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Archive for the ‘French film’ Category

Capturing a life as colourful as Coco Chanel’s in 1 hour and 50 minutes was never going to be easy. The revolutionary designer who cut up corsets to allow women the freedom of more masculine clothes was a bag of contradiction. As The Independent points out, “despite her vaunted pride and independence, she was not so proud or independent to refrain from sponging off men.”

So it was perhaps inevitable that Anne Fontaine’s Coco Before Chanel would receive mixed reviews. When the film came out in France in April, critics attacked Fontaine for getting too bogged down in biographical detail and failing to fully explore Chanel’s complex character.

Libération’s critic complained:

[Le film] manque l’essentiel : le (sale ?) caractère d’une femme qui réussit à monter sa propre marque… à une époque où  les femmes qui voulaient s’affranchir de leur foyer avaient le choix entre bonne ou prostitué.” [The film missed out on the most important aspect: the (dirty) character of a women who launched her own fashion label in an era when women wanting to escape home life had two options: to be a servant or a prostitute.]

Le Nouvel Observateur derisively summed up Coco Before Chanel’s plot as follows:

Quand Coco s’amuse, et ce n’est pas souvent, Coco contente. Quand Coco s’ennuie, la plupart du temps, Coco pas contente.” [When Coco has fun – which isn’t often – she’s happy. When Coco is bored –most of the time – Coco isn’t happy.]

But most of the French critics reserved praise for Audrey Tautou, who, playing the title character, brought  depth which the film otherwise lacked.

Le Monde said:

Chanel aura pour première utilité de reléguer Amélie au musée. L’actrice n’élude aucun des travers: l’ambition forcenée, la mythomanie, l’absence de scrupules.” [Chanel has above all served to relegate Amelie [Poulain] to the dustbin. The actress doesn’t avoid any of her bad points: her crazed ambition, her pathological lying, her lack of scruples.]

British critics, who finally got a chance to see Coco Before Chanel when it was released in the UK this week, thought much the same. Chris Tookey in the Daily Mail, branded the film a “stodgy biopic”, while Wendy Ide in The Times said: “Rather staid in its approach, this film is nowhere near as fascinating and unpredictable as its subject.”

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian, not overly excited by this “tastefully furnished drama that rolls out pretty conservatively”, saw Coco Before Chanel as memorable for Tautou’s performance: “She can carry off a big role in a big movie, and portray a complex, creative personality. This is a world away from Amélie’s simpering ingenue.”

Next year, another Chanel film comes out. This time the focus is on Chanel’s relationship with the revolutionary composer, Igor Stravinsky. Will Chanel & Stravinsky better illuminate Chanel’s character? Will Anna Mouglalis, who plays mademoiselle do as well as Tautou?

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Want to do something really French this Bastille day?

The artists behind En attendant Godard – a film being made in homage/challenge to the most radical director of the France’s Nouvelle Vague – invite you to take part in /sabotage filming that’s taking place in London and Paris in the next week.

Members of the public are welcome to come dressed in character or as themselves to be interviewed about Jean-Luc Godard. Or if you’re feeling particularly counter-cultural simply set yourself the challenge of being in the background: The director, Will Brown, dares you to do what you wish, no matter how off-beat, in a bid to catch the attention of his cameraman. Brown says:

“The challenge is to shoot a multiple location, transnational fiction film for no money whatsoever. Aesthetically I want to ground the film in Godard’s work but I want to prove him wrong when he says that cinema is dead.”

Filming is scheduled at:

Southbank, London 13 & 14 July from 5pm

Alimentation Générale, 64, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Paris 18 July from 9pm

Bois de Boulogne, Paris 19 July from 6pm

For more information contact:  wjrcbrown@googlemail.com

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Cannes Film Festival 2009     

Cannes Film Festival 2009

We’re half way through that stellar event on any film buff’s calendar – the Festival de Cannes – and you might be, like me, disappointed about the minimal coverage it gets in the English-speaking press. So here’s five French language blogs on the festival I’d like to share with you:

Don’t be fooled by the English sounding titles, Because We Cannes Cannes Cannes and In The Mood For Cannes are two great blogs en français. The first, from the Film de Culte webzine team (who you can also follow on Twitter), mixes up longer features, focusing for example on the president of this year’s film jury Isabelle Huppert,with picture posts and overview lists. The second is written by screenwriter and film critic Sandra Mézière, who takes us on a more personal journey through the festival.  

If the côté “people” (as the French like to call celebrities) is more your thing, try the AlloCiné Cannes blog for photos and Le Buzz and Pure People for gossip, videos and more.

