Jean continues to feed intelligence to his superior. We see Jean becoming concerned as he is obliged to participate in criminality and at one point asks to be taken off the case, a request that is firmly rejected. The dichotomy has to come to an end and as you may imagine there isn't a clean solution.

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Allied

Today's film was Allied, with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Brad's break up with Angelina and rumours about an affair with Ms Cotillard have sort of overshadowed this film, and reviews have certainly been mixed. Peter Bradshaw at the Guardian was scathing about the lack of chemistry between them, although I suppose it depends on how you define chemistry. As operatives working behind enemy lines at the beginning of the film you would expect a certain amount of distrust between them, but the relationship seemed to warm up nicely as things progressed.

Allied

After a daring assassination in German occupied Casablanca the pair, Max Vatan and Marianne Beauséjour return to London to marry, after awaiting the outcome of a positive vetting for Marianne. Everything is domestic bliss until Max is summoned to meet an intelligence officer, whereupon he is told that his wife may not in fact be who he thinks she is. In fact she may be working for the Germans. Max will not accept this and proceeds to ignore orders in his quest to prove her innocence. This unfortunately doesn't have the outcome that he was hoping for, but it doesn't diminish his feelings for her.

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A United Kingdom


A United Kingdom

We saw this film last week but I've only just got around to writing the review. Based on a true story it tells of a romance between a young coloured man, Seretse Khama, played by David Oyelowo, who was studying in Britain after the war, and an English office worker, Ruth Williams, played by Rosamund Pike. This in itself marked them out for attention in the late 40s, but when it transpired that the young man was in fact the heir to the African kingdom of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) it wasn't just their families and the local racists that they needed to worry about. The British Government effectively forbade the marriage, being under pressure from South Africa, which was at that time entering the apartheid regime. They married anyway and there followed a struggle against the full force of the British government and the cultural expectations of Seretse's people in Bechuanaland.

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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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Café Society

We had the privilege of seeing this film on its opening day at Cannes, but we weren't that privileged, as we saw it along the coast in Nice. Second best perhaps but still a bit of a coup. It was shown with original English dialogue and French subtitles, which was in itself interesting for me, as I compared how things were expressed in two languages that share so many words but are at the same time so different.

Café Society

Set in 1930s Hollywood, Phil Stern is the movie executive trying to keep a number of balls in the air when he is asked to find a job for his sister's boy, Bobby. When his sister Rose calls, Phil answers "Rose?" in apparent ignorance of who she is, which sort of sets the scene. Rose's life is a million miles divorced from Phil's, while Ben, Bobby's brother is a budding gangster.

Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby plays the naive New Yorker very well, his introduction to Hollywood being an arranged date with a hooker, a novice Jewish hooker no less, and the resulting encounter is very amusing. Bobby soon becomes enchanted with Phil's assistant, Vonnie (Veronica), played by Kristen Stewart. Love blossoms but there's a complication, a big complication, and they split.

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Grand Central

Because we're puppy sitting, which entails a couple of walks a day, I haven't been on the exercise bike much, and as a result I haven't been watching French films, which I usually do while exercising.

I did, however, manage to finish watching Grand Central. A 'Central' in French is a power station, and Grand Central is a nuclear plant. An unlikely setting for a story of romance, but in the hands of the French female director/screenwriter Rebecca Zlotowski it works.

Gary, played by Tahar Rahim (Un Prophet), is a casual worker looking for a job. The interview for the power station is no more than a formality, as there aren't that many people who want to work in highly radioactive areas. He joins a team led by Toni (Denis Ménochet) and is soon introduced to Toni's fiancé, Karole (Léa Seydoux), who has a novel way of showing Gary what over exposure to radioactivity is like. At their first meeting, before he knows who she is, she kisses him passionately while explaining that he is probably feeling fear, blurred vision, head spinning, legs shaking - and that's just a small dose! An interesting analogy. Of course, the inevitable happens, as Gary and Karole start an affair.

Grand Central

The film concentrates on the close group of workers who exist almost outside normal society. Gary appears uneasy when he's with Toni, presumably because of guilt, but he ends up rescuing Toni after his airline becomes detached, resulting in Gary receiving a high dose of radiation when he removes his protective gloves. I wasn't sure at one point whether Gary was contemplating letting Toni suffocate, and I felt that Toni also harboured the same fear.

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Suzanne

My French film season continues courtesy of Amazon Prime. This week the film was Suzanne, the story of a young woman's life from childhood, albeit that the film jumps large periods of time as her story unfolds.

