Posts tagged “France

Laura / Wow! How to be a Great People Manager

Laura  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

The sensually provocative images of internationally acclaimed photographer David Hamilton again move and breathe in Laura. A delicate journey through innocence, beauty and sensuality involving a 16 year old ballet dancer who falls in love with her mother’s former lover, a 40 year old sculptor. A classic cinematic treatment of mother-daughter competition and the first stirrings of sexuality.  With utmost taste and talent, Hamilton presents the gratification of budding womanhood.

1979 –  Certificate: 18  –  French Film
5.0 out of 10

For reasons that mostly baffle me but probably point to a severe breakdown in the decision-making process somewhere, I’m trusted with the management of nine people at work, plus another two or three that are ‘incoming’. I’ve never received much in the way of training to accomplish this, but I do my best.  I try to work them all to within an inch of their lives, make them feel worthless and in awe of me, blame them when something goes wrong and take the credit when something goes well.  I provide them with impossible deadlines and grass them up to more senior people when they fail to meet them.  I invent or overcomplicate existing procedures, to make their lives as difficult as possible.  My managerial catch-phrase is, “if you don’t like it you can leave”.  In fact the only book on management I’ve ever read is “The Art of Demotivation”.  I’d heartily recommend this to anyone who manages staff.  I keep my well-thumbed copy by my desk at all times.  Despite my obvious lack of emotional intelligence, in a strange way I consider these ‘resource units’ as my family.  (In that sense I care for them deeply, in the same way that Captain Janeway on the Starship Voyager cared for her crew, but still managed to nearly get them killed most weeks.)  Consequently, I get very distressed when any of them decide to fly the nest or take maternity leave.  (Mainly because of the extra hassle it’s going to cause me.)  In the next couple of months I have to recruit three or four new members of staff.  From experience, I’m pretty sure that interviewing is about as close as a man can get to giving birth.  The only difference is that we interview during office hours to a sensible timetable that minimises the disruption it causes.  It is however a painful experience, in which you deal with things as best you can, when all you really want to do is scream and moan about how long it’s all taking, as you wait for the candidate(s) to come into the room so to speak.  And my top tips for interviewing?  Always have the interview panel with the light behind its back.  I find it helps to put interviewees at ease if you silhouette yourselves.  I also find that starting off interviews with the question, “what’s the worst question we could ask you today?” often helps to put candidates at ease too.  If I don’t see tears by the end, I know I’m facing a tough son-of-a-bitch, who might one day challenge my Alpha Male status, an attribute that at work we call Wow; strangely, these people always score really poorly and consequently never get appointed.  There’s nothing Wow about this film either.

David Hamilton made a few films like this and they’re all crap. This is probably because I know nothing about art and can never relate to anything or anyone in them.  And I hate the ‘soft focus’ (i.e. out of focus) photography that always seems to get used too, so it’s not just the people, plots and places I don’t get.  I guess if I was cultured enough I’d think this movie was a cinegraphic masterpiece that “presents the gratification of budding womanhood” and unrequited love, rather than some child porn dressed up as art.  But what do I know?  I’m probably just an ignorant, Mail-reading Brit, who thinks anything foreign is rubbish (unless it’s American or curry).  I guess if I go out and kill someone on purpose, as long as I do it tastefully it’s art, not murder.  Having said that, there is a story of sorts (a somewhat pervy love triangle) and a bit of action when something catches fire.  There’s also some ‘fun’ with weed-killer too.  (It’s a good example of what happens when you don’t store and use chemicals correctly.)  I guess if you can work around all its technical and plot foibles, then you could get something positive out of it.  (It’s not unlike a trashy B-movie in that respect.)

The soundtrack is mainly plinky-plonky ‘emotional’ piano or dated prog rock. It’s not something I’d miss if it was somehow erased for existence by time-travelling, intergalactic film critics.

Trailer. Well if there is one I couldn’t find it.  Yes, the Internet has let me down.  The best I managed to locate were some clips, so I’ve picked out an especially action-packed one for here.

Recommended for sculptors, dancers and anyone with a very open mind.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? I guess it’s another reason for me to be sent to Hell, but Paul (40) manages to get off with Laura (15).  It’s not that I approve or would want to be in his place; it’s just that he could, which makes it badass, although mostly just bad.  What’s he got that I haven’t?  Other than he’s good looking, French, talented, sexy and (in these post-Saville times) “a sinister pervert who used his fame to get close to young women and girls”.  No wait, that’s Rolf Harris.

