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La Haine

Director – Mathieu Kassovitz – 1995 – France – Cert. 15 – 98m

***1/2

Three disenchanted, immigrant youths from a banlieu estate take themselves to Central Paris for 24 hours – in cinemas from Friday, September 11th, on Blu-ray from Monday, November 16th and on BFI Player from Friday, December 18th

There’s a verbal story opening and underscoring La Haine. A man falls off a building. Each storey he passes in his descent, he says, “so far, so good…” “so far, so good…” “so far, so good…” It’s not how you fall, it’s how you land. Cue an image of planet Earth with a flaming Mototov Cocktail descending towards it.

Shot in stylish black and white and set in the aftermath of a riot in a Parisian banlieu, the film follows three young friends who beneath their tough guy street banter are concerned for their friend Abdel who has been hospitalized and may well die. While ‘banlieu’ translates literally as ‘suburb’, the French banlieu is at the rough, opposite end of the social scale from cosy, English ‘suburbia’. The banlieu is more like an English sink estate, full of people at the bottom of the social order, powerless, excluded.

This particular banlieu is home to immigrants of various different ethnic backgrounds: Sayid (Saïd Taghmaoui) is Arabic, Vinz (Vincent Cassell) Jewish and Hubert (Hubert Koundé) Black.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

I Am Greta

The Greta good

I am Greta
Directed by Nathan Grossman
Certificate 12a, 98 minutes
Released on 16 October

Greta Thunberg is, without doubt, a remarkable young woman. And this is a remarkable film, although not perhaps for the reasons you might expect.

What’s remarkable is that when the 15-year-old schoolgirl with Asperger’s started her strike for the climate outside the Swedish parliament, the documentary film-maker Nathan Grossman possessed the foresight to start filming her. He kept filming as she was invited to address organisations such as the European Parliament in Strasbourg, meet with world leaders such as France’s President Macron and speak to climate activist meetings and rallies around the globe.

You can’t get that close to a person without finding out something about them. Greta is driven by a focus on one issue. As it happens, that issue is the single most important one facing the survival of the human race and the planet. Read the rest…

I review I Am Greta for Reform.

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Capital In The 21st Century

Director – Justin Pemberton – 2019 – France, New Zealand – Cert. 12 – 103m

*****

An adaptation of Thomas Piketty’s controversial economic treatise Capital In The 21st Century – in cinemas from Friday, September 25th

The content of French economist Thomas Piketty’s eponymous book couldn’t be more relevant. Far from being dry economics, Piketty’s thesis begins that there has always been a minority of wealthy people whose wealth derives from nothing more than being born into wealth. They have done nothing to merit wealth. They do not own it because of any sort of achievement.

The industrial revolution, he argues, gave those with capital (financial assets) the means to substantially increase the amount of capital they own.

Throughout history, the rich have not looked after the whole of society but rather have merely defended their own interests, i.e. maintaining and if possible increasing their position of wealth. They have shown a disdain for the other 99% of people. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, society was broken into those two groups, wealthy and poor.

The rise of the middle class after World War One changed everything, with middle class people wanting their say in how things were run. Changes since the 1970s however threaten the power of the middle class and we may be seeing a return to a majority of very poor people beholden to a wealthy minority – unless we take the action necessary to prevent it.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Les Misérables

Director – Ladj Ly – 2019 – France – Cert. 15 – 104m

****

Exclusively in cinemas from Friday, September 4th

Although this takes its title from Victor Hugo’s eponymous novel, it’s not really an adaptation except in the loosest possible sense. It ends on a quote from the book:

“There are no bad plants, nor bad people – only bad cultivators.”

What it DOES have is a poor underclass and a bunch of cops whose job it is to keep them in order and keep the peace. An optimistic prologue shows the whole of France watching a world cup match and celebrating as France wins – a joyous, transcendent occasion and an example of how things could or ought to be.

Then it quickly shifts gear: three cops in their car patrol a poor housing estate. Chris (Alexis Manenti) is white with an in your face, tough guy approach that commands the residents ‘respect’. The equally tough and no-nonsense Gwada (Djebril Zonga) is black, generally more conciliatory and better at negotiating with local people on the ground. Newcomer Ruiz (Damien Bonnard), in his first day on the job, hails from the countryside and finds himself at odds with the approach of the other two, particularly Chris.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

By the Grace of God (Grâce à Dieu)

Abuse in church

By the Grace of God (Grâce à Dieu)
Directed by François Ozon
Certificate 15, 137 minutes
London Film Festival, 5 and 6 October
Released 25 October

First published in Reform magazine. Now on Amazon and Curzon Home Cinema.

Over two hours long, this gripping and hugely topical affair dramatises the scandal of child abuse at Catholic summer camps over 20 years ago in the diocese of Lyon, France. The case has shaken the Church there since it became public in recent years. Despite Father Bernard Preynat (Bernard Verley) admitting his guilt, his superior, Cardinal Barbarin (François Marthouret) failed to curtail Preynat’s access to children thereby enabling his abuse of more victims in the ensuing years.

At a press conference, the cardinal uses the phrase ‘by the grace of God’ about the statute of limitations on many of the abuse cases. He is immediately criticised for the comment but it reveals how Barbarin is concerned more with protecting the institution of the Catholic Church than in caring for his flock.

