populaire – france (2013)

Rose tries to remember which fingers go where!

I have been meaning to review this film for ages, and just haven’t got around to it!

I saw it at Hackney Picturehouse a few months ago, but it is now going to be available on DVD in less than 3 weeks!

It’s an unlikely subject for an entertaining film – the speed typing contests of the 1950s.

1958 and Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) is desperate to escape her tiny Normandy hometown.  Having taught herself to type on a typewriter borrowed out of the window of her father’s shop, she makes her way to apply for a secretarial job for an insurance firm in the larger town of Lisieux.

Although she can only type with two-fingers, her speed is outstanding, and this fact secures her the role, working for the dashingly handsome and chauvanistic Louis Echard (Romain Duris).

As their working relationship progresses and Rose gains confidence, Romain realises that if she can hit such typing speeds with just two fingers, that if she could type with ALL of her fingers, she should be able to win speed typing contests, thus throwing light and glory on his company.

So, he moves her into his rambling old home and sets her on a strict training regime.  Could Rose get as far as the New York world championship?  Will romance bloom under such pressure?

I absolutely adored this film.  It’s light, frothy, stylish and touching.  Déborah François is a far cry from the quiet menace of The Page Turner  but still plays that understated innocence to perfection.

By contrast, Romain Duris is flash, slightly sleazy and brooding.  The perfect Frenchman – smoking too much and with a wandering eye for the ladies.

Reminiscent of the wonderful 50s films of Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn, this is a step back into a gentler, more romantic, less trashy time. Although, being French, there had to be at least ONE nipple making an appearance.

The contests themselves are a wonderful riot of noise and colour, with some great characters – who knew that watching women type could be so entertaining!

Girls, save yourself a weekend afternoon, grab a huge mug of tea (wine) and some chocolate and curl up on the sofa.  I guarantee it will bring a smile to your face.

aelita: queen of mars (with minima)

Aelita’s confidante and perspex beardy-man

Last weekend, I spent another lovely evening at Hackney Picturehouse.  I actually went slightly early and did my homework for my creative writing course, which consisted of  ‘observing’ people in a crowded place.  It really is a great place to people-watch…but then I end up people-watching all the time (it’s just a nicer way of saying I’m nosey really, isn’t it?)

Anyway, I digress (as usual).  I had never heard of Aelita, but enjoyed Minima‘s live score to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari so much before that I was willing to watch anything with them playing 🙂

Yakov Protazanov’s Aelita was first released in 1924, and is set in 1921.  It was apparently the first science-fiction film to come out of the Soviet Union, but to be honest, the ‘sci-fi’ bit of it isn’t the main story.

A strange radio transmission is being received across the world, and one of the recipients is an engineer called Los.  Newly-married to Natasha, the message intrigues Los and he starts day-dreaming of its origin.

We cut to his dreams, which are of the woman of the title – Aelita, Queen of Mars.  Although Aelita is supposedly the Queen, she doesn’t really seem to have much power – that is down to the Elders.  One of the inventors has built a special ‘viewing machine’, which he shows to Aelita, and she becomes obsessed with Earth, and especially one man – Los himself.

Meanwhile, Los & Natasha have been told that they have to take in a lodger, Elrich.  Unknown to them, Elrich is married, and his wife is currently working on Los’ colleague, conning him out of his money.  Elrich too is abusing his position and stealing from the State (the political messaging in the film is unmistakable throughout!).  However, Los becomes fixated on his misguided suspicion that Natasha is having an affair with Elrich, and this in turn pushes him into day-dreaming more about Aelita.

This film is absolutely bloody bonkers! 

I could see echoes of Dr Caligari in it, especially in the Mars-based sets, and I could also see shere it probably influenced some of the scenes that came a few years later in Metropolis.  Some of the Mars costumes were truly odd – one girl had trousers that looked like bird cages, and there was a large amount of perspex in the costumes of the Elders – some great perspex hair and beards (see above).

However, there were a lot of scenes where me and my mate looked at each other and just said “WTF??” — I think the total surrealism of it all added to its appeal though, as I have been thinking back over it a lot over the past week.

As for the live score, Minima were once again fantastic – atmospheric, haunting, spot-on!  I especially liked the dog bark that one of them managed (was it the cellist??)

I have already booked tickets for me and my mates to their double-bill at the Prince Charles Cinema next month – Dr Caligari again but also Nosferatu, which I have never seen 🙂

the extraordinary adventures of adèle blanc-sec – france (2010)

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

I saw a trailer for this film when I watched Potiche recently – and was surprised that I had never heard of it before.  It’s a Luc Besson film after all!  So I immediately put it to the top of my Blockbuster list!

Set in 1912 Paris, we first join Professor Espérandieu as purely by the power of his mind, he hatches a pterodactyl from the egg held in a museum there.  However, this is just a test-run for him – the real project is to help Adèle Blanc-Sec in her quest to cure her sister.

We then meet Adèle in a tomb in Cairo where she is looking for the mummified remains of a Pharoah’s doctor to bring back to Paris.