Laura at IMDB (6.0 / 10)
Laura at Wikipedia
Laura clip at YouTube

Time To Leave / Summer Holidays

Time to Leave  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Acclaimed filmmaker Francois Ozon’s most intimate and lyrical work, ‘Time To Leave’ features a moving performance from Melvil Poupaud as a 30 year-old man facing up to the reality of his own mortality.  With his perfect life thrown into chaos by the shock diagnosis of a serious illness, fashion photographer Romain finds himself unable to share the news with his boyfriend or family, confiding instead only in his grandmother (affectingly played by screen legend Jeanne Moreau).  But anger and denial give way to an acceptance of sorts when a chance encounter with a waitress (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) offers Romain a glimmer of hope and the unexpected chance to leave something of himself behind.

2005  –  Certificate: 18  –  French Film
Rating Details:  Strong Sex
8.5 out of 10

I like this time of year.  Once my birthday has passed, the clocks have gone forward, I don’t need the heating on at home, we’ve got over the end of the Financial Year at work and the winter is fast receding, things start to look better.  The spring has arrived and the local plants and wild animals have started doing their stuff.  The weather’s getting better and the days are longer.  I can go to gigs and not freeze half to death on the way home in a soggy t-shirt.  And with all the bank holidays and most of my Annual Leave from work left to take, I get to (allegedly) work some shorter weeks; in fact from last week onwards I’m only meant to be working two out of the next twelve as five-day weeks.  A three-day weekend suits me I think.  I’ve even been giving some half-hearted thought to going on holiday somewhere.  I won’t be going far from Cactus World, but I feel I ought to do something.  After knackering my ankle on the South Downs Way a few years ago, I’ve been a bit reluctant to put it under too much pressure since, as it still doesn’t feel quite right.  But I might take a few days and go camping/walking along a canal; that will have a decent, flat path and plenty of pubs scattered along it.  The Kennet & Avon Canal starts only a few minutes walk from where I live and runs for 87 miles, so I may well pick on that.  Talk about putting minimal effort into planning a holiday!  This film ends on a beach, which is holiday-like.  And beaches are by water, just like canal tow-paths.  (Sorry, that’s the best link I can manage.)

Romain is a somewhat arrogant fashion photographer, who, when diagnosed with a serious illness, chooses not to have any treatment for it or to tell many people, but instead goes about pissing off most of those around him.  (They’re all rather forgiving it has to be said.)  Of course, as the film progresses, he goes on a life-journey of sorts, but in my opinion he never ceases being a little too self-centred.  So, he’s not the most likable of characters.  Now, I watch quite a lot of French films; (French movies are the fourth most common I watch, after American, British and Japanese).  However, I’ve never come across Melvil Poupaud before, but he puts in a totally amazing performance as Romain.  The film’s worth watching for this alone, although all the acting is uniformly great.  I don’t often single out actors but I was seriously impressed by this guy.  Even where the script or plot wobbled a bit he managed to make it all seem very believable.  Some of the scenes can’t have been easy to film either.  He’s a very good-looking chap, yet he loses a huge amount of weight as the story progresses and ends up being hardly recognisable.  I didn’t really like Romain, yet I really cared about what he was going through.  France is turning out some great movies these days.  They still feel French, but they’re also very grounded too and easier for more of the rest of us to relate to now.  This is an emotionally depressing film, but hugely rewarding too.  The scene where Romain rings his sister really was very powerful.  Go watch.  I’ve just realised that I’ve made this film sound a bit wimpy, but at times it’s quite raw; it didn’t get that 18 Certificate for nothing.

There’s a limited amount of music used in this movie and most of it sits in the background, but it really fits in well.

The trailer uses Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”.  This bit of music isn’t used in the film and it’s a huge cliché, but it does do the job it’s being asked to do here.  (Then again, it’s such a great song that it would be pretty difficult for it not to.)

Recommended for photographers, grandmothers, dysfunctional families and people who spend way too long sitting on beaches.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Romain gives his sister Sophie an especially hard time and clearly had a track-record of doing so, long before he got ill.  Yet when he phones her to apologise, (well I think that’s what he was trying to do), after she’s sent him a letter, she was so nice about it.  She could easily have told the supercilious little sod to get lost, but she didn’t.  I guess that’s pretty badass.

