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!

a town called panic – france/belgium (2009)


Oh my GOD!  Why didn’t I know of the existence of this film?  And even more, why didn’t I know there was a series before there was a film?  I NEED THE SERIES!!!!

*Deep breath*

OK – so, think of the Cravendale adverts with the little plastic figures – this is like a WHOLE FILM of them.  It is SO much better than Toy Story!!

My mate lent it to me for The Girl, and we both just watched it, and were giggling hysterically all the way through.

It’s Horse’s birthday, but Indian and Cowboy (who live with him) have forgotten to buy him a present.  In their panic to get him the perfect present, they go through a number of surreal but hilarious mishaps including destroying Horse’s house, which end in them going on an adventure, encountering a mahoosive giant penguin, underwater monsters and journeying to the centre of the earth.

WATCH THIS FILM!!! (And I’m talking to YOU Lee!!!)

My rating – 10/10

And I will leave you with the trailer (yes, it IS worth having to watch the short ad before it!)

il est plus facile pour un chameau – france (2003)

Il est plus facile pour un chameau

I was actually rather disappointed by this film, as it sounded like the kind of thing the French typically do fantastically – all about family, love, relationships and finding yourself.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Carla’s older sister apparently) stars (and I’ve just found out also directed) the story of Federica.  The daughter of a an extremely wealthy Italian businessman, who is on his deathbed in Paris  the city her family have called home since she was a young girl.

With her beloved daddy dying, Federica seems to find that she’s at a point in her life where she should be making decisions and working out what she wants to do.

She is torn between her boyfriend and her ex-lover, she is constantly fighting with her sister, nobody seems to be interested in the play that she has written, and she doesn’t want to end up like her selfish brother.

It’s got everything that should’ve made it a little French delight – but somewhere along the line, it falls short of the mark.  Bruni’s performance was great, but I didn’t really buy into the characters around her, or the situations Federica ended up in – they seemed to jar with her personality.

Oh, and the title translates as “It’s Easier For A Camel…”

My rating – 6.5/10

mr 73 – france (2008)

MR 73

This is a rather grisly French cop film starring the always wonderful Daniel Auteuil.

I’ve just found out that it is the third in a trio of films that starts with Gangsters (which I think I have recorded from Cinemoi) and also includes 36 Quai Des Orfevres which is apparently the best, and I have added to my Blockbuster list.

An MR 73 is apparently a type of gun, which is shown in the film and I have since read that it was a revolver issued to the French elite police.

Louis (Daniel Auteuil) is a cop who has rather gone off the rails – his young daughter was killed in an accident, which also left his wife on a ventilator, near enough a vegetable.  This is never really explained in that much depth and I’m now wondering if the accident happens in one of the other films.

He is on the case of a serial killer rapist (some not very nice scenes) but is taken off of the case.  In the meantime, the daughter of a couple that were brutally murdered 25 years previously contacts him as he was one of the first officers on the scene, and her parent’s murderer is about to be released from prison.

The two stories don’t seem to sit very well together, with Louis the only common factor.

However, I did like the film, and am very interested in the other two now that I know of their existence!  the ending, although quite obvious once the scene set in motion, was extremely well-acted, and quite heart-wrenching even though rather gorey.

My rating – 7/10

je vous trouve tres beau – france (2006)

Je vous trouve tres beau

‘Je vous trouve tres beau’ translates as ‘You are so beautiful/handsome’.

I loved this film – it was so harmless.  It was also extremely predictable, but then when you’re in the mood for this kind of light, charming romance, then predictable is exactly what you want.  I’d actually have felt quite cheated if it hadn’t ended the way that I wanted it to.

Aymé is a middle-aged rural farmer whose wife dies suddenly, and is given the idea of finidng a new wife through a ‘relationship agency’.  Once the agency discover he has no interests, hobbies, no friends as such, asnd just wants someone who is willing to work the farm with him, they suggets he may have more luck trying to find a wife in Romania, where the girls would apparently do anything to bag themselves a French husband (no matter how short, bald and boring they are!).

He discovers Elena, and brings her back to the farm.

There are some lovely gentle comic moments with his family/friends and there are some brilliant performances by the main cast.  However, I don’t think the film shows Romania or its girls in a particularly good light – but that is beside the point.

I thoroughly enjoyed it – it does what it says on the tin.

My rating – 7/10

let the right one in – sweden (2008)

Let The Right One In

After reviewing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I thought I should review that other recent Swedish offering of fantasticness that was Let The Right One In.

This is a vampire story with a difference – the whole ‘sexiness’ of vampires is taken away as this story centres around a 12 year old boy (Oskar) who lives with his mother and is an outcast at school, frequently bullied by some of the other boys.  He often fantasizes about getting his own back.

Local people start being murdered at about the same time as a new girl moves in next door to Oskar with her father.  Eli is also 12…at least on the outside.  Eli is mysterious, she doesn’t go to school, she doesn’t wear any shoes in the snow, she never seems to get cold – and she seems wise beyond her years.