We watched this as a family, and we all really enjoyed it.  It’s a proper family ‘caper’ – but especially great for girls to watch as Adèle is a brilliant feisty, confident role-model type.  Think something of a cross between The Mummy and Night at The Museum.

It’s very Luc Besson, very stylised, with some gorgeous scenery – and it is incredibly funny. The mummies are hilarious 🙂

I think it’s based on some French comics, and you could see that in soe of the scenes.  There is a lot of CGI, and it’s a little hit and miss – some of it is done very well, but some is a rather less impressive.

Louise Bourgoin who plays Adèle is fantastic – beautiful, expressive and totally believable.  The Girl just wanted to be her!

I am really surprised that this has only got 6.1 on IMDB.  I think it deserves far higher.  I know it’s not Oscar material, but it’s extremely entertaining, totally harmless and very fun.

My rating – 8/10

the silent house – uruguay (2010)

The Silent House

I had never actually heard of this film before, but wasbrowsing the World Cinema section in CEX in Walthamstow a couple of weeks ago and it caught my eye – and for a couple of quid, you can’t really complain!

This is a rather claustrophobic horror story (but only a 15 rating, so not particularly gruesome – more of a thriller than a horror really) set in one location, a small, isolated, ramshackle cottage and the immediate grounds that it nestles in.

(Probably) teenager Laura and her father (Wilson)  have been tasked with tidying up the cottage and garden to get it ready for sale.  The film begins early evening, following them as they walk across the firld to meet the owner (Nestor) who is is Wilson’s friend.  He lets them in, shows them a couple of old chairs they can sleep in for the night and promises to bring them back some food.  He also warns them not to go upstairs as the floor is unstable and he doesn’t want them to have an accident.

The film has barely any colour, grim & grainy and shot on a ‘home-movie’ style handheld, almost shadowing Laura.  You feel like you’re permanently sitting on her shoulder! And she goes around the house with a lamp or torch most of the time, so there is a ring of darkness just to the edge of the shot.

The main reason that this film is unique though is because it appears to have been filmed all in one continuous take, making the film in real time.  There are a couple of moments where I thought “Could that have been edited?” but they definitely site it as a one-take film, which is pretty amazing really – and worth watching even just to see how they did it!  It certainly gives this a completely different feel to your usual horror film.

It was quite engrossing, but as I said, really rather claustrophobic.  I must admit, i enjoyed it quite a bit, BUT it did have times where nothing much seemed to be happening.  There was a lot of time spent with Laura holding up her gas lamp, just looking at various pictures and bric-a-brac in rooms.  I guess this is because of the ‘real time’ and one take aspect of it – they probably needed time to prepare for the more ‘action’ scenes.

I think the one thing that disappointed me though was the ending, I’m not exactly a thickie, but I really didn’t understand it.  I understood what it was trying to say, and what had come before, but how it all actually worked within the confines of the film slightly alluded me.

If anyone nearby wants to borrow the DVD though, it’s worth a look and you’re more than welcome 🙂

My rating 6.5/10

the cabinet of dr caligari (with minima)

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

A couple of weeks ago, me and three friends went along to Hackney Attic (top floor of the wonderful Hackney Picturehouse – where I happened to take The Girl to see the brilliant Avengers Assemble yesterday) to see a one-off showing of 1920 silent film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

This featured a live score by 4 man band Minima.

The film itself is often thought of as one of the most influential horror movies.  It is a lesson in German expressionism – the sets are all highly stylized, with a lot of sharp, jagged buildings and furniture, disproportionate sets and backdrops that were painted on canvas.

The actors also often played their roles in a rather odd and jerky manner (think the Smirnoff Judderman advert) and I read that it is believed to have introduced the twist ending in film.

Obviously these days, watching such an old film, a lot of the melodrama and horror and over-acting seems rather amusing in places, but it doesn’t detract from a solid tale, and some truly iconic scenes and memorable moments.

This was completely enhanced by Minima’s score.  i had never heard of Minima before, but I will certainly be looking out for them in the future – they were amazing.  This definitely wasn’t your usual silent film score.  They’re funky, and definitely more of a rock band, but the atmosphere they injected into the film was truly outstanding.

Minima consist of an electric guitar, drums, bass, and the necessary spooky cello – and you wouldn’t believe such a wide-range of moods and sounds could be emitted from such a tiny number of instruments…they were fantastic.

The film for this month is Piccadilly (which I had never heard of, let alone seen!) again at Hackney Attic on the 20th and will have a live score by Igor Outkine on the accordian.  I will probably be going!

I will leave you with a clip.

troll hunter – norway (2010)

Troll Hunter

I remember seeing the posters to this all over the tube and being rather intrigued.

University students Thomas, Johanna and Kalle decide to investigate a spate of mysterious bear-killing’s and start to suspect that one particular man (Hans) could be a poacher.  He keeps irregular hours, there is much gossip about him in bear-hunting circles. With Thomas presenting, Johanna responsible for audio and Kalle mostly unseen behind the camera, they follow him out into the woods one night and are faced with the realisation that he is no bear-hunter at all.  He is hunting FAR bigger prey.