Time to Leave at IMDB (7.2 / 10)
Time to Leave at Wikipedia
Time to Leave trailer

Saving Private Ryan / Saving Everyone Else

Saving Private Ryan  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK ReleaseInternationally acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” is an unforgettable film achievement that has had profound and lasting impact throughout the world.  Winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Director, the film also captured Oscars for Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound and Sound Effects Editing.  Saving Private Ryan was the top-grossing motion picture of 1998.  Seen through the eyes of a squad of American soldiers, the story begins with World War II’s historic D-Day invasion, then moves beyond the beach as the men embark on a dangerous special mission.  Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) must take his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat.  Faced with impossible odds, the men question their orders.  Why are eight men risking their lives to save just one?  Surrounded by the brutal realities of war, each man searches for his own answer – and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honour, decency and courage.

1998  –  Certificate:15  –  American Film
Rating Details:
9.0 out of 10

The Internet is awash with every possible analysis of this film.  So, let me just start by summarising its real plot.  Tom Hanks gets given a job to do with his team.  They have a few concerns and questions as to the point of what they’re asked to do.  The end.  Well, big deal.  Welcome to the modern world of employment gentleman.  I find myself in that situation a lot in my job, that’s just how it is.  It’s true, I’m not likely to kill many people or get killed if it all goes a bit pear-shaped, but as someone who’s employed to save the planet, it can get a bit onerous at times.  So here’s some advice for you Tom.  “You really need to visualise the big picture and stop looking at the details.  We’re all One Team and we’re all in this together, so stop giving bandwidth to our value chain and metrics that doesn’t concern you.  Just be happy to be a small piece in a big jigsaw and relentlessly concentrate on fitting yourself into the right place at the right time, for the greater good.  It’s other people’s challenge to sort out those sorts of mission critical, strategic goals, so you don’t need to quantify the methodology yourself.   Let them drill down, do the blue-sky thinking, and deal with the structural underpinning.  You’re good at what you do, so leverage your core competencies to provide locally focused, robustly broad-based solutions, as we incentivise our external stakeholders to strongly buy-in to our USP.  As a matrix organisation, your knowledge and experience as one of our best product evangelists and of interacting with a wide range of partners at a delivery level, is vital.  We know we can trust you to provide a flexible approach, as we move forward and in the current period harvest the low-hanging fruit.  Tom, it’s just a different way of working.  Allowing well-qualified colleagues to take the burden of decision-making away from you, should leave you time-enriched and in better shape to play your part, as well as provide you with a more focused environment in which to do so.  You don’t need to worry Tom, we’ve got everything covered for you, but I wanted to give you the heads-up on this.  However, if you have any other difficulties in living our values, let’s touch base offline and share a thought-shower; my office door is always open.”  As an unambitious nobody, it works for me.

This film is the 37th best ever movie, according to IMDB.  That’s pretty impressive.  Whilst I admire Steven Spielberg’s work, I sometimes find it makes me feel a bit queasy, as if I’ve eaten too many yummy sweets.  However, “Saving Private Ryan” is one of the good ones.  The battle scene at the start is 27 minutes of real movie magic and there are plenty of other parts that come pretty close to this too.  It’s essential viewing.  War is truly the biggest obscenity of all.

With a full orchestral score, music is used sparingly but effectively.  I think you can buy it on CD if you’re desperate enough.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Recommended for soldiers, politicians and middle managers.

Top badass moment?  Take your pick, there’s plenty of choice.

Saving Private Ryan at IMDB (8.6 / 10)

Saving Private Ryan at Wikipedia

The Class / Wild Rice

The Class  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK ReleaseThe tense environment of a tough inner-city school where cultures and attitudes often clash is revealed in this award-winning drama based on François Bégaudeau’s best-selling novel Between the Walls.  Bégaudeau himself stars as an idealistic teacher of a class of unruly 15 year-olds, whose spiky independence present constant challenges to his sometimes unconventional teaching methods.  Featuring an outstanding non-professional cast of real teachers and students, Laurent Cantet’s gripping and sharply observed film offers a microcosm of contemporary society and explores the difficult issues facing education today.

