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.

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

le bouchon breton, old spitalfields market (2)

We went to Le Bouchon Breton to use an accumulation of TopTable points last October, and I had a Groupon voucher to use, so we happily skipped along to spend it.

Sauteed Mushrooms &Parsley Butter in a Puff Pastry case

I have to admit, the look wasn’t what I was expecting, but there was a bit of the happy 70’s in me as the presentation of a huge vol-au-vent pleased me immensely!  And it was totally yummy, rich in flavour, creamy but still light.

Foie Gras Terrine Served with Mango Compote

The Man had decided to go for the most expensive items on the menu, just to really get our money’s worth 😀  He melted at the first taste of his foie gras and said that the mango compote shouldn’t have worked but really really did!

'Le Baron' rib eye steak

The Man went for a rather large steak  it really, really was massive. However, he did order it blue, and to be quite honest, it was probably to thick to have blue as (to me) it just looked like a big bit of slightly warmed raw beef.  I didn’t try any!

French Trimmed Rack of Lamb served with Darphin Potatoes, Spinach and Baby Onions

I have to admit, I went for exactly the same as I had before. Predictable, I know, but it was such gorgeous lamb – and I love lamb, it’s my favourite meat of all!  And once again, I wasn’t disappointed – it was absolutely melt in the mouth delicious!

The restaurant is pretty well known for its cheese trolley, so The Man decided to give that a go…I tried hard not to wince as the lid was lifted and the waft of rather ripe cheeses drifted across.  I like cheese, but I hate the smell of the smelly ones!

Tarte Tatin

Oh yes, I had the tarte tatin!  Well, actually I had half a tarte tatin as I simply couldn’t eat any more!  It was one of the best I have had  but then you would expect that from a french restaurant, wouldn’t you!

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable meal.  And if you like seafood, we saw a couple of the seafood platters come out and they were ENORMOUS!  This is definitely a restaurant that you need to come to hungry as they definitely like to feed you!


the elegance of the hedgehog – muriel barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

This book was a choice of the Walthamstow Book Club for last month, but I have been a little slack in posting recently!

It has been translated from the original French and is set in modern-day Paris, in a very exclusive, grand and elegant apartment building full of rich, sophisticated tennants.

One of these tennants is Paloma, who is 12 years old, lives with her parents and older sister, doesn’t like any of them really, is extremely intelligent and is determined to burn her apartment down with herself inside before her 13th birthday.

Renee is the building’s concierge – a faceless ‘worker’ to the building’s tennants – carrying out the necessary tasks without question or complaint as someone of her position should.  however, Renee is actually very intellectual and loves teh finer things in life, although she feels this must be kept secret from those that she ‘services.

It’s been about 3 weeks since we discussed this book, and I have to admit that although I enjoyed it at face value, the more we discussed it, the less impressed I was with it – and now, going back over the main lines of the story, I feel even less inclined towards it!

It was beautifully written (and wonderfully translated by Alison Anderson) and he characters were very well ‘described’.  However, they still managed to feel like caricatures to me. I never really understood WHY Renee didn’t want anyone to know what she was really like – and Paloma just annoyed the hell out of me. She was meant to be TWELVE – Ok, she was a bit maudlin and very intelligent, but she was just a little girl.  I have a 12 year old girl (nearly) and there was not a single childlike characteristic or behaviour in Paloma!

The ending was also far too fast and (in my opinion) unnecessary.  I just didn’t get it. I didn’t understand the need to end the book in that way, because I felt that the story wasn’t actually finished.  There were fare too many questions left unanswered, and I am just screwing my face up in puzzlement recalling it now. NOT a good sign! (Or a good look for me.)

I liked the dogs though – the dogs were great – they were so…French!

So, if you want a non-trashy read that although beautifully crafted and relatively literary is still quite light, and you enjoy playing “What happened next?”, then this could well be the book for you.

UPDATE:  Have just found out that this has been made into a film and she be released in the UK next month – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1442519/ – some of us in the Book Club are thinking of going to see it!

micmacs – france (2009)


Micmacs is directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet of Amelie fame  so you can imagine how difficult it is to describe the visual feast that it is.

Bazil has a humdrum life, and works in the local video-store.  One night, he witnesses a biker being shot at and is hit in the head by a stray bullet.  When he leaves hospital, his life is changed forever and he finds himself part of a rather unusual group.

The group includes a robot-maker, a flexi-girl and a human canonball amongst others.

With nothing left to lose, he hatches an elaborate plan to bring down a pair of weapons dealers, ably assisted by his new motley crew.

It’s a beautifully crafted, surprisingly innocent film with some wonderfully creative scenes and ideas.  Me and The Girl thought it was brilliant.  But then, we like things that are a little surreal!

My rating – 8.5/10

a l’aventure – france (2008)

If I had seen the DVD cover, I would've known what I was letting myself in for...