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When it comes to lavish dramas in historical French settings, I’m easy to please. I have to reserve special praise though for Chéri, which I had the pleasure to indulge in at the British Film Institute last Thursday. This masterful adaptation of Colette’s Belle Époque novel sees the reunion of Dangerous Liaisons director-writer duo Stephen Frears and Christopher Hampton.

With the same skill they applied to Laclos’ tale of sex, love and deception, they draw out the best moments of badinage, tension and tenderness from Colette’s rich text. They magic the world of Chéri on to the big screen – the sumptuous art nouveau world of Paris before the First World War where ageing courtesan Léa (Michelle Pfeiffer) falls for Chéri (Rupert Friend), the 19-year old son of another courtesan.

The froth and frills Consolata Boyle’s set and costumes captivate but it is Pfieffer’s subtle portrayal of a beautiful woman who knows age is catching her up that makes this film so utterly charming.

I was equally charmed by Frears himself. His wit shone in the talk he gave after the show at the BFI on Thursday. No artistic bullshit for him. Asked, for example, why Colette was less frequently adapted than Jane Austen, he quipped: “Because she wrote in French.”

Well, good job that didn’t put him off. The Frears/Hampton/Pfeiffer team have become expert adaptors of French novels. Here’s hoping they try their hand at Balzac next.

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I recently went to see Palme d’Or-winning French film The Class, or as it was called in the original, Entre Les Murs. The semi-autobiographical work is based on a book by former teacher François Bégaudeau, who plays himself in the film.

Over 120 minutes, we are shown a strikingly realistic depiction of Bégaudeau’s experiences of teaching at a high school in the 19e arrondissement in Paris. The film culminates in a pupil being expelled.

It was really interesting for me to see how this incident shows the French school system to be at once more liberal and more authoritarian than the English system.

Before the student is expelled he is invited to a tribunal where he can defend himself. The teachers then vote on whether he should stay or go. I cannot imagine this happening in England. Instead it would no doubt be a case of the headmaster laying down the law.

However, the chain of events which lead up to the student’s expulsion start with him disrespecting his teacher by tutoiying him i.e. using tu rather than the more polite vous. Would this have been looked upon so harshly in England?

This got me thinking about the differences between the French and English education systems. So I decided to interview French students at City University, London, who have gone through both systems, to see what they thought. See video clip below.

 

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The iconoclastic French cinematic movement known as La Nouvelle Vague turns 50 this year. To celebrate cinemas across the UK, working in partnership with the BFI, will screen the works of its directors, including François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Jean-Luc Godard from mid-March until mid-May.

These titans of le 7eme art transformed French cinema and made it what it is today. For this alone their films would be worth seeing. But they are also very enjoyable to watch. If you want to swot up a bit before going to see a Nouvelle Vague film, read this post from La Plume et l’Image or if you prefer to read something in English try this post from Blue Grass Film Society.

The Nouvelle Vague festival kicks off with a two day conference this weekend at Ciné lumière in South Kensington. Tomorrow night, Bernadette Lafont, star of Truffaut’s court métrage, Les Mistons, is guest of honour and will hold a Q&A after the film screening. For more information about the talk see Ciné lumiere’s website.

Truffaut will take centre stage at Barbican with eight of his films shown there from April 10 to May 31. Meanwhile, BFI South Bank is showcasing a wide range of Nouvelle Vague oeuvres throughout April including Godard’s seminal À bout de souffle and lesser known films, such as Agnès Varda’s boldly experimental La Pointe courte.

The festival isn’t just confined to London. Audiences in Belfast, Bristol, Edinburg, Sheffield and Liverpool will be treated to screenings of Les Quatre cents Coups and Pierrot le fou. For more information see BFI New Wave.

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A French spy film set in London has shot to number two in the French box office.

The film, Espion(s) has also received rave reviews from the press in France for its beautiful shots of London and sexy storyline: Guillaume Canet plays Vincent, a baggage-handler at DOrly who is forced into becoming a spy by the French secret service and MI5 after he witnesses a bomb explosion. His first task is to charm the French wife of an English millionaire.

Its being touted as an art-house, more philosophical version of the Bourne films. Lets hope it makes it way over here.

If you want to get the views of average French people on the film see Allocine. This useful website gives a synopsis of the film, details the star ratings given by big French publications and has users’ film reviews.  

For more high-brow analysis, try Matthieu Tuffreaus cinema Blog at Le Monde. (You can find Allocine‘s homepage in my bookmarks and a link to Matthieu Tuffreau’s blog in my blogroll.)

Or if you just want an overview in English, try this page from The Guardian.

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