2008  –  Certificate: 15  –  French Film
Rating Details: Strong Language
7 out of 10

I worked from home today.  Despite not having nearly enough space to do so, I quite enjoy it as it allows me to work in just my underpants (the pair I was wearing the day before of course) and indulge my anti-social tendencies by not going out or seeing anyone.  Today I did have to speak to people on the phone a lot, but that’s not as bad as actually having to speak to anyone face-to-face.  For my dinner tonight I had some weird concoction that included tinned tomatoes, rice and tofu.  To further indulge my anti-social tendencies, I do most of my food shopping online.  Last time, due to an apparent world shortage of cheap, brown rice, I was gifted by Waitrose with a bag of basmati rice with added wild rice; (for the same price as the cheap rubbish I’d ordered).  I’ve never eaten wild rice before, mainly because it’s about a million pounds a bag.  After eating it tonight, I was left wondering how many people are willing to spend twice as much on a bag of rice as they need to, simply because it’s got a few ‘black bits’ in it.  Taste-wise it didn’t seem to add anything, but I guess if you’re stupid, vein and rich, you can pander to your rice fantasies whenever you like.  Finally, to indulge my anti-social tendencies still further, my meal tonight included two whole garlic bulbs.  That’s a lot of garlic; and this film is French.

This is a movie that’s looks very much like a documentary.  It features the staff and pupils at an inner city school in Paris and focuses on one particular teacher and his class, over the course of a year.  Most of the time is spent in the classroom, watching him teaching them.  Yep, that’s pretty much it; for over two hours.  The teenagers act like real teenagers; sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad.  The teacher acts like a teacher; he gets some stuff right and some stuff wrong.  Strangely, it’s all rather watchable, but I really have no idea why.  Perhaps it’s the almost constant mental combat that’s going on in the classroom that makes it so absorbing?  However, it has reminded me of just what a hard job teaching can be.

Music?  There isn’t any.  At all.

Recommended for teachers and school age teenagers.  Game on!

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  This is a film about one man who thinks he can ‘make a difference’.  He’s got no superpowers or cool gadgets, or a perfect physique.  He does however do battle on a daily basis, with a horde of confrontational, argumentative and troubled teenagers.  He’s a teacher.  That’s badass.

The Class at IMDB (7.5 / 10)

The Class at Wikipedia

The Dreamers / February

The Dreamers  -  Front DVD Cover (UK Release)There’s nothing between heaven and earth that’s quite as tantalizing as forbidden fruit…  From Academy Award-winning director Bernardo Bertolucci comes “a masterpiece” (The Telegraph).  Amid an explosive political landscape, three young film buffs are drawn together by their shared passion for movies… and for each other!  Left alone while their parents are on holiday, twins Isabelle and Theo (Eva Green, Louis Garrel) invite American exchange student Matthew (Michael Pitt – “Murder by Numbers”, “The Village”) to stay with them.  So begins an intense, erotic voyage of sexual discovery and desire in which nothing is off-limits and anything is possible!

2003  –  Certificate: 18  –  UK
Rating Details:  Strong sex
6 out of 10

I’m not a fan of February.  In fact it’s only good point is that it’s shorter than any other month.  It’s so screwed up it can’t even decide exactly how long it wants to be.  Who in their right mind trusts a unit of time that doesn’t know how long it is?  Imagine if seconds or years behaved in such a cavalier way?  If the Government was to stop wasting time deciding whether to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU and instead focused on something important, like a referendum to decide whether we should get rid of a month or two of the year, then I already know how I’m voting.  Most of the bad things that have happened in my life have happened in February; (or okay, if not actually in February then not far from it).  It’s a long way from Christmas but it’s still winter, which by February has always more than outlived it’s welcome.  (Not that I’d ever welcome it anyway, but like a crappy, Top 40 R&B pop song, it will just hang about and basically piss everyone off with its banality and generally annoying, ill-informed and unwelcome outlook).  I thought I knew everything bad there was to know about February, but this year it has plumbed new depths of aggravatingness.  Yesterday I found out that a meeting I was expecting to go to next Monday (25th) is actually on Monday 25th March, not February.  Normally lasting exactly four weeks, this evil, psychotic month deliberately targets and harasses busy, top executives (like myself) with its diary-bending weirdness.  Fortunately, in this case I manage to outsmart the little twerp; (and when was the last time you heard anyone use that word)?  Today I had to go to a meeting in Winchester.  I was there with quite a bit of time to spare, (thanks to the inconveniently timetabled trains).  You can probably work out what comes next.  So anyway, I’ve got to go to a meeting in Winchester next month, in exactly four weeks’ time…  This film is set in 1968, in the Spring, so not in February at all.  That’s one of its few good points.

