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.


the returned – jason mott

The Returned

You may have guessed that i picked this book up due to it sharing the same name and premise as the fantastic French series currently showing on Channel 4.  However, I will start by warning all those that get all excited by that thought – this is NOTHING like the series.

The dead are returning.

In Arcadia, a small town in the US, elderly God-fearing church-goer Lucille tells her husband Harold “They’re not people – they’re devils!”

That is before Agent Martin Bellamy from the Federal Bureau Of The Returned turns up on their doorstep with Jacob.  Jacob, their only son who died 55 years before – drowned on his 8th birthday.

As Lucille seems to whole-heartedly embrace the boy as their son, Harold is suddenly the one with the doubts. How can this be possible? The dead are dead – they can’t come back.  he looks for signs that the child is something other than exactly what he seems. His son.

When Agent Bellamy asks “Do you want to keep him?” Harold has to search his heart for an honest answer.

As more and more of the Returned appear across the world, emotions run high.  Different cultures react to them differently. Soon they will outnumber the living – and then what?

And Arcadia has its own protesters against the Returned.

There were parts of this book that I loved, and parts that just didn’t work as well for me.

I believe that the author had the idea for the story after his parents had died, and he had a dream that he came home and found his mother sitting at the dinner table just waiting for him.

These are the parts of the story that worked for me.  The emotional, difficult question – how would we react to our beloved dead if they suddenly came back and started iving amongst us again.  How would their return affect us?  How would the changes in the world appear to them?

I think that this is being explored far better in the French series – it’s far more about people and coming to terms with what’s happened and is now happening.

The Returned

I think the book lost a little momentum in the middle. Overall it was a good story, and the main characters were believable and likeable. The ending was simple, but effective, although I wasn”t as keen on the last chapters leading up to it.

I am thinking that perhaps the very reason I picked the book up in the first place was the reason I ended up not being quite as taken with it.  If you haven’t watched the French series, you’ll probably really like the book!

And just for those who have been watching the series – did you know that it’s a remake of a 2004 French film called “They Came Back“?  I didn’t!

The Returned by Jason Mott will be published on 27th August 2013.

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

borgen, series 1 – denmark (first thoughts)


I am always late coming to these things – I may have watched all of Spiral now, but I am yet to watch any of The Killing.

However, yesterday I watched the first 4 episodes of the first series of Danish political drama Borgen (apparently from the same producers as The Killing anyway).

I have to say, it really did grab me from the start.  It begins a few days before a general election and follows the rise of the leader of the Moderate party Birgitte Nyborg to being Denmark’s first female Prime Minister and how her new-found power affects her.

There is also the sub-plots of the politcial media andhow they can change the course of politics themselves – all very interesting stuff, and as always, very topical.

I am totally loving it already, and can’t wait to get the next 4 episodessent to me from my Blockbuster subscription.  I realise I have totally missed it being on BBC Four somehow.

A couple of silly observations I made was how Danish doesn’t seem to be a very ‘flowy’ language – they all sounded as if they were speaking a foreign language (not to me, silly, but to themselves!) and that when it said “Shit! shit shit!” on screen, they actually say “Piss! piss! piss!” which amused me.  And finally, I thought that two of the main characters looked a bit like the Danish Billie Piper and the Danish Ewan McGregor.  But that could just be me, of course!

Denmark provides it’s answers to Billie Piper & Ewan McGregor?

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

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

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