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!

 

French Language Courses Reviews · Learning French · review

Review; Michel Thomas Method Vocabulary Course (Free PDF Full Transcript)⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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For those of you immediately thinking ‘Well she’s given that too many stars!’ I can understand where you’re coming from. Nevertheless I think 4/5 ⭐️s is justified. Let me explain.

This is advertised as a course to improve your vocabulary and, as a result, it may mislead the audience and ultimately mean that people don’t get as much out of it as they could. Looking on Amazon reviews I think this statement is true not only of my experience but other peoples too. But that doesn’t mean to say that this isn’t a good course; I just think it’s badly described as to how it’s useful.

If it’s languishing in a drawer at home, or your thinking of buying it, it may good to revie it from a different perspective. The course blurb is;

This NEW Vocabulary Course builds on the Foundation and Advanced Courses to increase the number and range of words you will be able to use. Rose Lee Hayden, Michel Thomas’s most trusted teacher, shares her first-hand insights with the author, Hélène Lewis, who teaches French at Bournemouth University, to give you over 1,000 words in a unique and memorable way. The presenter is joined by two native speakers to make sure your pronunciation is perfect, while a booklet shows you the written language.[Additional highlights mine.]

As you can see from the highlights I’ve added the emphasis is on the vacabulary in the sales pitch. However at first impression it appears that the course is just a rehash of Thomas’ other courses. The same cognates patterns as before are introduced; just in more detail and with new expressions.

The second thing that strikes you is that it’s very dense and as a result a little off-putting. Yet this is why the course is worth it. The density is because the sentences in this course are far more grammatically complex; not just focusing on verb conjugations, but finer grammar points such as making everything agreeable with the gender. Although this has been done in earlier courses it wasn’t to this level. In fact Thomas’ advanced course can be seen to be targeted at a lower intermediate level, whereas this can easily be categorised as an upper inetermediate level.

If you’re equating the course to just developing vocabulary the harder level is just dry, and actually feels unrewarding. You’ve done this haven’t you? Why is it so hard on this cd? It must be her manner, tone, instruction etc. But viewed in the light of a more grammatically complex course, pushing you to greater fluency, this challenge seems realistic.

It drills into you these finer points of grammar and I think quality time spent on it is worth it.  I found that in order to get the most out of the course I had to break down the CDs into sections; doing a ten minute section repeatedly until it was learnt. This is evidence that this is a progressive course, rather than a repition of skills learnt, as there is so much in each sentence. In the foundation course I was able to tackle an entire CD at a go, less so with the advanced. This one can’t be approached in that manner if you want to confidently know the material.

What the course actually gives you is; image

  • a chance to practise the cognates learnt in the other courses
  • a chance to practise the advanced verb conjugations learnt in the advanced course, including challenging irregular verbs
  • use of nouns and their modifiers such as c’est versus il/elle est, expressions of quantity etc
  • development of y and en pronouns
  • use of numbers and adverbs of time and place
  • a more comprehensive look at negatives with idioms
  • semi-idioms

These finer grammar points, like possessive pronouns etc, are imbedded with this practise and, unlike a text book, it means you have learnt expressions as examples that teach the theory to fall back on when you’re trying to speak/understand French.

In terms of vocabulary itself I found that it did improve mine considerably by introducing semi-idiomatic expressions; making my reading and comprehension, as well as ability to communicate in French, a lot better.

What is a real negative about the course is that there is no in-depth PDF unlike the other courses, despite what’s said on the course jacket. As the course is the teacher and two French speakers, you really need it to be sure you’ve understood what is being pronounced. In fact I found this so frustrating that I actually transcribed all 5 CDs to aid me.

There are other more annoying down sides to the course. Her attempts at humour fall flat as they feel so scripted. In fact, I swear, in CD 1 you can hear the male speaker sigh!

For an advanced course she provides you with the most basic vocabulary such as très! If you need to be told that, you probably need another course – and this can be an impediment when you’re wanting to confirm your level of French.

Also she needlessly spends the first CD making worshipful references to Thomas. I admire the man and his technique, but…..