What a load of outrageous twaddle this film is.  Even the ‘backwards credits’ at the end just screamed out pretentious.  It’s some nonsense about three, young students in Paris, at the time of the Protests.  I didn’t like any of them and I hated the whole vibe of the film.  Their stupid, hollow, ‘mummy and daddy will give us money when we need it’ baby-boomer, irresponsible and uninformed approach to everything, bugged the hell out of me.  They should have all gone down the French equivalent of the Job Centre so they could contribute something useful to society, not piss their good fortune up the wall in an orgy of self-centred hedonism and childish games.  Considering it’s people of their age that are mostly in positions of power now, this film explains quite a lot about the mess we’re in.  (Wow, what a great rant; I’ll be voting Conservative at this rate!)  In a technical sense the movie is actually very good and Eva Green is certainly easy on the eyes.  The fact that I disliked the main characters also suggests that it was doing its job.  I guess if you’re not too shocked by the outrageous behaviour of the three of them, it’s not a bad film.  But I despised them.  Even Theo’s ‘action hero’ scene with the petrol bomb didn’t impress me one bit.  It felt more like he was acting out a part in a film in his head than actually doing it for the right reasons.  So I’m afraid he scored “nul points” on the Anarchists’ Official Scorecard.  If ever a movie needed a chainsaw wielding psycho to sort things out, this was it.

The music used in the film works really well.  A clever mixture of late 60s garage, classical and theatre scores, by both original and more contemporary artists, sets the film up nicely and makes a big difference to the atmosphere, both in feel and historically.  I doubt there’re many movies that include music by both Jimi Hendrix and Edith Piaf.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Recommended for boring students that like to discuss ‘stuff’ a lot.  Not recommend for watching with your parents.

Top badass moment?  When the guy turns up 20 seconds after the start of the movie and blows away the three main characters with a Minigun.  Pretentious prats.  Sadly this doesn’t actually happen, not even in the uncut version, but it would sure have improved things.

The Dreamers at IMDB (7.1/10)

Choses secrètes / The Future of the Human Race

Choses secrètes  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)From director Jean-Claude Brisseau (“Noce Blanche”) comes an immoral tale of two women who use their sexuality and beauty to climb through the dizzy heights of office politics.  When the beautiful but naïve Sandrine meets the worldly stripper Nathalie they conspire to better themselves.  Both gaining jobs in a Parisian bank, they set about using their wiles to gain promotion.  Before long Sandrine has seduced her employer – the powerful owner of the bank, but it is his son who has his own secret agenda as both women fall hopelessly for him.   Handsomely shot, this is one drama that positively relishes the sadistic pleasures of office politics.

2003  –  Certificate: 18  –  French
Rating Details:  Strong sex and nudity
7 out of 10

For the past few months I’ve become increasingly convinced that as a species, humans are basically doomed; and doomed sooner rather than later, probably within my lifetime.  Climate change; the ‘too big to fail’ power of large corporations; terrorism and the response to it; the pending failure of antibiotics; corrupt and inadequate politicians; greedy and inadequate big-business CEOs; the general failure of the global economy and the inaction of those that could do something about the system that led to it; the overuse of finite resources that are fast running out; an increasingly ineffective United Nations; too many old people who the rest of society can’t provide for; the power of the press; the dreadful behaviour of many banks; the exploitation of people in the developing world by western companies; national heroes turning out to be paedophiles; the police routinely bending the rules when it suits them; I’m sure there’s more.  I just thought I’d share that.  All those angry punk songs were right after all.  Meanwhile, this movie provides an additional explanation for the collapse of the French economy.

