Tag Archive | subtitled

Monsieur Lazhar and the deathly hollows

Oscar nominated Monsieur Lazhar comes to the UK from the mind of director Philippe Falardeau and presents a tender view of the impact that sudden, tragic death can make.  Set largely in a Montreal primary school, this bittersweet tale relies on some great child performances and a touchingly sympathetic turn from Mohamed Fellag’s eponymous teacher.

Monsieur Lazhar is in UK cinemas from 4 May

Within Monsieur Lazhar’s opening minutes, a school teacher’s classroom suicide sends shockwaves through staff and students alike.  With the discovery being made by the troubled Simon (Émilien Néron), it becomes clear that this won’t be an easy journey for anyone involved.  A week later, an Algerian national, Bachir Lazhar, offers his services to take over the traumatised class.  Despite headmaster Ms Vaillancourt’s (Danielle Proulx) insistence that things don’t work that way- that procedures must be followed, it turns out that, for some reason, things actually do work that way.  It’s easy to give this moment a free pass, but unsurprisingly, this decision will prove to bite Vaillancourt in the backside.  In the meantime, Lazhar’s approach to the children takes some warming up.  Fellag’s charm makes him immediately likable, both to the audience and the characters.  His methods may be rigid and unrealistic, but Fellag projects a genuine desire to help heal his students’ psyches.  As it turns out ,it’s not just the students who are struggling to come to terms with a heart-breaking loss.
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Café de Flore gets to the heart of the matter

Jean-Marc Vallée explores two love triangles set in different eras that share a mysterious link in Café de Flore, written and directed by the French-Canadian himself.  Theorising on the very nature of love and its consequences, Vallée has composed a hauntingly beautiful film that struggles to find a clear path to its eventual conclusions.

Cafe de Flore reaches UK cinemas 11 May

Opening with the modern timeline set in Montreal, globe-trotting DJ Antione (Kevin Parent) is described as having every reason to be happy and the ability to realise it.  A concurrent timeline is soon introduced, shifting the story to Paris with the birth of Laurent (Marin Gerrier) in 1969.  Suffering from Down syndrome, the contrast is made between this unfortunate child and Antione.  Café de Flore spends extended periods of time with each story before shifting to the other, often seamlessly or with the assistance of exceptional sound editing.  While presenting seemingly ordinary events in these two lives, a sense of foreboding fills the opening act.  A woman’s scream, mixed in at various moments, often lends Café de Flore a nightmarish quality.  As Laurent’s loyal mother Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) vows to ensure he has a long, worthwhile life, back in Montreal, more is revealed about Antione’s troubled past and his failed relationship with the mother (Hélène Florent) of his daughters; introducing another timeline via flashbacks.  There is much plot development to follow and unfortunately, Café de Flore loses some of the tension it initially builds once it settles into the second act where the pieces slowly begin to come together.
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Maïwenn commits plot crimes in Polisse

French actor/writer/director Maïwenn’s third feature film Polisse won the Cannes Film Fesitval’s Jury Prize in 2011 and will finally see its UK release in June.  Based on actual stories from first-hand accounts collected by Maïwenn from Paris’ Child Protection Unit, the film presents a melodramatic view of the police officers who investigate the various crimes committed against minors in the French capital.

Polisse raids UK cinemas 15 June

Polisse focuses on the roles of the CPU day team and their personal lives, as they struggle to balance the harsh realities of their chosen profession.  The close-knit collection of protagonists are each flawed in their own way, but once it becomes clear that the focal point will be on their interpersonal relationships, the film loses its poignancy.  Marital strife, eating disorders, pregnancy and an altogether unnecessary romantic sub-plot diminish the impact of the stories behind the children the CPU aims to protect.  With a team of eight central characters, most of whom are saddled with their own dramatic conflicts, Polisse is a chaotic mess that would be better suited as the made-for-television mini-series it already resembles.  Constantly swapping between different cases and each officer’s problem, no single storyline is given a chance to build a sense of tension and truly draw the viewer into their world.  It entertains well enough, but does so without ever being engaging.
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Le Havre is pretty as a picture, shallow as a shower

Art-house cinema can be a funny thing; it can be a beautiful mess of thought-provoking chaos, like Lars von Trier’s Melancholia or it can be a gorgeous but boring exploration of what makes us human, like Terence Malick’s Tree of Life.  Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre, a contemporary of those two well-regarded films, falls firmly in the second category.  The premise of this piece that Kaurismäki has also written is promising enough, yet how he follows through renders it as exciting as watching grass grow in a lengthy series of brief scenes.

Le Havre is in UK cinemas 6 April & available on Curzon on Demand

Set in the Normandy port city of Le Havre, Marcel Marx (André Wilms), an elderly street shoe shiner happens across a young Gabonese boy (Blondin Miguel) who finds himself stranded in France en route to his mother in London.  With the police on the search for this illegal refugee and his wife (Kati Outinen) battling cancer, Marcel makes it his mission to help the boy reach London.  This is all laid out in meticulously framed scenes and cool tones that lend an air of the early 70s to this modern-day work.  It’s certainly stylish and it has a message about immigration, even if a simplistic one, but the problem is how shallow it is.  There’s a fair share of humour involved in the telling of this story, but insight is noticeably left off the menu.
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Review: Romantics Anonymous

Every so often there is a film that is best summed up in one word. That word is “delightful” and Romantics Anonymous is one of those films. Director and writer Jean-Pierre Améris has created a light-hearted and often very funny tale of two kind, but emotionally stunted souls who find an uneasy solace with each other. Romantics Anonymous is a relatively brief, cheerful story of love overcoming insecurity, which features two hopeless leads whose charm carries the narrative.

Director Jean-Pierre Améris explains the inspiration behind Romantics Anonymous, released on 2 December in the UK

Isabelle Carré stars as Angélique, an anxious chocolatier (or chocolate maker, for those seriously not in-the-chocolate-know) whose lack of confidence drives her to disguise her talent. Taking a job at the struggling Chocolate Mill, she meets equally awkward Jean-René (Benoît Poelvoorde), her new boss. The two are instantly drawn to each other and terrified of that fact. She seeks comfort from her emotionals anonymous support group, while he seeks guidance from his therapist. Tasked with exercises before his next sessions, Jean-René’s efforts to overcome his social incompetence are utterly hilarious, even if somewhat absurd. When the Chocolate Mill is faced with impending bankruptcy, it falls on the shoulders of Angélique and Jean-René to overcome their fear for the sake of their colleagues and their own livelihood. Romantics Anonymous never takes itself too seriously, so while it’s not exactly unpredictable, that doesn’t prevent it from being a lot of fun.
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Review: The Skin I Live In

The trailer to Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film, The Skin I Live In may elicit a variety of reactions: intrigue, repulsion, anticipation or confusion, just to name a few.  The reality is that the film ticks all those boxes, just not in the ways one would guess from the trailer.
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