Film Review · review · Uncategorized

Review; Les Adventures Extraordinaires d’Adele Blanc-Sec ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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This is, to me, a typical French film; eccentric, imaginative, wonderful. The only thing that stops it from being perfect is that it’s overly long. I think this is primarily because the character Adèle Blanc-Sec is based on a cartoon series popular in France, and the makers wanted to introduce well known elements such as the character of Professor Dieuleveult (Mathieu Amalric). However, for those unfamiliar with the storyline at least, this is an unwelcome distraction – particularly in the rambling ending.

The film incorporates events from “Adèle and the Beast” from 1976 and 1978’s “Mummies on Parade” and takes place primarily in Paris, 1912.

An overview of the plot is that Professor Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian) hatches a 136 million year-old pterosaur egg within the Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée, whilst experimenting with telepathic techniques he’s been researching. This results in the death of a former prefect and an epidemic of claimed sightings of the creature. The President of France orders the case to be considered of the utmost urgency by the National Police, only for it to be handed down to the bumbling Inspector Albert Caponi (Gilles Lellouche).

The Professor is later located by Caponi and arrested for his part in the events.

We are introduced to Adèle Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin), a journalist and travel writer imageof some fame, whilst she is in Egypt locating the remains of Ramesses II, or more importantly his mummified doctor/physician Patmosis. She is a former student of the Professor and, with his help, wants to revive the mummy so he can in turn save her sister Agathe (Laure de Clermont, bearing a striking similarity to Boirgoin), who is comatose following an unfortunate tennis incident involving a hatpin.

On her arrival in Paris she learns the Professor is on death row, having been blamed for the pterosaur’s attacks. She at first disguises herself in various personas to attempt to free him. However she later comes face to face with the beast itself – and I’ll leave further events at this point so as not to spoil the plot should you wish to view it yourself.

Apart from the length the story itself is very good, with lots of plot twists, action scenes and humour to keep you more than entertained. The animation is very good also, drawing you into the plot.

Adèle is a wonderful character; witty, courageous, intelligent, stylish and feminine. If my little girls choose her as a role model I’d be more than happy – apart from the smoking of course. She is played brilliantly by the beautiful Bourgoin, with the physicality of the role in keeping with the stature of the female lead unlike in Le Proie.

imageAs the film is set in the early twentieth century the sets and clothes are sumptuous – they make you sigh!

The film ends with a scene depicting the Titanic and a plot by the devilish Professor Dieuleveult, a possible set up of another film which may not occur as this was from 2010.

Despite its length I’d happily watch this again, in fact I have as my daughter is a big fan despite the age restriction. I think this, the age restriction, is because of the brief nudity and the animatronics. The former is innocent, Adèle is simply preparing for a bath, and the latter was just seen as intriguing by her as she’s a big fan of Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures.

Well worth a look!

 

Film Review · review · Uncategorized

Review; La Proie ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

imageThe Prey from 2011, streaming on Amazon Prime now,  is a tense and multi-faceted thriller directed by Éric Valette. It’s violent, yes, but the plot twists leave us and its central character Franck Adrien (Albert Dupontel) dealing with one enemy when another, altogether more sinister one, waits in the wings.

Adrien is a bank robber, a successful one part from the internment he is enduring when we’re introduced to him. He has, after all, managed to conceal the money from the police and his former, drug addicted partner along with his loving, dedicated wife.

In a prison run by a corrupt, repugnant official he is repeatedly victimised by his accomplice who becomes ever more desperate to know where the money is hidden. This desperation is fuelled by the debt he owes his powerful supplier on the outside, who ultimately becomes a threat to Adrien too.

Adrien nevertheless shows his moral streak when his cellmate, the apparently pious John-Louis Maurel (Stéphane Debac), is attacked by other inmates for his crimes which involved a young girl. Adrien, believing him to be innocent after reading his diary entries, protects him. As a result he’s left fighting a war on two fronts; his former accomplice and his drug suppliers and the prison authorities and the frustrated vigilantes.

Following an attack he awakes in hospital to find Maurel at his bedside offering his ‘guardian angel’ help. He is soon to be released, having had all charges dropped. Adrien, receiving threats against his family on the outside, decides to trust him with a coded message to his wife about the location of the money to aid her escape from these malignant forces.

Debac’s Maurel has us doubting his innocence throughout. He is too clean cut, too apparently devout. This, coupled with his physical weakness gives him the air of the stereotypical pervert hiding behind the veneer of respectability and vulnerability. It’s as we view Maurel prepare to leave his cell that our doubts are increased; he is seen removing hair from a comb and concealing it in a pill packet.