Once they accept that trolls aren’t just creatures of myth and legend, and that hans is actually a government operative, employed to keep the public from ever knowing the truth, they realise they have stumbled across documentary gold.  Hans is bored of his lonely life and feels it is about time reality is known to all, so he allows them to follow him and film his work.

Shot with a handheld camera in the style of The Blair Witch Project, Troll Hunter at least serves you up some actual monsters, which come across as slightly comical but pretty realistic somehow.  The running around, heavy breathing, crashing through the trees and mis-aimed shots of faces looking terrified are all there, but these students are taking the whole thing with a pinch of salt and enjoying themselves.  This puts an edge of comedy onto the whole thing.

There are also some fantastic shots of a very damp Norwegian landscape looking dramatic and spectacular – mainly out of the truck windows.

I really enjoyed it, it’s a film that was obviously never really going to take itself seriously and you certainly feel caught up in the action – I found myself craning my head round to try to see the troll that was often just out of shot.  Brilliantly done.

My rating – 8/10

departures – japan (2008)


I TiVo’ed this off of Film4 AGES ago and just hadn’t got around to watching it.  seeing as I have been suffering with a severe chest infection for about 10 days now, it was the ideal time to get through a backlog of films.

I don’t really know what I thought this was about – something to do with planes or airports or tourists probably – but it’s an absolute gem.

Masahiro Motoki stars as Daigo Kobayashi, a cellist in a Tokyo orchestra.  When the orchestra is disbanded, Kobayashi’s debts are too much for him and his wife to handle.  He is forced to sell his cello and return to the town where he was brought up.  His mother died two years previously, leaving him the family home as his father had left when he was six.

He looks for work and stumbles across an advert asking for someone to help with ‘departures’ – no former experience necessary.  Him and his wife decide the job must be for something like a tour guide and so he applies and goes along for an interview.

After a rather bizarre interview, he discovers that the job is to help with ‘the departed’ – as an ‘encoffiner’, performing a cleansing and preparation ritual for the newly deceased in front of their loved ones, readying the body for the funeral.

This is an absolutely beautiful film (with a lot of cello music unsurprisingly), and explores reactions to death, loyalty and tradition.  The way the ritual itself is performed is breathtaking and dignified, and makes you wish that everyone was treated with such respect after death.

It is also extremely funny, the comic elements flowingly easily with the more emotional.

I loved every single minute of it – it didn’t even seem corny when he played the cello on top of a hill, as the music fit with the montage of the different families paying their respects to their loved ones beautifully.

You HAVE to watch this.  My rating – 10/10

les acteurs – france (2000)

Les Acteurs

I really have no idea why this film was made.

It is full of fantastic French actors all ‘playing themselves’, and I believe is meant to be just a glimpse into the everyday life of showbiz and celebrity.

At only 1h39m it isn’t exactly very long, but honestly, after about 25 minutes, I simply had to turn it off.  It’s awful.  There is no plot, the ‘script’ is non-existent and I had no idea what the point of it was.

To be honest, I really have nothing to say abotu it apart from AVOID AT ALL COSTS!!!

rare exports – finland (2010)

Rare Exports

Yesterday was the last day of March, so I thought it the ideal time to watch a Christmas film – or at least a film about Santat Claus 🙂

UIt may well be about Christmas, but there’s nothing fluffy about it at all.  This is a horror film, but almost a comedy noir.  I have to admit, I found myself shaking my head a few times as i wasn’t altogether sure what I was making of it.

Excavations are happening on the Korvatunturi mountain, and Pietari and his friend Juuso climb through a hole in the fencing to find out what’s going on – but the American excavation team release something that nobody knew was under all the rock.

With children disappearing, and the adults of his town left with no idea how to deal with the strange goings-on, it falls down to Pietari to devise a cunning plan to tackle the ultimate Bad Santa.

This film was genuinely creepy in places, and the boy playing Pietari was fantastic.  The idea of Santa knowing which children were naughty or nice…and then tearing the naughty ones limb from limb appealed to me somewhat 🙂

This is definitely no polished Hollywood blockbuster – but hell, who wants them when you can have creepy old men’s willies (yes, that  was one shower scene that was more horrific than the rest of the film put together!)

My rating – 7.5/10

priceless – france (2006)


This is a gorgeous little film, starring the beautiful (and always immensely watchable) Audrey Tatou.

Jean (Gad Elmaleh) works in a large, posh hotel in the South of France, playground of the rich and beautiful.  A chance encounter with Irène (Tatou) spins his world out of control as he falls for her instantly.  But she is a gold-digger, and believes he himself is a successful businessman.

When she discovers this is not the case, she blatantly takes him for everything he does have, and tells him nothing can stop her from obtaining her goal of essentially being a trophy of wife.  Unwittingly, he joins her path, becoming the play thing of a wealthy widow, with Irène giving him handy hints.

This is a LOVELY film – considering the subject matter, it is done so tongue in cheek, with such charm and grace. It is absiolutely adorable.  Really Sunday afternoon fluff.  And Tatou manages to look flawlessly gorgeous the while way through!

My rating – 8.5/10

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