Tag: French


April 20th, 2013 — 6:15pm


Renoir- rm  – This movie becomes an enjoyable stroll through a museum filled with the paintings of French Impressionist Pierre- Auguste Renoir. However, instead of looking at the beautiful colorful paintings of this master you are watching a film about him and the people around him living on his picturesque farm on the French Riveria. The photography and the lighting , so often during the magic hours preceding sunset along with the delicate colors and the characters gracefully moving through the French countryside or  in the period living quarters, transport the viewer into so many of Renior’s paintings. The screenplay is written by writer/director Gilles Bourdos and is based on the writing of the painter’s great grandson Jacques Renoir. The movie takes place in 1915 during World War I and opens as Andree (Christa Theret) a young beautiful girl with red hair comes to work as a model for the aging Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet). His wife having recently died, he is surrounded by women of various ages who act as his housekeeper, cook and assistant with the suggestion that some may have been previously his models or even more than that. Shortly thereafter his oldest son Jean Renoir (Vincent Rottiers) returns from the WW I battlefield to recuperate from a leg injury. We also meet young Coco Renoir (Thomas Dorot) the sulking youngest son of Renoir and learn of another older son who is also in the military. The story revolves around the role of Andree becoming the inspiration of the elder Renoir and his appreciation of her beauty and velvety skin, which is amply framed in the movie. At the same time there is her connection to son Jean and we get glimpses of them planning their possible future together. But alas, while Andree has aspirations to be an actress and plants the seed that Jean should become a filmmaker (which of course he did but beyond the time frame of the film), this young man is determined to return to fighting in the Great War. Whether you did or did not know the reality not exactly shown in the film that Andree was actually the muse for both father and son, will not influence your appreciation of this film. The almost 2 hour movie was easy to digest and the storyline mattered very little as the true effect of this movie was a visceral sense of this old master mixing colors, putting down his whirling brush strokes  and capturing the beauty of the people and the countryside surrounding him. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Foreign, Romance

Monsieur Lazhar

April 16th, 2012 — 5:52am


Monsieur Lazhar– sp  (French with English subtitles) This film was the Canadian nomination for the best foreign film in the 2011 Oscar race. The opening scene takes place in a middle school that is the setting for most of the movie. We see a young student peeking into an empty classroom where he sees his teaching dangling from a rope where she has hanged herself. Starting with this violent event the movie progresses with an examination of the emotional meaning to the young students and to the replacement teacher Monsieur Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag ) an immigrant from Algiers, where he had his own secret  tragedies. The movie is a remarkable accomplishment in that it is mostly these children who are expressing in a subtle manner what this experience has meant to them as well as the nuances of the storyline (which one must follow carefully through the subtitles). Fellag was imported from France for this role, which he handles with great sensitivity and believability. He is able to synchronize the working of his own emotions with those of the children. Much of the credit belongs to writer and director Phillipe Falardeau  who adapted this story which he originally saw as a one person play. He concludes the film with the antithesis of how he began it. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Declaration of War

January 27th, 2012 — 10:53pm


Declaration of War- sp– This movie is the French entry, for the best foreign picture in the 2011 Oscar Awards. It is the story of a young couple who fall in love and have  a child who turns out to have a brain tumor.  It almost could have been a documentary as they are relentlessly followed through  every step of their ordeal. We have had a great deal of experience in our professional lives seeing patients and families who go through the very personal issues in and out of the hospital that these two young parents had to deal with. In that respect there were no revealing surprises Also who among us has not personally had to have discussion with family members about serious medical issues that someone close to us is going through? Everything about this movie was authentic. In fact the screen writers and stars of this movie Valerie Donzelli (who also directed)  and Jeremie Elkaim  have been a couple in real life who have had a child with a serious medical problem. They have stated that this film is not an exact mirror of their life experience but they were able to draw upon it to create the emotional experience which they portrayed so well. This was one of love for their child and for each other,  support from their families and for each other as well as optimism and determinism. They were able to cinematically create special moments between them which provided insight into how they were attempting to cope. These are two very appealing persons and it was easy to identify with their youthful exuberance which made it all the more difficult to have to also identify with their  fear and anxiety.  We came away from the film experience  having shared the ordeal of the people in  the film with the hope that we and our loved ones could have strength of character that they showed, should we have to face such a crisis. (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