“Lesbian sex, public masturbation, orgies and worse”, so said The Guardian about this film.  Fortunately it’s French, so that’s okay then.   A stripper and a bartender working in a seedy Parisian club, fed up with the world when they get the sack for refusing to have sex with some guy for their boss, decide to sleep their way to the top of a big bank instead.  When they get there they find it’s run by a guy who’s irresistible to woman and holds orgies in his mansion; and is having a sexual relationship with his sister too.  Where’s the News of the World when you actually need it?  (Actually no, I’m glad it’s gone.)  Now, I’d be the first to admit that I’m not that familiar with the workings of French banks so maybe they’re a bit different to here, but I can’t imagine a stripper and a barmaid, in a matter of months, working their way up from being new employees at RBS to becoming lovers to the two most senior staff in the organisation.  And despite all the criticism of RBS, I have difficulty accepting Stephen Hester as being so irresistible to women that when he dumps his lovers, (of which there’d have been many), they’d have a habit of setting fire to themselves and this wouldn’t result in some sort of media ‘interest’.  I’m pretty sure ‘Liverpool’s favourite newspaper’ would think that to be a story ‘in the public interest’, never mind the bank’s shareholders.  So now I’ve established just how preposterous the plot of this film is, I can add that it’s actually a pretty good movie.  The two lead actresses are excellent and the story, provided you can suspend your belief enough, (well I’d give it the rest of the day off to be on the safe side), flows really well. It gets going straight away with some ‘erotic dancing’ and doesn’t let up until the final showdown at Christophe’s mansion.  (He’s the irresistible one by the way, even though his head is shaped exactly like an Action Man, with a personality to match.)  All in all though, it’s a pretty depressing film, despite the lesbian sex; all played out on top of an overwrought classical soundtrack by Antonio Vivaldi and his mates.  Office politics where I work isn’t nearly as exciting!

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Recommended for people who can deal with the plot, the ‘explicit bits’ and the vibe.  So basically that’s the French I guess.  It’s no good for uptight Brits I’m afraid, there’s just too much to get outraged about.  (As a little side note, I deplore the use of generalisations in this way; 130 million people aren’t really going to fall into one of two groups, based on their nationality.  But hell, it’s a cheap, clichéd comment based on nothing but prejudice and media spin, so what does it matter?  When it comes down to it I’m as rubbish as the next guy.)

Top badass moment?   When Nathalie takes Sandrine back to her flat for the first time, they decide to open a bottle of wine.  Champagne of course.  If that happened in the UK it would be a bottle of Tesco own label plonk with a screw lid; or a few tins of lager.  It’s hard to argue that a touch of class isn’t badass.

Choses secrètes at IMDB (6.0/10)

Betty Blue: 3.5 Stars

Betty Blue  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Listen up, this is important.  I believe the Earth is about to be invaded and taken over by an evil alien, whose sole purpose is to enslave the entire human race and laugh in a really, really annoying way at our suffering.  Proof?  For a start, this film.  The main male character in it is called Zorg.  Is Zorg a common name in France?  I doubt it.  This film is clearly a message from the future sent back into the past, to warn us of the impending doom to come.  No one really calls their son Zorg, do they?  I hope not, because it’s the sort of name only megalomaniacs in 50’s pulp sci-fi and B-movies should have.  Emperor Zorg; Zorg the Mighty; Lord Zorg, Ruler of the Flatulent Empire and 10,000 Worlds; that sort of thing.  We never get to meet Zorg’s parents in this film, but honestly, what were they thinking?  They must have been smoking something when they came up with that name.  Then this evening I had my shopping delivered by someone called Zoltan.  Again, another clear example of a Flash Gordon era baddie, who was obviously casing the joint and looking for weaknesses in the Earth’s defences.  You shouldn’t allow the fact that he came not in a gigantic spaceship, but in the “cabbage van” (so the text from Ocado said), to deflect your attention.  He even had a bit of an accent, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t of this Earth.  These aliens, clever people, that’s why they’re ‘here’ and we’re not ‘there’.

1986  –  Certificate: 18  –  France
Rating Details:  Strong scenes of sex and nudity and some strong violence

Clocking in at almost three hours (it was the Director’s Cut), this is a loooong, French, romantic movie that takes us on a trip with young couple Zorg and Betty.  From painting beach houses, through to working in a pizza restaurant, writing books and selling pianos, it chronicles their relationship and the effect Betty’s (undefined) mental illness has on it.  Having a friend with the latter, I found it intensely saddening at times.  But I also enjoyed it in a rather Thomas Hardyish way, in the sense that I knew the relationship was probably doomed from the start and I was just waiting for it to crash and burn.  Now having just compared it to a quintessentially English author, it’s actually a very French film.  There’re plenty of examples of tasteful love-making (because the French are supposed to be good at that), as well as lots of ‘unconcerned nudity’ in it, most of it of the male variety it has to be said.  It also had several somewhat bizarre and funny scenes of what you might consider to be almost slapstick comedy too.  The ending is somewhat inexplicable as well, which seems to happen a lot in French films.  Ultimately though, it’s a downer of a movie and after spending three hours with the characters, sharing virtually every aspect of their relationship with them, it’s hard not to be affected.  I really felt sorry for them both.  It’s a nice looking film too (and I’m not just talking about the main characters) and the mono soundtrack is actually pretty decent.

