Category Archives: French Movie

Lupin

It’s simply the story of the delusional character, Assane, who acts in a way disconnected from the reality of modern society while believing he’s as smart as his childhood hero, Lupin, the short story protagonist.

The police are even more delusional and incompetent. It’s as if all characters in the show have not heard of anything post 1970. Think CCTV everywhere, how trackable every phone is, almost everyone on the show is so gullible.

Almost every other scene felt like an assault to my intelligence and common sense.

P.S: Loved Omar Sy, he did an awesome job. This guy looks sooo good in a suit ❤

Review by amerk-63402

Les Misérables (2019)

Profoundly moving, hard hitting moral drama elevated beyond being yet another ‘banlieu’ film through masterful use of cinematic language, combined with heartfelt performances from a largely non professional cast. France’s ongoing tensions around identity, race and belonging expand, confronting you head on with dilemmas about the sheer difficulty of the human condition.

Looking for something going further than social realism? Comfortable being uncomfortable? Willing to question the assumptions of multiculturalism and the liberal enlightenment project? Prepared to wrestle with the effort of formulating just what questions need asking instead of expecting someone to bring you answers? Les Miserables will be for you.

Opening with shots of young black teenagers celebrating France’s world cup victory celebrations in Paris in 2018, concluding this opening scene with a shot of the Arc de Triomphe superimposing the title Les Miserables, director Ladj Ly at once situates himself in a canon of French ‘auteurs’ while claiming space for these marginalised and excluded kids as being indeed French and, furthermore, spiritual descendants of the 19th century ‘Les Miserables’ of Victor Hugo’s novel.

Montfermeil cite (housing project / estate), on the Eastern outskirts of Paris. Following the world cup, three policemen, Chris, Gwada and newcomer to the team Stephane, are looking for a thief who’s stolen a lion cub from a travelling circus – they have a limited amount of time – if the cub isn’t returned, war will erupt between the various patriarchal groups who live uneasily alongside one another in the cite.

The liberal enlightenment project assumes the inevitability of ‘progress’ – it’s only a matter of time before everyone, everywhere in the world, adopts European (French) systems of democracy, liberal capitalism and so on. Human beings are rational and reasonable, living peacefully through democracy, state institutions and the rule of law.

The ‘panopticon’ is a system of total surveillance which emerged from 18th century British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. This can be seen to manifest in housing estates like Montfermeil – uniform, system built apartment blocks facilitating observation and control. However, the surveillance is subverted by the nerdy boy Buzz (played by the director’s son, Al Hassan Ly) whose hobby is flying drones and who, through the drone, witnesses and records an act of police brutality.

Spectacular use is made of the cite with drone shots soaring above the apartment buildings. Implying freedom, escape yet there’s something more sinister. Early on the viewer is implicated in Buzz’s pubescent voyeurism using his drone to spy on women – we see from his point of view, implicating us in his voyeurism which confronts us with how so often people in these places are used by politicians and the mainstream media as objects to be exploited for entertainment or political purposes. What’s our purpose in watching this? How many times have we watched prurient documentaries about ‘tough gangs’ or ‘problem estates?’ While ‘District 13’ or ‘La Haine’ spring to mind as obvious comparisons, Les Miserables shares some characteristics, including one crucial scene in particular, with Francois Truffaut’s ‘The 400 Blows’. Both films show marginalised, excluded children. The same difficult age, 12 / 13, moving away from childhood into adolescence.

An academic called Anne Gillain wrote an essay about ‘The 400 Blows’ called ‘The Script of delinquency’ drawing on psychoanalytic theories from DW Winnicott and Melanie Klein. Returning to Gillain’s work helps account for why and how Les Miserables is so much more than just another ‘banlieu’/ social realist film.

Issa’s mother in Les Miserables appears, like Mme Doinel, in 400 Blows, uninterested in her son. If I understood the dialogue correctly, when the cops call at the flat, she doesn’t know where he is. Instead, she shows Gwada a room full of female friends counting out money. Clearly materialism and money are more important than children.

Stealing is central in both films – Gillain draws on psychotherapists Winnicott and reads stealing as being ‘a gesture of hope’ on the part of the child to reclaim the care and love to which they are entitled. Lead actor Issa Perica is perfectly cast as Issa – cub like himself with his delicate features, complexion, beige combat pants, sporting a T shirt with a lion motif explicitly identifying him with the animal. This however is an animal destined for a life of imprisonment as a circus animal. By stealing the cub Issa at one and the same time reclaims the nurturing to which he’s entitled and by liberating the animal expresses his own yearning for freedom beyond the confines of his current life.