The Artist

December 18th, 2011 — 8:42pm


The Artist-rm–  The name of the lead character in this movie in George Valentin. Since the French director and writer Michel Hazanavicius emmersed himself in the study of silent films in preparation for this movie perhaps, in some way, it is an homage to silent screen star Rudolph Valentino who died at the age of 31 in 1926 a year before the time line begins in this film. This certainly is not a story about that film star just as it isn’t a remake of A Star is Born although it resembles the plot of that 1950s movie. French actor Jean Durjardin, who has worked with Hazanavicius in three previous movies,  plays a silent film star whofor whatever reason doesn’t want to try to convert to talkies when they emerge on the scene. Whereas a young budding actress whom he helped along, rises to the top in this new medium. Berenice Bejo, who happens to be the director’s wife, is captivating as Peppy Miller, the new born star. John Goodman plays Al Zimmer, the cigar chomping producer type who supports the story line. The complete  feel of this movie experience is that of watching a  great Hollywood  silent film of the early 1930s when they were the state of the art. The filmmaker not only studied this genre but paid attention to as many details as possible to gain the authentic touch of this movie. He didn’t use a steadicam. He used black and white monitors for his dailies and he chose genuine Los Angeles locations which added to the effect. For example, one ofthe houses used had belonged to silent screen star Mary Pickford. This  is a silent movie about silent movie stars and about the changing movie industry of the 1930s. Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood and especially one that is  extremely well done all around with great acting, a very appropriately matched musical background and even an extraordinary dance sequence.. This all adds up to some well deserved recognition during Oscar time.  (2011)  

Comment » | 4 Stars, Romance

My Father’s Glory

November 7th, 2011 — 4:48am


My Father’s Glory – nf  (In French with English voiceover or subtitles). The movie is based on the best selling memoirs of French novelist and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol and is directed by Yves Robert. If we had known the story of the movie, we probably would have passed on it. Somehow it ended up on our Netflix queue, which meant someone, or some publication recommended it highly, so we let it roll (so to speak). It is a beautifully framed picturesque film set in the early 1900s. It is seen through the eyes of an older Frenchmen who is the narrator recalling his childhood especially, his view of his father. Most of the movie shows his family’s summer vacation, which includes his mother, sibs, uncle and aunt and their small children in the countryside and mountains in southern France. Being a city boy he is intrigued with  nature and the wide open country experience with mountains, birds and game . He idolizes his schoolteacher father and has some problems with seeing his uncle, an experienced woodsman who is more knowledgeable in shooting and hunting. He encounters a young local boy his age with whom he becomes friendly and even considers sneaking off and staying by himself in the countryside. Aside from being magnificently photographed, it is a touching, heartwarming film with some comedic moments. I think it probably is the perfect movie to watch with a preadolescent son or grandson. (1990)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids


May 29th, 2011 — 9:27pm


Incendies –rm It would help if from the beginning, you were aware that this movie is mostly involved with the vicious  Lebanon civil war between the Moslems and the Christians. It make take a bit to become completely oriented as the movie does consist of alternating stories in different time. It also doesn’t help that it is mostly  in French with English subtitles. But eventually we got the hang of it and the very unusual plot which we are introduced to at the beginning as twins  Jeanne and Simon are being read their mother’s will and realize she has asked them to carry out her final wishes and deliver two letters on her behalf.  Their task seems almost as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. If you don’t mind fiction being stranger than the really terrible things that happen to people in these type of wars, the movie provides a gripping story. It is horrifying at times with what should be an unexpected ending. It provides lessons of persistence, forgiveness, motherly love  and an appreciation that any one of us if we were switched at birth, could be quite the opposite of the person we turned out to be. The movie, which was co-written and directed by Denis Villeneuve, received recognition with several film festival awards and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.(2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, War


September 9th, 2010 — 9:47am

Heartbreaker* * *
– sp – When you see a romantic comedy especially when it is a “farce”, you have to be able to suspend your expectation for realism and just enjoy the film. One of us was able to do that right away and the other took a little longer to give into the premise. Romain Duris is Alex the young, suave, bearded Frenchman ( the film is in French with subtitles ) who works with his sister and her husband in a unique business. A client who believes that a particular woman should not be romantically involved with her boyfriend or fiancée hires them. This team will research this woman and determine her special likes and dislikes. They will arrange a scenario where Alex will happen to meet her, charm her and when she falls in love with him, he will not be emotionally available but she will realize that she should not be with her current boyfriend. The job is completed and the con team gets paid. They often use high tech to set up their ruses. It should be noted that Alex has scruples in that he will never accept a job unless he really believes the girl shouldn’t be with her current lover. It is an interesting premise and the trio of screenwriters and the direction of Pascal Chaumeil creates some very clever and funny scenes. Needless to say, things don’t go according to schedule on one of these capers when Juliette played by Vanessa Paradis is the target of their latest job. The conclusion is a little reminiscent of the ending of The Graduate You will have to decide if you believe that she is now falling in love with the perfect man for her that Alex has created or does she now see his true love for her which she believes she also has for him? One of the screenwriters of the movie is a Harvard educated, AFI graduate Jeremy Doner who obviously has a good feel for the French sensibilities of love and humor. He was a guest at the screening we attended and told us that this film was one of the most financially successful films to be shown in France in the last several years but there usually can only be limited expectations for a foreign movie with subtitles in the United States. Perhaps for this reason, he is currently working on an American English version of this story which has been set for production in the near future. A romantic comedy , even one that is a farce usually ends with a warm feel good sense about the ultimate relationship of the lovers. ( Think Tracy and Hepburn) . The fact that Juliette’s feelings for Alex were based on the con job pulled off by Alex may take away a bit from the audience’s feeling good about the lovers as the movie concludes. Perhaps they can fine tune the ending of the English version so there is no doubt that they are right for each other. 2010