I didn't know what to expect from this film. It starts at a children's dance show where Suzanne is with her father, watching her elder sister, Maria. We soon learn that their mum has died young, although we never learn why. The father, Nicolas, an HGV driver, is doing his best to bring up the two girls. At first Maria appears to be the 'wild child', but it is Suzanne who becomes pregnant and has the child, much to her father's shame.

Suzanne

Suzanne then meet Julien and he becomes the centre of her life, to the extent that she leaves her child, Charlie, with her father. But Charlie is taken into the care of foster parents as Nicolas's job means he is away from home for long periods.

Next we jump to a court hearing, where Suzanne is charged with theft and assault in relation to acts carried out with Julien, who fled justice and left her to carry the can. She is sentenced to five years in prison. While her father becomes almost estranged, her sister continues to support her.

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En Équilibre

Another French film from Amazon Prime. This time a love story but far from conventional.

Marc Guermont is a stunt horseman who is seriously injured during a scene. The take involves the horse and rider falling but after successfully doing this the horse, Othello, stamps on Marc's spine having been spooked by a dog. As a consequence he is left a T10 paraplegic.

Florence Kernel is the insurance assessor sent to settle his claim. Marc had already 'thrown out' the previous assessor when he had arrived at the hospital, and Florence had been sent to try a more gentle approach. But Marc felt that he was being short-changed and refused an early settlement. Florence, meanwhile, seemed to be beguiled by Marc's philosophy of life. A classical music lover, he questioned why she hadn't pursued her ambition to be a concert pianist, and this left her questioning her current life.

En Équilibre

She had clearly developed strong feelings for Marc and one is left with the impression that her marriage and family were no longer satisfying her. She is taken off Marc's case, as the company wants a fast settlement, and it stops his interim payments to pressurise him. Florence takes the unusual step of recommending a lawyer, an old college friend, and Marc realises that her interest in him perhaps extends beyond the professional-client relationship.

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Une histoire d'amour

Working through the Amazon Prime list of French films I came to this one. It's very dark and certainly not easy to follow. Reviews were poor and I can see why. It was the debut feature from actress-turned-filmmaker Hélène Fillières and based on a novel by Régis Jauffret -- itself inspired by the murder of financial tycoon Edouard Stern.

Une histoire d'amour

There are really only three characters, who we simply know as the banker, the young woman and, although it isn't clear who he is at first, her husband. The young woman is played by Laetitia Casta, a sultry brunette, while her husband is far from young. She is having a relationship with the banker, who's a masochist and not a very nice person. Her husband is fully aware but I wasn't quite clear about her and his motives, other than perhaps a promised $1m gift.

The title translates as "A Love Story", but there doesn't appear to be much love about. She plays the dominatrix, reversing their real life roles where he is all powerful and she is the slave. Some of the scenes are extremely sensual but certainly not loving. All along he either refers to her as a pute (whore) or a muse, while she seems to be strangely attracted to him. Although I've not read or seen Fifty Shades of Grey, from what I've heard there are probably some similarities with this story. The film jumps about in time and you certainly have to pay attention and concentrate quite hard to fill in the gaps.

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Chic

Helen spotted this film on my Amazon Prime watch list, where I had added a number of French films without paying too much attention as to what they were about. As this one has a fashion theme, it appealed to her, and I didn't mind as I could listen to the French. As it happens the 'French' was tricky to put it mildly, much of it delivered at speed and hardly text book.

Chic

The story is whimsical, reflecting perhaps the fashion industry. Alicia Ricosi, played by Fanny Ardent, is a top fashion designer who's in the doldrums after a break up with her beau. Her assistant, Heléne, is given the job by the fashion house manager, Alan, of restoring Alicia's interest in her work by finding her a new man. This fails miserably, but by chance Alicia meets up with Heléne's Breton landscape gardner, who Heléne has in fact recently fired, and he proves to be the muse that Alicia has been looking for - two artistic types, if you get the drift.

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Pauline à la plage

Yet another French film from Amazon Prime. Made in 1983, I found the acting a bit wooden, but given that the Rotten Tomatoes review awards it 100% from the critics (87% audience), who am I to judge?

I believe that the acclaim for the film probably rests with the fame of its director, Éric Rohmer, described by the Daily Telegraph after his death in 2010 as "the most durable film-maker of the French New Wave", and with his characterisation of the four principal people.