If women have little visibility in Les Miserables I read this as a comment by Ly on the macho posturing of the patriarchal society he reflects. Women, when they do appear, are strong figures. Teenage girls answer back when provoked by the cop Chris, an inadequate little bully of a man. An enraged mother intervenes against the cops’ abusive questioning of four small boys.

If the state has abandoned these kids, literally excluding them and their families to the peripheries, other organisations or institutions don’t offer much in the way of alternatives. There’s the fast food restaurants and a fast food stand whose owner turns the kids away when they ask for food – the nurturing they seek, embodied by food, is denied them. Promises of reward and fulfilment through work unfulfilled for those too young to participate in economic activity.

Another form of imprisonment is implied through conformity to religion. During a scene when the boys are invited to the mosque, the camera is close in to the Imam and his co worshippers, wearing Islamic dress and beards. One of the boys yawns. Religion, with it’s imperatives of dress, conformity of appearance, closes down possibility. By contrast, when they’re left to their own devices – playing basketball, making slides from discarded car doors or goofing around in a paddling pool with water pistols, freedom expresses itself through camera work which opens out to long, expansive shots. Envisaged by the state as ordered, regimented public housing the cite becomes instead a locus of spontaneity – space around the blocks is reclaimed as somewhere to play. A similar binary operates in The 400 Blows with interior shots (carceral space) contrasted with exterior – the city as a place of exciting potentialities.

In Les Miserables carceral (prison) space manifests through cars. Patrolling the cite the three cops are confined to their car, unable to leave it for fear of attack. Ultimately, the custodians are metaphorical prisoners themselves, in contrast to the kids, who occupy the space of the cite. There seems little to distinguish the cops from criminals. At one stage, Chris negotiates a favour with the criminal owner of a sheesha lounge. Where’s the moral compass? The police here, as representatives of the state, behave in ways which are anything but reasonable and rational. Their lack of integrity shown by their appalling mistreatment of the children they’re supposed to protect.

Finally, staircases and trash feature prominently in both les Miserables and The 400 Blows, although as different signifiers. At one point Stephane is at the foot of the stairs of an apartment block, in the foyer, calling for reinforcements, unable to give his position. There’s no address on the building, this is nowhere and everywhere. Montfermeil stands for every marginalised, excluded community, indeed estates like this are to be found on the fringes of every French town and city, populated in the main by those considered ‘not enough French.’

I’m saying no more. Hopefully after reading this you’ll be off to watch les Miserables as it should be seen – on the big screen. Enjoy.

Review by trpuk1968

District 13: Ultimatum (2009)

For those of us who unfortunately have not seen the original BANLIEUE 13 – aka DISTRICT 13 – (made in 2004 with the same crew except for the director – Pierre Morel), some of the background information that usually follows in a sequel is missing and according to many, the sequel here BANLIEUE 13:ULTIMATUM – aka DISTRICT 13: ULTIMATUM is not as strong a film. And perhaps that allows the viewer to appreciate fine French film making without the comparison!

Luc Besson (of the Trasnporter series et al) wrote this script (or rather, this plan of choreography, as there is not a lot of spoken dialogue in this fast-paced thriller) and Patrick Allessandrin directs a story of a region of Paris (District 13) that is cordoned off the rest of Paris by a group of five warlords who manage to control the drug ridden violent region. Basically the tale is that of two men – Captain Damien Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli) and undercover cop of the ‘good’ police and Leïto (David Belle), an ex-thug who in the previous film infiltrated a gang in order to defuse a neutron bomb. That was supposedly in 2010. The film opens some years later when District 13 is now in control of power over the government and the ‘bad police’ are attempting to destroy the area and rebuild according to their greedy plans. The action is the story and the action is immensely exciting! David Belle invented a discipline known as Parkour, which consists of moving quickly and efficiently in any environment, using only the abilities of the human body, and though his acting credits are minimal, he is stupefying in his live action role. Belle and Raffaelli are the reasons to watch this thriller as their screen chemistry is magnetic. Other standout performances in the film include the much tattooed Elodie Yung as Tao (the principal gang queen), Philippe Torreton as the much oppressed President, and the evil appearing Daniel Duval as the nemesis who turns the keys of the plot.

