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Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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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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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Having recently returned from a trip to Paris, I am determined not to stop enjoying good French patisseries. There are so many great places in London where you can get delicious macaronstartes aux framboises and éclairs.

Out of dedication to my stomach this blog, I decided to go back to a few of my favourites, sample their delicacies, take some photos and share these places with you through an audio slide show. I hope you enjoy the fruits of my labour as much as I did:

For the addresses of the places I mention in the slide show – Macaron in Clapham Common, Ladureé in Piccadilly and at Harrods, and Maison Bertaux in Soho and Borough Market – please see the Google map below:

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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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