Pauline à la plage

Pauline arrives with her older cousin Marion at the family holiday home on the coast of north-west France. They soon meet up with an ex boyfriend of Marion, Pierre, who is clearly overjoyed to see her again, and hopes to renew their partnership. But Marion has other ideas, and is soon involved with Henri, an older man who is clearly a bit of a womaniser, and to whom Pierre takes an instant dislike.

Pauline, meanwhile, is observing all of this, while having also struck up a friendship with a local lad, Sylvain. Marion's not too keen on Sylvain, while at the same time she is pursuing what is clearly an affair with Henri that's going nowhere. Her advice to Pauline is, therefore, somewhat hypocritical, and doesn't carry much weight.

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Les Adoptés

I'm gradually working my way through the French films that are free to view on Amazon Prime. The latest was Les Adoptés. Mélanie Laurent, who co-wrote the screenplay, directs and stars in this film. Not surprisingly, it's a film with a very female perspective.

Les Adoptés

Perhaps I'm biased, but French films seem to get under the skin of personal relationships far more convincingly than many American ones. Lisa (Mélanie Laurent), a single mum with a little boy, has an adopted sister, Marine (Marie Denarnaud), and the two of them enjoy a close relationship more symptomatic of twins than of a sister and an adopted sister. When Marine falls in love with Alex (Denis Ménochet) this relationship is destabilised, and Lisa takes a dislike to Alex. Their mother, Millie (Clémentine Célarié) is the voice of reason as the two sisters struggle to come to terms with a new set of emotions.

Marine and Alex go through a bit of a bad patch but make up, only for tragedy to strike. With Marine hospitalised, and in a serious condition, Lisa and Alex gradually warm to each other, Alex becoming a sort of a father figure for Lisa's son, Léo, brilliantly played by Théodore Maquet-Foucher.

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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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Elle L'adore

Another French film from Amazon prime.

Muriel is the number one fan of the popular singer Vincent Lacroix. She is also a bit of a dreamer, recounting stories of questionable veracity to her friends. She works as a beautician and has two children, although they live with her former husband.

Elle L'adore

Vincent meanwhile has a girlfriend, Julie, who is a bit highly strung, and one evening 'loses it' because Vincent is playing poker with some friends. The friends leave, Vincent and Julie fight, and Julie is killed as a result of a terrible accident.

Vincent, obviously fearing for his career, hatches a plot to absolve himself from blame. He drives to Muriel's, where without telling her what has happened, he asks her to drive to his sister's in Switzerland, having moved Julie's body from his car boot to hers. Muriel would do anything for Vincent, so she agrees.

As far as Vincent is concerned everything goes to plan, Muriel having confirmed as much. But things didn't go to plan, and Muriel used her initiative, resulting in Julie's body being discovered in the Dordogne. The two police officers who lead the investigation are Pascal and Olivia, who are in a relationship, but Olivia has been unfaithful and there's friction between them, a fact that in the end affects the outcome of their case.

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Carol

I've been to the cinema twice this week, which is unusual. On Tuesday we saw Carol, with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The reviews have been very good and rightly so. This is a beautiful film that charts a relationship between Carol, a married woman in a failed relationship, and Therese Belivet, a young shop assistant who Carol meets by chance while shopping. The film is set in the 1950s, when such a relationship would have broken quite a few taboos.

Carol

Their first meeting generates feelings within both women. For Carol, who has already experienced a relationship with another woman, the feelings are familiar. For Therese, it's a completely new experience that at first she has difficulty coming to terms with, trying at one point to understand by asking her boyfriend if he has ever had feelings for another man. As you might expect, the boyfriend relationship goes quickly downhill from this point.

With her marriage becoming more and more acrimonious Carol asks Theres if she would like to go away with her, and at this point Therese's feelings are such that she readily accepts the invitation. It is during this trip that their love for each other is fully expressed while Carol's husband is meanwhile plotting to make life extremely difficult for her. The trip ends badly and the two women separate, not because of any falling out between them, but because Carol wants to protect the younger woman and deal with issues in her marital relationship.

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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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Trainwreck

We saw Trainwreck this week. I had seen Amy Schumer on the Graham Norton show and found her very funny. She was on the show because of the release of Trainwreck, which she wrote and in which she stars.



It's basically a romantic comedy and the admittedly small audience at the midday screening we attended was certainly predominantly female, two of whom left halfway through the film. I assume that they expected something different.