The cinematography is superb, the musical score is French rap music that while it suits the mood of the film becomes irritating in its repetitiveness. In all this is an escape film that is high on excitement is not very high on intelligent dialogue. But put Bell and Raffaelli together and the combustion is authentically credible.

Review by gradyharp

District B13 (2004)

The plot : The French government has erected giant walls around the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods. Inside these walls its a veritable jungle, with the strongest (and ofter most corrupt) ruling.

This is the directorial debut of Pierre Morel. He has worked as the cinematographer on Danny the Dog (a.k.a. Unleashed) and the Transporter. If this movie gives you a sense of deja vu, don’t worry just flow with it.

The movie follows the recent Ong Bak trend of action movies in that there is very little plot or a somewhat lacking storyline but is compensated for by bone crunching and realistic action/athletic sequences, albeit in this case with a French flavor.

After the opening “fly through” of the barrio we get a glimpse at one of the protagonists, Leito (David Belle). Leito is a neighborhood kid who does a good impersonation of Daredevil (minus the blindness, white stick or red outfit). While surround by crime, Leito manages to keep honest and actually fights back against the neighborhood drug lord, Taha.

This is the first 20 minutes of the movie, and it was simply awesome. David Belle is co-founder of a sport called Parkour. It is some Euro-Asian fusion of martial arts and running. There was a Nike commercial (?? – it was definitely a sneaker ad) where this man kept jumping off of random things. The whole point was he didn’t stop, no matter what was in his way. It seems to be some improvisational running, where you figure out ways to get around things. This opening sequence involves a lot of running at full speed and some fighting inside, outside and on top of an apartment building. The pace for the sequence is fast and awe-inspiring.

We are then transported 6 months into the future, where we are introduced to our second protagonist, Damien (Cyril Raffaelli). Damien is the decorated, “straight as an arrow” cop. He follows order and does whatever is necessary (within the law) to get the job done. Damien’s 20 minute introduction takes place in an illegal casino. This is the actual sequence that reminds me the most of Ong Bak (the mêlée combat). It has a similar style (of course without Tony Jaa’s proficiency), complete with the bone-wrenching “oomphs”. Cyril may seem familiar to fans of the action genre. He has been in numerous actions flicks as well, staring in Kiss of the Dragon and as a stunt man in the Transporter and Brotherhood of the Wolf.

The first two sections of the movie contain the character development, while the last section handles the plot. A new type of bomb has been stolen. It has a 24 hour detonation timer on it that is activated once the case is opened. Damien is sent in to defuse it (namely to enter a code that defuses the already active bomb). The bomb is somewhere in B13 and Leito is “volunteered” to be his guide.

The movie was definitely enjoyable, yet lacking much of a story or a finale. I was reminded of Ong Bak and especially of the Transporter. These movies (along with B13) seem to have a rather simplistic finale. The world is a generally good place where a few bad apples take advantage of the good. Most of the time, the good simply do not know the “bad people” exist. They just need someone to tell them and then collectively the good “do the right thing” (which is always done through lawful and sometimes legislative means). There are other movies (like most of Jackie Chan’s movies) that have similar endings. This is not so much a criticism as an observation.

There were some scenes that made me go “huh”.

Why does everyone have their names on the doors ? I’m sure each of the characters probably also have their names sewn into their boxers. I did enjoy Taha’s Tony Montana impression. It was quite a funny scene. Lastly, I would have liked a more extended fight scene with Yeti, but otherwise, was a good sequence. Outside of the action sequences, there were some instances of gun-play. This was definitely not John Woo, but I was reminded of the Professional (Besson does have writing credits).

I thoroughly enjoyed this fast paced action, buddy movie (reminded me of 48 Hours or Rush Hour – except without the comical cop/con routine). I highly recommend this movie for action fans.

Review by CelluloidRehab

Desierto (2015)

The border between the United States and Mexico is approximately 1,700 miles in length, stretching from the mouth of the Rio Grande at Brownsville, Texas, all the way to the Pacific shoreline at Imperial Beach, California. And much of it goes through some of the harshest and most forbidding land in the entire world, the Colorado and Sonoran deserts in California and Arizona. Each year, thousands of Mexicans cross that border into the U.S., oftentimes illegally but for very legitimate reasons: a better life, and to escape from the violence being caused by the drug cartels in their country. The journey they make is excruciatingly dangerous; and in the last couple of decades, the danger has been upped immeasurably, not by the drug cartels, nor even the U.S. Border Patrol, but by vigilantes who tend to pass themselves off as “patriots” or “Minutemen”. The latter aspect is what is given attention in director Jonas Cuaron’s film DESIERTO (Spanish for “desert”).