Recommended for those who are willing to invest an evening in lusting after Betty or Zorg.

1 cat, no decapitations or chainsaws. The cat, a lovely white one, appears in three scenes and has a pivotal role right at the end, including a bit of (dubbed) dialogue.

Top badass moment?  Betty throwing a bucket of pink paint all over Zorg’s boss’s car.  He was a serious asshole and quite frankly a load of paint on his car was the least he deserved. When you’re boyfriend’s being a wimp and not sticking up for himself, someone has to be badass about it.  And let’s face it, who hasn’t thought of doing something like that to a crappy manager at one time or another?

Betty Blue at IMDB (7.2/10)

The Longest Day: 3.0 Stars

The Longest Day  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Once again, my ego is crushed as an epic film disappoints me.  I was so totally convinced that this was a documentary about doing my Financial Plan at work a couple of months ago.  Okay, so it says on the box that it was made in 1962, but I thought that was just a typo.  In the old days (well last year) we used to write budget forecasts, but now we prepare Financial Plans.  These involve filling in hundreds and hundreds of little boxes with numbers.  (Technically they’re rectangles, but you know what I mean.)  Anyway, it takes a long time to fill in all those little boxes and doing so makes me feel quite heroic, even though, at the time, it’s hell.  Every number I fill in that represents income is like a shot at the evil, triple alliance of decrepit resources, job loss and bankruptcy.  It’s like I’m defending Cactus World and its allies from certain doom, which in fact is exactly what I am doing.  So imagine my disappointment when I found out this film was about something called the Second World War.  Bloody hell, it’s not even the original, it’s just a sequel. How ego deflating is that?

1962  –  Certificate: PG  –  USA
Rating Details:  Mild Violence

There are some great war films out there; this isn’t one of them.  Despite its epic scale, it somehow doesn’t feel epic very often.  It has so many characters in it that you scarcely get to know any of them before we’re whisked off to meet someone else. Yet you never really get a feel for the magnitude of what’s going on, or learn anything much either.  It doesn’t work as a character study film (“Private Ryan”) or a fictional documentary (“Battle of Britain”); it’s just a load of A-listers in cameos with their own little stories, few of which actually join up in any useful way.  As far as the Invasion goes, all I learnt was that we were having a normal crappy summer weather-wise, the Nazi’s made loads of mistakes because they were too arrogant, the rest of us blundered about in the dark lost and the air forces from both sides basically went on holiday.  It wouldn’t really matter of course, but this was a significant point in history and a lot of people lost their lives or were horribly injured, etc.  They deserve something better than Robert Mitchum and John Wayne wondering about acting like gung-ho heroes; Wayne with his broken ankle and Mitchum with his soggy cigar and drug-addict eyes.  I can where Captain Kirk got his inspiration from.  It’s sort of annoying how it just ends too; I know it’s The Longest Day and all that, but after 171 minutes I’d liked to have had a bit of closure, but it just kind of, ends; not unlike the trailer acually.

Recommended for people with three hours to spare.

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.

Top badass moment?  There were plenty of heroes in this movie, but the real badass ones are those that actually took part in this event for real.  Yes, even the American ones.  Ironically, modern Germany is light years away from the one depicted in this film, whereas some of us still think we’re fighting the war and running an empire.  Losers.

The Longest Day at IMDB (7.8 / 10)

The Last of the Crazy People: 3.0 Stars

The Last of the Crazy People  -  Front DVD CoverI went to the dentist yesterday.  The good news was that I didn’t need any treatment.  The bad news was that I need to have a wisdom tooth removed.  Having spoken to three people about this since, all of whom it turned out have had more than one of these teeth removed, I now realise that having my head amputated would be somewhat less painful and traumatic.  When a dentist has a look and goes “oooooh”, then you know her next line isn’t going to be good news.  My dentist’s helpful suggestion was that I should see one of her colleagues, as he’s better at extractions; and stronger.  I wouldn’t mind, but it’s not hurting me or bothering me in the least.  Who named them wisdom teeth anyway?  They’re clearly very stupid teeth!  Probably my earliest childhood memory is of having a tooth taken out at the dentist, screaming my head off in pain and my mum coming in and giving the dentist a piece of her mind; I recall she had him pinned up against the wall, which was very out of character for her!  To say having the opportunity to revisit this experience now I’m a grown-up is not top of my plans this summer, would be an understatement of galactic proportions.  I’m seriously considering giving up food entirely and just living on tepid, filtered, distilled water.  I’m sure I can probably do it myself anyway, with a pair of pliers or something.  I’m struggling to identify what the connection might be between this film and my impending operation, but I felt I needed to share the latter.