These prison scenes are interspersed with the introduction of Claire Linné, Alice Taglioni, the female police officer who is ultimately assigned to recapture Adrien. Unlike America and Britain France is not famed for its political correctness and Linné, along with a homosexual colleague, appears to be the film’s attempt at diversity. If the film had concentrated on Linnés detection abilities rather than veering towards the stereotypes of a female officer battling sexism (she is lauded by all her colleagues, yet at the same time belittled for having ‘women’s intuition’?) and making her character physically dominant throughout the film it would have been more successful.

In terms of the physical situations the actress Taglioni is put in they fall flat not because the character can somehow endure what is way beyond any reality; after all this is the case for male characters too. They receive blow after violent blow, are shot, lose pints of blood and still manage to continue. We expect this from films, rightly or wrongly. The difficulty in this film is that Taglioni can’t convince of this as she hasn’t got the physicality. She is catwalk thin, no ‘Sarah Conner’ muscularity, yet apparently able to overcome muscular, underworld criminals by herself?

Even in the sections where she is running she continually looks out of breath, ready to give up any minute.

As regards to her homosexual colleague, whose presence on screen is extremely time limited, he manages to identify his sexual orientation by discussing suspects looks and actually stating how he’d like to ‘interview’ them. Camp is the word and, to be honest, if I was gay I’d be a little offended.

With these grating issues aside the film continues to thrill and the evil of Maurel is enough to have you reaching for the fast forward button, trying to escape it. It’s after his exit from prison that Adrien’s confidence in him is shattered. Debac allows the mask to slip occasionally, brilliantly revealing glimpses of the manipulative, controlling psychopath intent on freeing himself from the constraint of suspiscion by framing Adrien and at the same time satisfying his need to kill.

He is joined by the other female lead, his wife Christine (Natacha Régnier). Whereas Taglioni’s character is stereotypical and unbelievable Régnier’s is uncomfortably challenging. She is complicit in his crimes and – whilst seemingly able to desire living in a seemingly innocent, familial relationship with Maurel and Adrien’s kidnapped daughter – she knowingly aids her husband in his murderous activities whilst showing little if any guilt.

It is the protection of his daughter that ultimately forces Adrien to absconde from jail resulting in a film with is dense in plot lines, but which manages to deliver them in a coherent story. One of the most gripping chase sequences involves Adrien running from the police through high speed traffic; a deftly shot scene which creates more tension on foot because of the obvious danger than any high speed car chase.

This is the kind of film that I can see Hollywood ‘reinvisioning’, like the brilliant Pour Elle which later became the Russel Crowe vehicle The  Next Three Days; although probably without the crass, homosexual stereotypes. However it is obvious too where the film has been influence by Hollywood – I won’t say any more as it would spoil the ending.

 

On the whole a brilliant movie which I highly recommend.

Film Review · French Language Films · review

Film Review; Diplomatie⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

imageIt is difficult to make a suspenseful film based on events about which the ending is already know, but in Diplomatie director Volker Schlöndorff does just that.

The film is based on events of the night of August 25th,1944. Nazi forces, facing the allies inevitable liberation of the city, prepare to destroy her. The General in charge is von Choltitz.

Choltitz is presented as the kind of man who, if it were another time, another place, would be seen as likeable and perhaps honourable. He is seen in the early hours of the morning obviously disturbed, unable to sleep. He has good relations with not only his soldiers, but the French hotel staff were he is staying.

Soon though he is seen discussing the destruction of the city with M. Lanvin, a captured French engineer forced to take part, and high ranking German officers; the landmarks to be destroyed are listed – the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Place de la Concorde and Notre Dame de Paris.

Interestingly one of the German high ranking officers protests the destruction of the city and compares it to his involvement in the liquidation of the Parisian Jewish population. It is obvious, and worrying, from the officers request to leave the city and avoid watching her demise that this is the step too far. A conversation between the officer and a colleague as the participants of the meeting leave von Choltiz to himself reveals that it is Hitler’s vengeance driving the plan; if Berlin is destroyed the beauty of Paris cannot be left to stand!

This theme, the spiteful plan of a madman, carries throughout the discourse between von Choltitz and the Swedish diplomat named Raoul Nordling. Nordling is glimpsed during the prior meeting behind a fading mirror. He reveals himself in the darkness in a brief loss of electricity. Von Choltitz, shocked by his presence in a secure room, is put at ease by Nordling’s charm. It is clear why the latter is a diplomat.