Cuaron, who with his brother Alfonso wrote the screenplay of the masterful 2013 science fiction movie Gravity, had directed a couple of short films (ANINGAAQ; THE SHOCK DOCTRINE) and one feature-length film (2007’s YEAR OF THE NAIL) before DESIERTO; and in taking on the subject matter here, he steps into a topic that has both human and political dimensions. Gael Garcia Bernal and Alondra Hidalgo are among a group of immigrants fleeing northward through the harsh Sonoran Desert when the truck they are in breaks down in salt flats, and the ride stops for them. Approximately a dozen of them walk through the desert in harsh 120-degree temperatures, and make it through the barbed-wire fence that marks where the border is. The only way for them is to continue towards the north. But not long after they cross, they are set upon by a gun-toting vigilante (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) with a very racist view who is determined that no Mexicans get across the border…at least, not if he has anything to say about it. The viciousness Morgan displays is matched only by that of “Tracker”, his German shepherd dog who happens to be good at tracking the immigrants. All of them fall victim either to his long-range sniper rifle or “Tracker”, sometimes getting partially torn up in gruesome fashion. Only Bernal and Hidalgo manage to escape the initial gunfire; but when they try to steal Morgan’s truck, they too are wounded, and have to continue to flee on foot. At one point Hidalgo is so badly wounded that Bernal must leave her under a desiccated cactus with a supply of water while he tries to evade or stop Morgan.

With most of the dialogue in Spanish (and with sub-titles on the screen) and the fact that all of the actors, save for Morgan and Lew Temple, who plays a Border Patrol agent, are Mexican, DESIERTO can sometimes be a test to watch; and certainly the violence and language are extremely harsh. Beyond those things, Cuaron, a native of Mexico himself, also seems to take an arguably very slanted view of the situation by painting the Mexican immigrants as common people who, practically by force, are forced to make so dangerous and illegal a crossing of the frontier, and by making Morgan the right-wing vigilante villain of the piece. But given how much immigration at the U.S./Mexico border, illegal and otherwise, and the issue of drug cartels creating violent havoc on either side of that border has been a hot-button issue in American politics for decades, and certainly in the ultra-toxic environment of the 2016 presidential election, it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that Cuaron does indeed take the viewpoint that he does, especially given how often Mexicans have been made scapegoats in the U.S. media and by politicians, particularly by one Donald Trump. And even at that, there is no reason to believe that situations like the one depicted in DESIERTO have not happened for real on the border; they just don’t make it onto the news.

DESIERTO thanks to Cuaron’s direction and the desolate score by Woodkid, has a lot of similarities to the classic Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone westerns of the late 1960s and early 1970s in how it depicts the extreme harshness of the border country, with Bernal’s and Hidalgo’s performances being quite good and Morgan giving a very frightening performance in an arguably stereotypical vigilante role. While DESIERTO may not be an absolutely perfect film, or easy to watch, and could incite passions both pro and con on the issue of immigration at our southern border, in the end it is a human story about desperation and how what goes on at the border transcends political grandstanding and a perversion of human values.

 

Review by virek213

The Wolf’s Call (2019)

Two-thirds of the way through the film I was tempted to call this a great movie, but sadly things kind of didn’t gel for me in the third act. Even so, this is still a remarkable movie for submarine movie buffs. There’s something vaguely mystical about gliding through the water in darkness listening for the sound of other predators in a dangerous game of hide and seek that I’ve always found fascinating, and ‘The Wolf’s Call’, the title a reference to that idea, is an excellent contribution to the genre.

The first act, where they setup the situation that drives the movie, is nothing short of brilliant. The screenwriters have devised a scenario that is extremely, verging on too, topical. Without wanting to give away anything important, I would just say that it is based upon a scenario that perfectly fits the Zeitgeist of Europe at the moment.

The scenario involves an element of US politics. From my perspective as an American I would say this scenario is extremely unlikely, even given the conditions that give birth to it. Europe and the US may not always get along as well as everyone would hope, but we are kin. The ties that bind us are forged in blood and stronger than any individual; for better or worse that will never change. But having said that, I can certainly see where the concern comes from.