For a RomCom it doesn't start very romantically. Amy's character, who's also called Amy, is a non committing kind of girl who certainly doesn't seem to be looking for true love - just sex. This is the result of an indoctrination by her father that we witness at the very beginning of the film, although her sister seems to have survived it unscathed. If the Rom bit was missing at the start, the Com bit is full on from the off, and doesn't really let up.

Amy works as a feature writer for a magazine, her hard-headed boss, Dianna, being played brilliantly by Tilda Swinton, although I didn't actually recognise her and only realised it was her when the credits rolled. It's the typical American 'Media' office, or at least typical of the sort of office portrayed in films. I suppose offices like these do exist, where people sit around and propose outlandish ideas but are never seen actually doing any real work.

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Far From the Madding Crowd

I went to see Far From the Madding Crowd today. Most reviews compare it unfavourably with the 1967 adaptation, but as I haven't seen that, I can't comment. Nor have I read the book so am unable to make comparisons there either.

Far From the Madding Crowd

From this viewpoint of not being able to compare, I must say I found the film enjoyable and compelling. Hardy doesn't seem to do 'happy' and this story certainly has its share of heartache, although I understand that among his works it is one that at least has the semblance of a happy ending.

Carey Mulligan was to my mind beautifully cast as Bathsheba. The mystery of course is how such an independent woman could have made such a profound error of judgement with her marriage, an error that was almost immediately apparent to her and everybody else. No doubt this is Hardy's take on the female psyche, but having said this it is a plot line that appears in many stories and dare I say just as often in real life.

The scenery is beautiful, as is the depiction of farm life in those distant non-mechanised days. It was no doubt far less romantic than it appears. The interiors were also beautifully shot.

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Les Jardins du Roi

Les jardins du Roi
While in Nice, France, I went to see Les Jardins du Roi (The King's Gardens), which was entitled A Little Chaos in the UK.

Kate Winslet plays a sort of 17th Century Charlie Dimmock who is hired by Louis XIV's chief landscape architect to help create the lavish garden at Versailles. This raises a few eyebrows in the royal court and, of course, romance is in the air. Alan Rickman as the Louis XIV adds his usual brand of humour and the whole thing is a bit whimsical.

It received poor reviews and I must say it wasn't the most memorable of films. However, the French dialogue wasn't too complicated and while I didn't understand everything, there were a lot of sentences and words that I got. It is of course wholly appropriate for this film to have a French dialogue.

The final scene was pure saccharine.


Amour

We didn't get to the cinema last week as it gets a bit busy during school holidays. We did, however, watch a film we had recorded: Amour, directed by Michael Haneke and starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.

Amour

This is an exceptional film. Georges and Anne are retired music teachers in their 80s living in a rather splendid Paris apartment. Anne suffers a stroke and the story, which takes place entirely within the apartment, is that of how Georges cares for her as she deteriorates and ultimately progresses into dementia. In accordance with her wishes, he won't allow her to go to a hospital or care home, a fact that confuses and frustrates their daughter, whose help Georges rejects.

This is a story so human, so real, that it feels at times almost like a fly-on-the-wall documentary. But that would understate its artistic brilliance. A richly deserved Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, this is directing and acting at its best. Despite the subject matter, it isn't without humour, largely thanks to Georges.

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Suite Française

We saw Suite Française today. Set in the French town of Bussy during the early part of the Second Word War, it at first shows us how the residents react to the arrival of German soldiers, which in many cases amounts to denigrating their neighbours in order to win favour for themselves.

Suite Française

The story revolves around Madame Angellier, a fearsome lady who has few friends, being that she collects rent from many of the locals, and her daughter-in-law, Lucile, who she domineers and demeans. Into this strained company comes the German officer Bruno von Falk. Lucile's husband is away fighting, but their marriage appears to have been arranged and Madame Angellier is clearly of the opinion that Lucile is not good enough for her son.

Bruno turns out to be a true gentleman, who composes music, and Lucile soon finds herself with romantic feelings for him, despite the ill feeling towards French women who consort with Germans. But meanwhile others are not faring as well under the German occupation. A family that rents a farm from Madame Angellier is particularly affected when a German officer billeted with them starts to show an interest in the farmer's wife. A sequence of events leads to the death of this officer, which provokes a deadly response from the German command.

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The Theory of Everything

We went to see The Theory of Everything today. It's been much spoken about and I must say that both Eddie Redmayne, as Stephen Hawking, and Felicity Jones, as his wife Jane, were very impressive.