Nordling divulges how he gained access to the hotel room sequestered by von Choltitiz – a secret passageway created by Napoleon lll to visit his mistress. Nordling allows it to be known also that he is aware of the plan to destroy Paris and continues to persuade von Choltitz to abandon it.

Nordling presents von Choltitz with a letter from a French General coming to liberate Paris with terms of surrender which von Choltitz tears up. Having received a phone all it becomes apparent that Nordling is not working alone and steps have been taken to ensure that his time with von Choltitz is more substantial.

Von Choltitz starts out the discussions presenting himself as a man whose only concern is one of obedience to his orders. However an act of mercy on Nordling’s part, coupled with the arrival of two uncouth, Nazi officers reminding him of the barbaric acts of the regime he has sworn allegiance to, prompts him to divulge the real reason he continues to carry out the orders. Fear for his family’s survival.

The introduction of this brings another layer to the movie that adds the real tension. After all we know Paris survived, it is there to this day. But even though we may know of the events of the drama we do not necessarily know what happened to the players.

As von Choltitiz raises himself to the moral challenge of disobeying orders to save Paris and the souls it protects it is Nordling who is then see to face a moral dilemma in the promises he makes to the former.

The film’s two lead characters are complex and the dialogue between them gripping – I was surprised when it was obvious that it was coming to an end as the plot had captured me so much. For a drama based mainly on the conversation between the two leads this must tell you something about the intensity of the dialogue and the perfectly timed pace of the story.

imageThe leads too inhabit their roles perfectly. Niels Arestrup as von Choltitiz manages to convey his initial inflexibility, his humanity to his young soldiers, his latter doubts in regards to his mission and concern for his family convincingly; seamlessly conveying these changes in a manner that reveals him gradually throughout the film as a multifaceted, likeable human being.

André Dussolier presentation of Nordling demonstrates him as an artist who can act almost completely with his eyes and the well timed pause of a movement to convey charm, morality and his own battle with his conscience over his duplicity towards von Choltitiz.

At the end of the film you are not so much relieved for the safety of Paris, even though this is accompanied by artistic shots of the city, but gripped with fear for von Choltitiz’s family and the plight that is still theirs.

I highly recommend this.

Film Review · review

Film Review; Elle L’Adore⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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I watched this as part of my French Learning Challenge and so thought I’d review it here.

The film is from 2014 and is currently streaming as part of Amazon Prime. The synopsis used to advertise it states;

Muriel Bayen, a divorced beautician and mother of two, loves to tell stories. She is a huge fan of this singer Vincent Lacroix, in fact she is a dedicated fan. One day Vincent knocks on her door and asks for her help.

Having read this I was expecting a light, romantic comedy. Perhaps my comprehension skills are very poor (I didn’t read any film category), but I really wasn’t expecting the film that was delivered. Nevertheless, I wasn’t disappointed as I was drawn into this suspenseful thriller.

As the film begins you are introduced to the two lead characters; veteran superstar chanteur, Vincent Lacroix (played by Laurent Lafitte) and Muriel, his obsessed fan (played by Sandrine Kiberlain).

When we first meet Muriel she is telling her two children a story of an encounter she had recently had in which she’d told a grotesque lie. In being mistaken for another person on the Metro she allows the encounter to continue and, when asked about a ‘mutual friend’ says that they’ve died. She says she doesn’t know why she told such a lie and acknowledges the recipients shock and grief at her statement.

As the film continues it is obvious that Muriel frequently engages in telling melodramatic lies of this kind. Her friends are seen to smile knowingly at each other as they trip from her tongue. Yet she is seen as likeable enough to have friendships and loving family ties. Her fandom, although excessive even for a young, teenage girl and therefore unusual for her age group is not revealed as malevolent even if it is a little obsessive. Her life is depicted in many ways as ordinary.

Yet the meeting between her and her children in which she devolves this needless and cruel lie points to something being ‘off’ with this woman. Particularly as Muriel walks away from her children calm and unemotional – you initially think that this is a normal weekend visit as she is so unfazed by their parting as nothing indicates that anything substantial is happening here. However it is later revealed to be their final meeting before they go to live with their father, and it is their decision to do this. All these factors begin to develop the character as in some way ‘damaged’.

In contrast Vincent is introduced as someone charming. When we first see him he is shopping in a normal market and is heard talking to his partner on the telephone, who is evidently upset and stressed about something. His willingness to do such everyday activities without the ego of his star status and his humour in handling the crises automatically warms you to him.image

Later we are introduced to Vincent’s friends and girlfriend, Julie. He is evidently devoted to her as we know this is the Julie whom he has written songs for. In contrast to his charm and lack of ego Julie is immediately encountered in a sullen mood, creating an uncomfortable situation for Vincent and his guests. Her behaviour forces the others to leave and after they do so Vincent approaches Julie in order to smooth any ruffled feathers.