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

A Very Long Engagement

September 9th, 2010 — 3:25am

A Very Long Engagement* * * *
A Very Long Engagement
– nf – One of the advantages and pleasures of Netflix is that we have the opportunity to see very good movies that we probably otherwise would never have seen. In this case, this French 2004 film was nominated for Oscars for Art Direction and Cinematography and won several Cesars ( the French Oscar awards ) and was nominated for best picture , director and several acting awards in France. The setting for the film is France during World War I and shortly thereafter. There are many realistic brutal scenes in the trenches and on the battlefield . I was reminded of the classic film All is Quiet on the Western Front as the story begins with a court-martial of five soldiers but in this movie they are sentenced to being sent out to no man’s land and an almost certain death. The film focuses on Mathilde a young partially disabled Frenchwoman, played by Amelie Tautou, who is determined to find all the details about what happened to these men with the hope that maybe her fiancé has survived. Flashback techniques are used so we are able to have an insight into the development of their relationship since childhood as well as an understanding of many of the other characters. The movie is in French with subtitles. At times it appears that something is lost in the translation as we lose track of a small part of some of the storylines but that really doesn’t detract from the overall impact of this moving film. While we did not know most of the actors, the performances were all of a very high quality as emotions and nuances came across very clearly. Although not in the starring role, American actress Jodie Foster who speaks fluent French has a substantial part with a range of feelings from an empathic wife to being in a passionate bedroom scene. The cinematography is absolutely magnificent as it captured the grit of the battlefield, the beauty of the French countryside, the bustle of Paris in 1920s and the facial expressions of the superb actors and actresses in this film. There is an option on the DVD to hear the comments of Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet as he explains his thinking about the movie and many of the behind the scenes explanations of various details of the film. The cast was carefully chosen by him and includes very experienced actors and actresses even for some very small parts. Although the movie is an adaptation of Sebastiaen Japrisot’s novel, there are added scenes or images based on actual photographs or historical vignettes about World War I. He explains decisions that he made and a homage to some classic movies, such as Saving Private Ryan or his own earlier films which he has weaved into this movie. He discusses the effective use of digitalization to achieve certain effects such as writing on a wall of a cafe, the addition of buildings and vehicles, or the appearance of a busy 1920s Paris scene. He has also changed the coloring at times to bring about a certain hue or to emphasize various objects. The net result is a beautiful, haunting movie, which is gripping and quite memorable for the images and the characters. 2004

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Mystery, Romance, War

The Class

September 6th, 2010 — 3:14am

* *
The Class
– rm – This is a French movie about a classroom of 14 and 15 year old teenager’s children and their interaction with a teacher. It is a slice of life of a country where immigration and different cultures influences the relationships in a classroom as does the usual teenage conflicts with authority. Perhaps something was lost in the translation on us but we didn’t get drawn into this movie although it appears to be very well done and actually won some film awards. (in French with subtitles) 2008

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Foreign

The Closet

September 6th, 2010 — 3:13am

* * *
The Closet
– nf – A middle aged accountant is about to be fired from his job, people at work think he is a nerd, his teenage son living with his ex-wife thinks he is a bore which leaves our main character about to end it all by jumping off his apartment balcony. A new neighbor who is an older gay man convinces him that he can save his job by spreading a rumor with some doctored photographs that show he is homosexual. This premise changes everything! Suddenly he is considered an intriguing person and the boss doesn’t want to fire him since it wouldn’t look good if he fired a gay man. The plot moves from here with all sorts of comedic developments with co-workers, women and even his son which also is a clear commentary on society’s attitudes about this situation. The film was released in 2000 and the point which it is making is somehow not quite as relevant as it was nearly a decade ago. It is in French with subtitles and has excellent acting. However we don’t think it makes our “must see” list which reminds us how much we liked the French films Tell No One (a mystery) and Paris 36 (a delightful musical comedy) 2000

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy

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