The Theory of Everything

It's very much the story of the people, rather than that of Hawking's science, although the latter does of course flow along with the personal stories. By coincidence I read A Brief History of Time quite recently. You certainly don't need to have read it to appreciate the film, although there were a few moments in the film when I felt that I understood the context more fully having read the book. Of course these were associated with technical issues, the film itself having been based on Jane's book of their relationship [Travelling to Infinity – My Life with Stephen], not Stephen's earlier technical offering.

The fortitude of Stephen Hawking faced with a totally debilitating illness is quite remarkable, but no more remarkable than the devotion Jane showed in looking after him and raising their three children. Her career was put on hold, and it's a further credit to her that she rekindled it, and is now a professor of Romance Languages. They were married for 30 years, although separated five years before becoming divorced.

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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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One Chance

We saw One Chance last Wednesday and I enjoyed it. The reviews, however, are somewhat tepid, which leads me to believe that I am perhaps easily entertained.

The Guardian reviewer felt that James Corden was hopelessly miscast as Paul Potts. In fact I detected from him quite a downer on James Corden. As I know absolutely nothing about the real Paul Potts I am unable to judge.

Whether or not the real life relationship between Potts and his girlfriend Julie was as sweet and quirky as the film portrays, for me the narrative played out very well. Alexandra Roach, who plays Julie, has the most lovely soft Welsh accent that you wish to hear, assuming of course you like the Welsh accent.

I suppose that what was in reality quite a tough climb from obscurity to stardom may have deserved a film that was a lot less fun, but the director was clearly not making a documentary and has instead delivered something that I feel may be a lot more popular with the general public than it is with the film critics.


Sunshine on Leith

Today's film was Sunshine on Leith. Anybody who comes out of the cinema not feeling uplifted after seeing this film must be very depressed indeed.

You have probably already guessed that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The narrative is woven around the songs of the Proclaimers and it all makes for a very enjoyable 100 minutes of cinema.

Contrived - yes. Artificial - yes. But it's nice sometimes just to settle back and enjoy the fairy story, even though there were a few heartbreaking moments along the way. But, as with most fairy stories, everything more or less comes right in the end.


About Time

Today's film was 'About Time'. Reviews have been mixed, from downright dismissive (Chris Hunneysett Mirror.co.uk) to generally enthusiastic (Rotten Tomatoes).

OK, it's saccharine, it hangs on a ludicrous time traveller plot and almost everybody lives happily ever after, but all of this makes quite a pleasant change.

I liked it, and far from agreeing with the Mirror reviewer who felt that Richard Curtis was Yank-bashing, by giving Rachel McAdams "dodgy hair and dowdy clothes", I thought she was absolutely charming and would have fallen for her if she was wearing sackcloth.

Yes, Domhnall Gleeson was perhaps a bit too much like Hugh Grant, and yes it was a bit formulaic of Curtis's previous successes, but it was entertaining. I agree that the 'rules' of time travel were a bit arbitrary, and at times perhaps contradictory, but I really don't think there's much point splitting hairs over something that's generally regarded as impossible. And some critics have been exercised by the 'father and son' thing. I suggest you forget all that and just sit back and feel good. For me that was not difficult in the presence of Rachel McAdams.


Populaire

Back to Orange Wednesday after a couple of weeks' break from the cinema. Today I was treated to a French film: Populaire.

I found this to be a lovely film. Perhaps a bit too sweet for some, but I was enchanted by Rose (Déborah François) and enjoyed the mix of emotion and humour. And, for a change, I actually was able to understand quite a bit of the French. Not enough to have enjoyed it without subtitles but enough to be able to compare what they actually said with what the subtitle editor came up with.

It has been compared in some respects with The Artist. The Guardian review made the following observation:

Where The Artist was a black-and-white homage to the American silent cinema of the 1920s that was shattered by the coming of sound, Populaire is a love letter to the under-appreciated Hollywood movies of the 1950s, with a wonderful feeling for the textures of Technicolor.

If you like French films it's well worth seeing.


I Give it a Year

We saw 'I Give it a Year' today. A sort of back to front rom-com where we start with a marriage and end up with a divorce.

There were certainly some good laughs, many of the cringing variety. The visit to the marriage counsellor was particularly funny. It was a film that certainly didn't need super concentration.

Spoiler alert - don't read below the clip if you don't want the ending spoiled.



What I couldn't quite get, however, is while Nat (the wife) ultimately ends up with her American, Chloe (the husband's ex-girlfriend) deserved an awful lot more than to end up back with this all-time a***hole. So what was supposed to be the 'dream' ending didn't work for me.