Julie is not willing to be placated though and she becomes physically aggressive towards Vincent, attacking and hitting him. Vincent is seen defending himself by pushing her away from him, she falls to the floor and against a bookcase. In jolting this one of Vincent’s awards falls to the floor and strikes her on the head killing her.

It is clear that Vincent is completely innocent in all of this and there is no suggestion of any contribution he has made to her death. It is purely an accident. He is seen to grieve; lying next to her lifeless body, distraught by her loss.

However, out of fear one assumes, Vincent collects himself and starts to take steps to cover up Julie’s death. In doing so he looks for help and turns to his obsessive fan Muriel.

At this point you may wish to stop reading if you want to see the film and not have the plot spoilt. 

Vincent’s asks Muriel to do something for him. He’s secretive about what the ‘it’ is and this is the first time we see the lines blurred between who is the sympathetic victim. Muriel, adoring Vincent as the title suggests, can be viewed as almost childlike in her devotion. Vincent starts to be seen as manipulative and abusive taking advantage of her faith in him.

The film continues for a while with Vincent’s voiceover explaining what he wants Muriel to do. This involves her driving her car over a boarder to his sister’s home, giving his sister a letter which instructs her to take Julie’s body to her husband’s pet crematory and disposing of it, all without Muriel’s knowledge.

The voiceover is accompanied by footage of Muriel driving towards the border and stopping at the checkpoint where inspections of vehicles are being made, obviously hesitant to go across.

It’s later revealed that Murial didn’t cross the border, but discovering the body of Julie she buries it herself. When Vincent, bizarrely, aggressively confronts her with her failure to stick to his plan your identification of who is the victim and who is the manipulator, and therefore with whom your sympathy lies, is again challenged.

Vincent, in his desperation to protect himself, abuses her trust and implicates her further in the crime, but evidently feels anguish over the death of Julie and is seen gradually disintegrating to the point that overnight he develops a clump of grey hair.

Murial, in her devotion, is beguiled by him into not only doing his bidding, but is innocently unaware of his machinations behind her back. However she appears apparently unmoved by the death of the woman, apparently feeling no guilt for her involvement in covering up her death. She is solely focused on aiding her hero in evading responsibility in her death.

As the police close their net on Murial she is initially so frightened by the prospect of being prosecuted that she engages the services of a close friend who is also a lawyer. She starts to recount the emergence of Vincent on her doorstep to the friend who, knowing Murial’s fantasist nature, becomes frustrated. He explains that she must tell the truth and forget her make believe world. Murial finds herself in the position of lying for her life, but this time creating a story of everyday normality to hide the fantastic rather than the other way around.

imageAt times the interrogation is intense and Sandrine Kiberlain’s portrayal of the sociopathic Murial is absorbing. Despite knowing her involvement and her apparent lack of an emotional response to the death of Julie you are nevertheless committed to her wellbeing and on tenterhooks at the prospect of being made the scapegoat of this ‘murder’. Her ability to construct lies working towards her advantage despite the intolerable pressure she is put under.

As the story reaches its peak an unsatisying sub-plot involving the investigating officers relationship leads to the case, and Murial and Vincent, being abandoned as the chief culprits. Vincent is seen haggard and unable to move on from the incident; grieving for the death of Julie, his conscience unable to recover from his treatment of Murial.

Murial is seen to be able to move on with her life without any of these hang-ups; the only ‘negative’ fallout for her is that her devotion to Vincent is over. She removes her memorobilia, paints over the Murial to him on her wall. Even an encounter with him, planned by Vincent, is seen to no longer resonate with her. The film ends with Vincent  seemingly to take on the role of the obsessive with Murial as his focus.

This is brilliantly acted by both leads and the characters they inhabit are complex, the ending morally ambiguous. For days afterwards I was left wondering with whom my sympathy lay. This is due to the excellent script with its plot-twists creating a tense, unsettling film. It would not have worked as well if you were in any doubt of Vincent’s guilt as his innocence and obvious distress counterbalance his abuses of Murial. In contrast her lack of emotion, apart from her devotion to him, hidden by her apparent pleasant nature manages to imbed in you a sense of her innocence in the proceedings.

A great, gripping film. The only reason it has four stars and not five is the contrived ending revolving around the dysfunctional relationship of the investigating officer.