Writer-director François Ozon constructs his narrative around three survivors… Read the rest

First published in Reform magazine. Now on Amazon and Curzon Home Cinema.

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

Perfumes (Les Parfums)

Director – Grégory Magne – 2019 – France – Cert. tbc – 100m

****

In Cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 21st

GuGuillaume (Grégory Montel) is a chauffeur. His boss Arsène (Gustave Kervern) is thoroughly fed up with him, so gives him a job with a known difficult customer Mademoiselle Walberg. Guillaume is currently trying to get 50/50 custody of his daughter, so needs his job. And must put up with any nonsense his client comes up with. Like throwing his cigarette packet out of the car window. Or insisting he help her change the hotel bedsheets because she doesn’t like the smell of the chambermaid’s perfume.

The reclusive Anne Walberg (Emmanuelle Devos) is a ‘nose’. She combines smells to create perfumes and had a stint with the Dior company before her career took a wrong turn. These days, all her agent can get her is recreating the smells of caves or making the fumes from unpleasant factories smell nice. But she longs to make perfumes again.

This is a stylish and charming movie with unusual, olfactory subject matter. You can’t smell in movies, so this element is instead conjured by verbal description. In a trip to a cave – the real cave, not the duplicate nearer the highway for which she must compose the smells, Anne feels, rubs and sniffs cave interior surfaces, getting Guillaume to write everything she says in a notebook.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Papicha

Director – Mounia Meddour – 2019 – France, Algeria, Belgium, Qatar – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

In selected cinemas (Curzons Bloomsbury and Mayfair). Also on Barbican cinema on demand, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema and Peccadillo Pictures On Demand from Friday, August 7th.

Algerian university fashion student Nedjma (Lyna Khoudri) is often called ‘Papicha’, a typically Algerian word that refers to a funny, attractive, liberated young woman. Nedjma and her roommates love life and think nothing of going out to nightclubs to put on fashion parades.

However, this being the late 1990s an upsurge of Islamic conservatism manifests itself throughout the narrative. First, fly posters advocating the hijab for women appear on walls (Nedjma immediately tears down these posters on seeing them). Later, she confronts a young man putting these posters up, but after challenging him notices a handgun tucked in his waistband so quickly backs off.

Groups of hijab-clad women take the law into their own hands vigilante style. They surround and take away a lecturer addressing Nadjma’s class. They turn up in the middle of the night at her shared room and threaten the occupants. And worse is to come.

One of the difficulties about writing about this film is that some of its narrative incidents would be much more shocking if you don’t know exactly what’s coming.… Read the rest

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Young Ahmed (Le Jeune Ahmed)

Directors – Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne – 2019 – Belgium, France – 85m

***1/2

Exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 7th

Belgian teenager Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi) is having problems with his teacher Miss Inès (Myriem Akheddiou). As he sees it, she disrespects his Muslim faith. His life timetable is governed by the time table of not, as you might expect, his school but his mosque. He must attend prayers at a specific time. Actually, his teacher and school are more than accommodating of these demands, but that’s not how Ahmed sees it.

He has long and deep discussions with his local Imam, Youssouf (Othmane Moumen), a radical jihadist and frankly a pretty creepy individual. Ahmed looks up to and trusts him. More than he does his teacher who he accuses on various occasions of betraying the faith, having a Jewish boyfriend and being an infidel. (Incidentally, this being a French language movie the word ‘infidel’ has a direct meaning of ‘unfaithful’ in that language, something I’ve never noticed before.) More than he does his mother (Claire Bodson) who he berates for having the occasional drink or two. It doesn’t help that he seems to regard women and girls as unclean and inferior.… Read the rest

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Alice

Director – Josephine Mackerras – 2019 – UK, France, Australia – Cert. 15 – 103m

****

Available in the UK on Amazon Prime, Barbican On Demand, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, July 24th

Working mum Alice Ferrand (Emilie Piponnier) has everything she wants in life – a devoted husband François (Martin Swabey), a young son – until one day her credit card is stopped. No money for shopping. No money from the cashpoint.

A visit to the bank reveals that François has been systematically withdrawing money from the joint account for the last year or so. Not only that, but he hasn’t been making the payments on the couple’s flat for the same period. The money from her parents is gone and she is weeks away from losing her home.

When she phones him, she gets his voicemail. Desperate to know what’s going on, she goes through his desktop computer and finds phone numbers. Some of these lead her to a high end escort agency who, as it happens, are holding job interviews. She goes along in the hope of finding out more information and is offered a job. Confronted with a daunting repayment schedule to save her home, after much soul searching she signs up in her new career.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Buñuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles

Director – Salvador Simo – 2018 – Netherlands – 80m

***1/2

Streaming on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) from Thursday, July 16th – with more Buñuel movies here.

Following the success of his surrealist film L’Age D’Or / The Age Of Gold (1930), film director Luis Buñuel finds his main source of funding cut off when the strongly Catholic mother of his primary investor puts pressure in the latter. At the same time, a stranger named Eli Lotar strikes up a post-premiere conversation with the director saying he saw no influence of Dali in the film and presses a book Las Hurdes into Buñuel’s hands.

Frustrated at the lack of funding for his films, Luis decides to film the book which details the appalling living conditions of poor people in a remote village in rural Spain.

As part of my Annecy 2019 coverage, I review Buñuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles for DMovies.org.