I would also say that it’s interesting to see how perspectives change. Post Iraq war, the depiction of Americans in European media painted us as at best ambiguous, and often arrogant, imperialist, or even sinister in our application of military power around the world. The views in the movie bring worry from the opposite direction, and seem to tacitly acknowledge that sometimes it’s not so bad to be friends with the 800 lb gorilla in the room, even if you’re not always happy about his temper and penchant for smashing things.

In any case, the scenario involves the French Navy and submarine combat. Not being a submariner I can’t say that the technical details of life on a submarine are accurate, but if they aren’t it is some brilliant bull because they certainly feel real. The main character is Chanteraide, played by François Civil, who is the sound guy on the sub.

This is a big deal on a submarine; modern subs all have computers to analyze the sounds in the water looking for acoustic signatures that tell them who else is out there in the depths, but as you might imagine this is a difficult task as every sub also has technology to obfuscate those sounds and keep themselves hidden. You might compare the task to, say, listening to the sound of someone type their password on a keyboard and then trying to reverse the sounds to keystrokes. It can be done, but the process is difficult and filled with uncertainty.

The middle third of the story involves Chanteraide investigating an acoustic mystery as high-stake events unfold. Acoustic signature investigation may not sound exactly thrill a minute, but between the brewing crisis and some good story pacing by the director, it remains fresh and interesting, and I enjoyed how honest to the intellectual process of solving the mystery it was.

The final act is where I was a little disappointed. The setup is too good to give away, but let’s just say a misunderstanding develops and Chanteraide is called on to help resolve it. I was expecting Chanteraide to come up with something clever, a means of delivering a message using his unique skill set and training, which would have capped the movie perfectly, but the movie instead reverts to more standard thriller fare at this point.

There were a couple of problems here, in my opinion. First, the movie abandons all sense of time, moving characters between locations in minutes that, even optimistically, would have taken hours, so that they can be in the important places as events unfold. For a movie that has been so careful to get the details right, this stands out in glaring contrast.

Second,the characters and even some of the submarine functions act in a way inconsistent with previously established story. It’s hard to believe that certain characters would have behaved the way they did, given what was happening.

And third, the director goes for several big, overly dramatic scenes between characters that feels unearned. If you are going to have a big ‘connection across space and time’ moment between characters, you better have established that connection earlier really well, or else it will come across as almost satirical instead of poignant.

But third act aside, the movie is still really solid and entertaining. It uses some very clever story crafting to develop a scenario that feels very fit to our times and sets the stakes in a believable way that keeps you engaged. The dialogue is in French, of course, so I used the English dubbing, which was automatic on Netflix and was pretty solid. If you have Netflix and enjoy submarine movies, I would certainly recommend giving it a watch.

 

Review by ivko

The Nile Hilton Incident (2017)

Fares Fares – He is one of the best actor of the recent times. Top Notch Performance.
Mari Malek – Honest
Hania Amar – Beautiful
Others – Supportive
Story – A maid witnesses the murder of a woman where a police officer was assigned to investigate the murder but things expected to go different when higher people involved in the murder
Cinematography – Crystal Clear
Screenplay – Neat
Direction – Excellent
The Nile Hilton Incident (2017) – Special! It’s a well directed thriller based on the murder incident happened in the hilton hotel. Movie clearly shows the corruption of how each and every character and how they becomes part of it. One of the best performances from hares hares and looking forward to see in him in different roles. Casting and cinematography at its best.

Raw (2016)

Garance Marillier – Innocent look but rocking perforance
Ella Rumpf – Competitive
Others – Enjoying
Story – How the life of vegetarian girl changes when she start eating meat in her school
Cinematography – Cool
Screenplay – Slow
Direction – Neat
Raw (2016) – It’s a raw movie(cannibalism) and not recommended for soft heart audiences.

Rust and Bone (2012)

Marion Cotillard – Her confidence level is topnotch and she is poetic
Matthias Schoenaerts – Rough and Tough
Others – Well Supported Characters
Story – This movies revolves around a ex boxer who lives with his son, when he saves a woman(Dophin trainer) from a quarrel in the club and about their relationship which makes the movie special
Cinematography – Cool
Screenplay – Neat
Direction – Good
Rust and Bone (2012) – Simple story taken over by strong performance from Marion Cotillard. She is one of my favorite, short of words to describe her acting. Worthwatching.