I gave my CD transcript to my French tutor to double check it for me and she commented on how good she thought it was. This is a woman whose taught French for over 30 years, so high praise indeed. She actually asked me for a copy of it when I’d made my, inevitable, corrections! (Although I’ve probably still made some mistakes in writing up her corrections, so if you spot anything please let me know).

I’ve included my copy of the script for free download here (Michel Thomas Method Vocabulary Course Transcript). Needless to say if anyone has any objects to this I can take this down (though I doubt they will as you can actually download the course booklets for free, links to which are in my other MT reviews here, here and here).

I’d  love to hear from you if you’ve tried the course, especially if you think the transcript will be helpful!

 

Lou Messugo
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.

Book Review · review · Uncategorized

Review; 1000 Years of Annoying The French⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

imageThis was first published in 2010, but I found it on my Belle Mère’s bookshelf and I thought I’d have quick read. Now this was at Christmas, but I have a 4 and a 1 year old so….

This is a very fast paced, lighthearted look at the relationship between the French and English over the millennium and I must say that it was a very informing overview of the historical period from both perspectives. When I was at school in the late 80s you did the industrial and agricultural revolution, earlier in the 70s you did Hastings, but little else besides the wars. So the book filled in a lot of gaps.

The focus on the early part of the millennium up until the Middle Ages and Napoleonic years makes sense when you read Clarke’s biography. He studied medieval history at university so those, admittedly very few, negative reviews on Amazon critiquing his historical knowledge are probably not entirely correct in their assessment.

It is evident that Clarke loves his earlier topic and gallops along with facts, witticisms and some insight. In fact his brief excursions into the latter half of the century seem almost perfunctory as a result. This is no bad thing as if as much attention had been given to these latter events the book’s length would have been off putting for its tone. Besides, as the devastation of the First World War and the moral certitude behind the second campaign have resulted in these periods of history constantly visited and vividly in our memory there is no significant loss of their lesser part.

My only area of criticism is that, being a self confessed prude (hey, where’s my parade?) I could have done without the descriptions of Edward VII’s foray into furniture design. In fact I did as I skimmed the pages to where my demure eyes could rest uncontamintaed by such goings on.

Whilst reading it I was curious to see other people’s opinions and had a look through Amazon to see and, although the vast majority are very positive, this one stood out;

“1.0 out of 5 starsHistory, Daily Mail-style
ByMr. Peter Kahlon 20 October 2011
Format: Paperback
What a tedious book this is! I received it as a gift and I tried to read it several times but I’ve finally given up on it. Its pages will now be used to light fires in the fireplace this winter because I wouldn’t want to inflict them on any unsuspecting customers browsing the Oxfam store.

Let me be clear, I am fascinated by history and I do like irreverent treatments or sideways looks at our past. But this does not belong in that category. This is the Jeremy Clarkson school of history. It is the smug, grinning and self-satisfied face of Britain. It is the pub bore who will tell you that climate change is just a conspiracy of scientists and politicians who are trying to make money out of it. It is the bloke at a dinner party who tells you his three-year-old son could better than Jackson Pollock. And it is the woman at the same dinner party who is really upset about XXX getting voted off Strictly Get Me Out Of Here On Ice.

Read Ken Follett or CJ Sansom if you like a good yarn. Read Simon Schama or David Starkey if you like solid historical information that is accessible to non-experts. Or read Bill Bryson for a really affectionate and touching portrayal of Britain’s recent past.

But give this one a miss – unless you like to see your own prejudices reinforced.”

I actually wondered if it was a send up? But then the recommendations of other books would suggest otherwise. The irony of someone talking about other peoples prejudices having written that….

Clarke is clearly not a bigot – any joke made at the expense of the French is balanced by one made about the English too. On the whole he comes across as a self effacing patriot who loves his life and friends in France.

Even when Clarke is landing a shot in seriousness he is even handed. For example Clarke talks of the tendency to collaborate in World War 2 Clarke and not only outlines the way this was done, whilst acknowledging that there were heroes too, but he challenges the assertion that “l’ont échappé belle”. That is, the British and Americans never faced occupation and therefore the moral dilemmas posed as a result.