I recorded this off of Cinémoi again, and to be honest, I have no idea what I THOUGHT it was going to be about – but I wasn’t really expecting what I got.

On the info on Virgin, it said something like “Sandrine is unsatisfied with her life with her boyfriend and goes on a voyage of self-discovery and sexual liberation.”  Fair enough, this is a French film – they’re usually very sexually open and aware.

What I actually got was soft porn, which I really wasn’t prepared for.

The problem was that Sandrine and her story were so boring, that I found myself fast forwarding to the rude bits – and after a while, I was even fast-forwarding those, and just reading the subtitles (one of the good things with subtitled films, you can get through them in half the time if they’re a bit slow, as you still know what’s being said!)

When I just looked on Amazon, I was surprised to see this had had 4 ratings of 5 stars – it really didn’t deserve them – although, if you want soft pron, at least there was a pretense of a story attached to it.

I think the IMDB rating of 6/10 is far more understandable.

My rating 5/10 (and 3 of that was because the girls had good tits!).

narco – france (2004)


With a secondary title of “The Secret Adventures of Gustave Klopp”, this is a film that I had never heard of, let alone intended to watch.

However, there were obviously some programming issues with those lovely people at Cinémoi, as I had set my TiVo to record Le Péril Jeune on Wednesday, but when I went to watch it today it was Narco (even though it showed as Le Peril Jeune in the listings, and in my recordings – what’s all that about?)

As it was, I wasn’t disappointed at all – Narco was very amusing.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t about drugs, as I originally thought it might be, but was actually about Gustave Klopp, a guy with narcolepsy.  Although in reality, narcolepsy must be an extremely difficult, I have to admit that it makes for some very amusing scenes with a slight slapstick quality.

The film was anything BUT slapstick though, it was a decent black comedy with some great characters including a best friend who wants to be the best karate star in the world, a wife with a teenage son due to being a gymslip mother (literally – she got knocked up by her then PE teacher!), a pair of ice-skating assassin twins, a guy who feels the need to inflict pain on redheads and even a cameo by Jean-Claude Van Damne playing a fanatic’s imaginary version of himself (think of Cantona in Looking For Eric).

Gus is obviously unemployable, but has started having very vivid comic-book style dreams, which he then draws once he’s awake – and he is incredibly talented.  After joining a therapy group who love his story-telling, he finds that his life is at risk from a most unexpected source!

I’m not sure why it has such a low rating on IMDB – I loved it!

My rating – 8/10

See, the title says Narco, the info says Le Péril Jeune!

fair play – france (2006)

Fair Play

When this film first started, I thought that it was going to be a black comedy – it had all the elements; a seemingly high-powered business environment, sexism and a comical looking man with weird glasses and outrageous clothes.

However, although there are some funny parts at the start, it soon becomes rather dark – but not dark enough to be a thriller, or menacing.

Basically, it’s about a bunch of people who would do anything to get ahead in their company.  This includes the gorgeous Marion Cotillard, who I most recently enjoyed in Love Me If You Dare.

But even she isn’t very likeable.  None of them are.  So, when they all go off on a staff ‘canyoneering’ trip, and disaster strikes, you just hope that they’re all going to die.

It passed some time, but I definitely wouldn’t want to watch it again – and I absolutely hated the ending.

My rating – 6/10

spiral (engrenages) – series 1

The main cast of Spiral

I have been rather slow on the uptake with this one.  The first series was first aired in 2005 in France, and first shown on BBC Four in 2006.  There have been another 2 series since then, with the third currently showing on BBC Four.

When a friend mentioned it to me 3 or 4 weeks ago, I sat down to start watching it, not realising it was the THIRD series, until the title credits came up…so I switched it off and got Series 1 Part 1 from Blockbuster.

So glad that I did – I have now watched the whole of series 1 and it is brilliant!

This is a police drama series with true grit and hard-hitting storylines.  The series starts on the body of a Romanian prostitute that has been chucked in a skip with her face horribly smashed in.  This main story arc continues throughout the series (and will into series 2 by the looks of it!), but other stories are dealt with including a mother whose baby is cut into pieces by the nanny, a father accused of raping his two daughters, a detective with a coke habit and a father accused of killing his handicapped son.

It took a little while for me to get my head around the obvious differences in the French judicial system – judges and magistrates seem to be interwoven into the police investigations.  In particular, Deputy Prosceutor Pierre Clement, played rather dashingly by Gregory Fitoussi, and Police Captain Laure Berthaud played by Caroline Proust.

This is a fantastic series – but it’s not The Bill – it’s not for the faint-hearted…it deals with difficult cases with no glitz and sparkle.  it shows brutal crimes in exactly that manner.  It shows the worst of human nature in a disturbingly believable way.

I have ordered Series 2 and can’t wait for it to show up!

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: