Monthly Archives: August 2013

Les Petits Mouchoirs

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Directed by Guillame Canet

Heartwarming and funny, Les Petits Mouchoirs manages to pack many story-lines into one film without overcrowding it.

Starting off the drama with Ludo (Jean Dujardin) involved in a serious accident, his friends (many of them whom are dating) decide that they must continue their annual holiday without him anyway and that if needs be, they can fly back in an instant to be with him.

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We meet a host of characters, from the adorable Marie (Marion Cotillard) and her best friend who can’t keep a girlfriend Eric (Gilles Lellouche), grumpy Max (François Cluzet) and his organic, health-crazy wife who’s trying to keep the group together Véro (Valérie Bonneton), lovesick Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) who’s still pining after ex Juliette (Anne Marivin), infatuated Vincent (Benoît Magimel) and heartbroken Isabelle (Pascale Arbillot).

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We initially are thrown into the first ‘issue’ among the group of friends – Vincent’s romantic feelings for Max, which causes a riff between the friends which will last the whole holiday. Especially causing problems with Vincent’s wife, Isabelle who longs to be touched. Throughout the film, we encounter Antoine’s problem with Juliette’s texts and why she won’t just settle for a clean break, Eric’s impossibility to settle down and commit to one girl with consequences, Marie who can’t bring herself to feel totally comfortable with any man, Max’s need for everything to be ‘just right’.

Les Petits Mouchoirs throws us into the circle of the friends and the paradise of their lives. We have our own opinions and own advice to give on their lives and dilemmas. I won’t give too much of the storyline away because it’s such a sweet film that half the fun of watching it is discovering how all their lives develop and come together to finish in one tear-jerking end.  

The realistic characters, subtle humour and sweet relationships make this film far from boring and more heartwarming which other films have failed to do in the past. The characters have real chemistry with one another on screen and blend together effortlessly.

Although my internet is playing up and not letting me use netflix and therefore I can’t hunt out some vocab for you, I leave you with this song which you will find a snippet played in the film. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQwsiIlIfH8

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8/10

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Dans La Maison

dans la maison

Director: François Ozon

Drawing us into a world full of danger through spying on our neighbours, Dans La Maison offers us the turbulent lives of the Artole family on a plate, learning a few lessons himself and also teaching others as well.

Given the task of writing about his weekend for his French Literature class, the insanely talented Claude Garcia (played by Ernst Umhauer) describes the home life of a fellow student: Rapha Junior (Bastien Ughetto) who he singles out during maths when he finds that Rapha is failing. Using his mathematics ability to tutor Rapha and pushed by his literature teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini), Claude delves further into the Artole’s life. Befriending the father, Rapha Senior (played by Denis Ménochet) and seducing his wife, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner) are parts of his infiltration into the Artole household which he documents weekly and hands into his teachers.

Claude finds his way into the Artole's life

Claude finds his way into the Artole’s life

Although encouraging him to improve his writing ability, we see Germain become increasingly obsessed with the Artole household, pushing the boundaries further and further. He is controlled by his desire to read Claude’s writing, which is fueled by frequent visits. He subtly threatens Germain that he’ll stop writing if he can’t access the Artole household anymore. This means that he needs to access maths papers, in order to prove his ability as a maths tutor to Rapha’s parents.

Although initially it starts off as a childish obsession with Claude, wanting to know how the Artole’s live, what makes them tick, what living in a normal family is like Dans La Maison takes a sinister turn when Germain humiliates Rapha in front of the class. Suddenly, things become a little bit more real for Germain, he realises that it’s not just a faraway story, but real people with real lives that he’s pushing Claude to toy with. Frequently, he appears as an external being in the Artole household, suggesting how Claude could twist the writing, twist the plot.

Reading the essays to his wife Joanne who works at the local gallery (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), Germain and Joanne discuss the lives of the Artole family as if they were discussing a soap opera. Joanne has a more weary attitude claiming that Claude may indeed be teaching Germain a lesson.