Clarke compares France’s response to that of the residents of the Channel Islands. He acknowledges that there were individual collaborators; however he maintains there is a difference in that there was no Vichy equivilant of welcoming the ideas of the Nazi regime on a governmental level and the island’s police involvement was not as pivotal in the carrying out of the Nazi regime. In other word they were individual rather than corporate moral failings.

Despite questioning the validity of Clarke’s comparison – after all the Channel Islands were culturally attached to the UK and therefore it could be said that its main leadership was free adding a moral pressure – he is even handed. One of the things that struck me was his none glorified depiction of the battle of Agincourt and his obvious embarrassment at the British reverence for it; particularly in the way he refers to the ‘undiplomatic’ way in which someone had embedded a replica arrow in the observation tower with ‘For Saint George and England’ engraved on it.

What really struck me whilst finishing the book at this time, with the referendum looming, was if Clarke, would be for Britain’s ongoing relationship with the EU. I browsed his Twitter line, I’ve even asked him on the feed I was so curious. The answer is probably for in, but the more I think about it the more I’d love to hear his views. At least I know they’d be entertaining!

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.

Learning French · review · Teaching French To Children

Kid’s French CD Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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I bought this a little while back for La Belle Fille but we have only recently started to listen to it regularly. The CD’s target age group is 5-11, but our daughter has only just turned four – we started to use it regularly when she was three – and she is really enjoying it.

The first thing that’s an advantage is that it can be played anywhere that you have access to a CD player, DVD or computer so it’s pretty versatile in where French can be learned. We started to listen to it in the car and then, because our daughter enjoyed it so much, we started to bring it back into the house with us so she could carry on listening to it there.

The CD is a mixture of beginners French topics – saying hello and how are you, colours, numbers 1-10, days of the week, months of the year – as well as some French songs.

My daughter can happily say her name and age now as well as basic greetings and responses. This is really good as, even though she had learnt colours and numbers before through YouTube videos, these basics are not often in songs.

She also really enjoys the songs and many of these are numbers, colours, days of the week etc set to familiar tunes. She is now happily singing the days of the week in French whilst the CD isn’t on. The only thing I would caution about here is that, even though she is happily joining in. However a word of caution; she is still only learning and applying concepts such as the weather, days of the week, months etc at the moment so, unlike a child in the prescribed age group, even if she happily knows the word being taught she needs some help contextualising the word. So, for example, I now consciously get her to say the day of the week in English and French each day to do this and it’s pushing her on in both languages as a result.

The other songs on the CD are traditional French children’s songs like Petit Papa. She likes these songs and I can here her part humming, part singing the words in these too. I was going to say that I would have preferred more songs with the keys topics as she would get more out of that, but actually I think this gives another level to the CD. It means that there is a more advanced level incorporated into the CD so it can continue to be useful after she has learnt those topics.

Throughout the CD the presenter, Claire, encourages the child to make connections between French and English words and is therefore introducing them to the concept of cognates. She refers to them being ‘language detectives’ and it’s a technique once introduced by her can be used in other areas by us as parents and as such she models the teaching technique well.

The CD incorporates a CD-ROM function with printables for the children including song lyrics. These include some drawing, letter tracing and filling in the missing letters exercises amongst others. I was really excited to see this advertised, but I must say that I felt these weren’t thought through as much as they could have been. They aren’t topic grouped and, although they all teach skills such as hand eye co-ordination, they aren’t always teaching French specifically. For example one activity, be a cartoonist, encourages the child to complete the farmers face themselves. Apart from having ‘Old Macdonald’ in French on the CD behind the task there is no other connection. If you looked at the sheet without the context you wouldn’t know that it had been produced to instruct a child in French at all.

The only reason I gave the CD a four star rating as opposed to five stars was the dissapointment in relation to the promised handouts, particularly as many of the topics are not included at all so I’m resorting to creating my own to support this otherwise excellent CD. The CD a good buy though particularly when you consider the price – less than £6 at the time of posting, and even less when a second hand coy is bought through Amazon.