Little does Oskar know that Eli has been 12 for 200 years!

This is a brilliant film, and not your usual vampire story at all.  It’s all about emotions, growing up, love, loyalty and revenge.

There was only one scene in it that jarred with me, and that was the one with the cats.  But having read the book since, yes – the scene IS in the book, so I guess it was staying true, even though it would have been near enough impossible to recreate that scene without it looking absolutely hilariously awful.

The book explains a lot more, and actually has Eli a lot more androgynous, which makes a lot more sense in the overall story – but I can see why it may not have worked so well in the film.

I know that the Hollywood version has come out this weekend – and I must admit, I am curious as to why they felt they needed to remake it, and whether they have brought anything new to the story.  I am very dubious.

My rating 9.5/10 (would’ve been prefect without the cat scene!)

the girl with the dragon tattoo – sweden (2009)

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I was a bit wary of watching this film at first because I had enjoyed the book so much (as per my review) and we all know how disappointing adaptations can be.  However, I’d heard good things, and at least it was a Swedish film, so I gave it a go a few weeks ago (yes, and have only just got around to reviewing it!)

I must admit, it makes a pretty good film.  the girl playing Salander is very believable and grungy (which is twice as amazing when you see how gorgeous the actress usually looks), and Blomkvist feels right too.

However, I watched it with The Man and I found that I was having to explain quite a few bits to him that I only knew from reading the book.  The film felt slightly shallow.  I was quite shocked that Erika Berger was shown in the film, and yet not even named, and the relationship between her and Blomkvist went completely unexplained.

Saying that, The Man didn’t feel cheated of any story, and has said that he’ll probably read the books now.

It’s a great story, and it’s a good film.  I will definitely watch the other two.  However, it wasn’t a patch on the book – so probably best to watch BEFORE reading it!  I’d be very interested to know if anyone else felt that some of the vital elements of the plot were missing, or glossed over.

My rating 8/10

them – france / romania (2006)


I picked this little film up for the grand price of one english pound from Computer Exchange.

It takes a lot to make me jump, but jump I did during this film.  It did help of course that i got into the spirit of it – turned all the lights out and watched it on my own.  Although the bloke from British Gas did come around while I was watching, and the doorbell going frightened the life out of me!

The story is of a French couple living in Romania, in their dream home – a large, sprawling old house in the middle of nowhere.  One night, they hear sounds outside, and then their car is stolen.  Soon after this, they realise there is something/one actually in the house, and a night of panic and terror commences.

The suspense through the most part of the film is brilliant, which is why it was quite a relief that it is pretty short – just a 77minute running time I believe!

However, I was quite disappointed by the ending.  In the same way as I was disappointed by the ending of the fantastic Rec.  it felt like the last 5 minutes let the rest of the film down.  I’m not exactly comparing it to Rec (which is a masterpiece throughout…apart from the last 5 minutes), but just the feeling of being let down by an ending that could have been SO much better!

It was a good watch though.  I like jumping!  And who can complain for £1??

My rating 7/10

3 Iron – South Korea (2004)


3 Iron


This is a very unusual film – simple, and beautiful in its simplicity.

It is an easy film to start with for those who have a problem with subtitles, as there is barely any dialogue at all – in fact, from memory, I don’t think that the two main characters who the love-story is based around exchange any words within the film at all!

The story centres on young man who is homeless, but spends his time breaking into the homes of people who are away.  he doesn’t steal anything (apart from perhaps some food and electricity) but spends the time while he’s there doing their washing, cleaning, or fixing things that are broken.

During his travels, he comes across the home of a wealthy businessman who is mistreating his beautiful wife.

He decides to rescue her from her loveless existence, and the film follows what becomes of them.  There are also some undercurrents of ghosts or spirits – people with you that can’t be seen.

It is perfectly shot, beautifully acted and the music used is achingly haunting.  The whole film plays out like a dance and leaves me with tears drying on my cheek every time I watch it (and even The Man thinks it brilliant!)

My rating – 9.5/10

nikita – france (1990)


The wonderful Luc Besson’s Nikita is probably the first subtitled film that I ever fell in love with.

Nikita is a drug addict who kills a police officer in a high during a pharmacy drugs-raid gone wrong.  She is sentenced, but then given a ‘second-chance’ and recruited into a government assassin training programme.

This is a typically French gritty film, with some fantastic acting, and a brilliant Jean Reno playing the short on-screen part of ‘The Cleaner’ when a hit goes wrong.

Hollywood decided to remake this film into the awful The Assassin with Bridget Fonda in 1993, with even Gabriel Byrne unable to save it.  I have also just seen today that a series will be starting on Living next month based on the film – I don’t know whether I will want to watch it or not, as I am sure it will be like a complete assassination of the film!

Nikita is raw, edgy and superb – although it is 20 years old now, and IO haven’t watched it for at least 10.  Perhaps I should give it another go!

My rating – 9/10

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