Dans La Maison switches between the Artole household and the Germain household, drawing parallels between both worlds. We realise that we know so much about the Artole’s, a fair bit about the Germain’s but hardly anything about Claude’s own family. We are introduced to Claude as this shy individual with an ‘absent mother’, whereas Rapha is introduced to us as a family unit. The Germain’s and the Artole’s become worryingly close when invited to a gallery showing by Joanne, striking fear in Germain’s heart.

Spotting the Artole family at the gallery

Spotting the Artole family at the gallery

Still, getting darker, we see Claude invade the personal lives of older women – Esther and Germain’s wife Joanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) for example. What makes this film so clever is how Claude plays on the interest of other characters. Both women want more than just what they’ve got and so Claude eases his way into their lives, Germain is addicted to new information and gossip and so Claude traps him in a game in which he repeats A suivre…” and Rapha longs for something a little bit ‘different’ to his classmates.

I can’t talk to much without giving it away, but it is definitely worth a watch and you’ll enjoy it completely!

8/10

A suivre – to be continued

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La Naissance des Pieuvres

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Director: Céline Sciamma

Literally meaning ‘The Birth of Octopuses’, La Naissance des Pieuvres depicts a coming of age story set around three girls, brought together through synchronised swimming.

Marie, Anne and Florianne all share one passion: they love the swimming pool and are each incredibly different from one another. Flawless Florianne (Adèle Haenel)- the girl who’s the dream of many boys and men alike and hated by almost all of the other girls at the swimming pool, Marie who has been described as a tomboy but I think is just grumpy and rude (Pauline Acquart) and who is drawn to the swimming pool through her (slightly worrying) obsession with Florianne and Anne, the geeky and outspoken friend who I absolutely adore (Louise Blachère).

Marie and Florianne, after a day of Marie being Florianne's servant

Marie and Florianne, after a day of Marie being Florianne’s servant

New friends Florianne and Marie

New friends Florianne and Marie

Marie, infatuated with Florianne, starts to follow her (creepily) in order to get to the swimming pool, she watches Marie shower and frequently gets upset when Marie kisses a different boy, or goes off with one of them. Other girls say that Florianne is a slut and at one point, one girl calls her out on it, whilst Florianne is eating a banana. Kudos to Florianne, she turns round and verbally smacks that girl down. (This is possibly the best her character gets. Not that it’s any bad acting on Haenel’s part as I’ve seen her in L’Apollonide and she was fantastic in that, and here she plays the pompous, stereotypical ‘It’ girl effortlessly.)

Anyway, Marie and Florianne hit it off – though I’m not entirely sure how. For half of the film we’re convinced that Marie is being used as Florianne’s slave – doing her hair, walking with her to meet boys and generally running errands in order to be granted entrance to the swimming club and then suddenly after they talk about Florianne’s experiences with boys, they hit it off. Although slightly confusing, it may be a pointed reference to the confusing time that both girls are going through – discovering their sexuality through their friendship and how Marie feels rejected everytime Florianne kisses a boy or flirts.

Around the same time, Marie ditches Anne. Not enough is said about Anne. She is amazing. Though, unfortunately shes the ‘overweight’ character when in reality, I don’t really think she is overweight at all. The ‘overweight’ character in most films really gets on my nerves just because they’re usually seen as a joke, and I might write about it on my other blog (a feminist blog which you can find here.) Marie pretty much ditches Anne by calling her fat and childish. Nice. I guess in a way, this really does bring us back to reality. We’re so swept up in Marie and Florianne’s relationship (or at least we’re supposed to be) that we forget that they are 15 year old girls. This verbal slap from Marie shows us that yep, we’re definitely back in high school here.

Feeling sour about her relationship with Florianne, Marie takes out her frustration on Anne.

Feeling sour about her relationship with Florianne, Marie takes out her frustration on Anne.

Of course, the theme that runs through this is ‘coming of age’. Marie and Florianne discovering their sexualities and Anne stuck in a period between childishness (otherwise known as being carefree and awesome) and trying to be more grown up (perhaps being used by a man – we’re not really sure). We can all look at Marie, Florianne and Anne and recognise a little bit of ourselves and other people that we know in each of them.

I’m in 2 minds about La Naissance des Pieuvres because on one hand, I appreciate that people who are much more artistic than me will probably find it genuinely interesting and insightful and I suppose I can relate to it slightly (only very slightly: I’m being generous here), on the other hand I think it’s OTT, boring and I want to slap some sense into Marie so she stops being so horrible to Anne.

3/10

 

Vocabulary

la conasse – bitch (stupid, offensive)

me cache! – Cover me!

les conneries – stupid stuff (bullshit) – very familiar!

les rêveries – daydreams

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L’Apollonide

L’Apollonide-PosterDirector: Bertrand Bonello

Set on the brink of the 20th century, L’Apollonide (also known for its English title: ‘House of Tolerance’) is set in a Parisian brothel, where a group of women enjoy a seemingly luxurious lifestyle full of champagne, expensive clothing and earning money through sex. However, all is not well as Marie-France, the owner of the brothel played by Noémie Lvovsky, could lose the business which she has built up so carefully.

Treated like objects of desire by many of the men to come to visit, the ladies of L’Apollonide are anything but objects. They’re full of life. L’Apollonide does not act to document the harsh experiences of prostitutes in brothels in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, instead it serves to delve into the lives of a group of women who live in the brothels and the trials and tribulations that they experience.

Treated like objects: Men choose which girl they want to sleep with that evening

Treated like objects: Men choose which girl they want to sleep with that evening

To begin with, we’re introduced to Madeleine, originally nicknamed ‘La Juive’ (played by Alice Barnole) who is infatuated with her lover. She often dreamt of him proposing and paying her off her debt to Marie-France, so that she could live with him. However, she does state that she sometimes feel like he wants to hurt her. He ties her up and slashes her face with a knife – rendering her almost ‘useless’ in terms of prostitution and disfiguring her for life by giving her a sick grin, similar to that of The Joker from the Batman series. She becomes “La Femme Qui Rit” (The Woman Who Laughs). She becomes a servant, or maid, for the other girls initially but does in fact gain some independence by using her disfigurement as a sort of ‘freak show’.

Madeleine: Making the most of her facial disfigurement

Making the most of her facial disfigurement

We also meet Clotilde, or ‘Belle Cuisse’, (played by Céline Salette, who you may recognise from Les Revenants). Struggling with an opium addiction and feeling the strain of being one of the oldest in the house, she shows us the side of ‘losing your value’. She is pushed out by the young Pauline, who becomes “La Petite”, who attracts her lover. As well as feeling for the girls in terms of abuse and neglect, we also realise how dangerous it is for some of them to be in this line of work. “La Caca”, one of the girls catches syphilis and is therefore ‘dumped’ by her client – though he still pays for her lodging.

It is necessary to remember that Marie-France still looks after her girls, selling them off to other houses when her brothel goes under, to keep them off the streets. She cares for them and could be said to have a soft-hearted approach despite her cold exterior upon first meeting this character. She allows Madeleine to stay, despite her disfigurement, she takes on Pauline. She cares for each and every one of the girls.

The ‘sisterhood’ element of L’Apollonide is prominent – the girls show each other respect and stand up for one another, as well as laughing off their own experiences. We watch them dance together, hug, talk, laugh and not show any signs of ‘bitchiness’. There is no ‘competition’ element which is often refreshing in a film which depicts a group of many girls together.  In fact, right at the very end, we see the girls grieve for the death of another and also ‘take revenge’ on the man who hurt, all wearing make up resembling the scars on Madeleine’s face.

The ending of L’Apollonide shows Clotilde in present day Paris, still working as a prostitute but on the streets. It shows her grainy, grey, washed out and tired. Different from the luxurious lifestyle she experienced in the 20th century, perhaps demonstrating the endless cycle of prostitution in life today.

Overall, a fantastic and emotional watch, if not a little confusing at some parts. (Pay attention to names…they each have 2.)

9/10

Vocabulary:

La Juive – the Jewess

La cicactrice – the scar

 

 

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