2006  –  Certificate: 15  –  France
Rating Details:  Moderate Violence, Suicide Scene, Brief Nudity and Strong Language

The Last of the Crazy People is a French film, in French.  After quite a long run of other sorts of films, it was good to get back to one of my favourite sub-genera, the dysfunctional family.  In this case it lives on a farm in France, not that there’re actually any scenes of farming going on in it.  I’m not sure what to make of it really.  It’s very slow, it has no music in it whatsoever and there are quite long periods when not a lot seems to be happening.  The main character in it is a ten-year-old boy called Martin, who’s basically neglected and ignored by most of the other people in the film who are too busy with their own problems; most of what’s going on is seen from his prospective.  I feel watching it probably ought to have had more of an effect on me than it did, but somehow I didn’t really feel very sorry for any of the characters and the more shocking scenes felt a bit flat. (I probably watch too many Hollywood blockbusters with lots of noise and explosions in them to help me to understand what’s going on.)  The boy who plays the part of Martin, does manage to look suitably miserable for virtually the entire film and is really very convincing, which helps the quality of the movie greatly.  He also walks exactly like Bod.  (If you don’t know who Bod is I suggest you type “Bod” in to YouTube.)  A few years ago I went through a phase of trying to write film reviews on the Amazon web site, which included writing one about this movie.  I eventually realised that my irrelevant and childish ramblings didn’t fit well with the average, serious Amazon DVD buying person; my review for this one is presently being found “helpful” by 7 out of 14 people; or to put it another way, it’s being found unhelpful by 7 out of 14 people.

Recommended for pissed off ten-year-olds everywhere.  Not so good for people interested in studying modern developments in agricultural land management in France.

1 cat and no decapitations.  The cat, a big ginger and white one, had a speaking part and appeared in five scenes!  Sadly it’s last one involved it being run over and then put into a freezer.  It did look suspiciously like it had been drugged for this last one too, which didn’t impress me one bit.

Top badass moment? Any ten-year-old who singlehandedly takes on responsibility for sorting out his family’s problems, is badass personified.  So okay, his solution was a little unorthodox, but it probably worked.

The Last of the Crazy People on IMDB

Dans ma peau: 3.5 Stars

Dans Ma Peau  -  Front CoverFar be it for me to ever admit I have any sort of imperfections, but up until a few years ago I used to bite my nails.  Then one day I realised I’d more or less stopped doing it.  Weird isn’t it?  I’ve no idea what made me stop, but there you go.  One of life’s little mysteries.  This isn’t really a film about biting fingernails, which is probably a positive thing as I can’t imagine it would be very entertaining if it was.  It’s more about someone who’s ambitious at work, who over-stretches herself and as a result of an accident at a partly, starts to self-harm in increasingly extreme ways.  I really wanted to feel sorry for Esther, the main character in this movie.  After all, she clearly has some big issues she needs to deal with and I’m a nice, caring person; no, really I am.  Trouble is, she was basically a selfish bitch and I got the feeling she always had been.  Decent job, caring boyfriend, intelligent, but still managing to be a bitch to everyone, but in that sneaky way only the clever ones can be.  She also uses these same ‘skills’ to hide her new ‘hobby’ from those around her, or at least hide enough of what she does to give them an excuse not to do anything to help her, because that’s easier isn’t it?  I bet they felt pretty bad about it all after the film ended (if that makes any sense)?  Not that I liked any of them really, not my type at all.  Pretty boring, dull, unpleasant people the lot of them.

2002  –  Certificate: 18

Rating Details:  Frequent bloody images of self-mutilation

This is an interesting, intense, French horror.  It’s weird how a country that managed to invent a type of bread that’s so impractical it doesn’t actually fit into anyone’s shopping bag (stupid or what), also manages to produce some really great horrors.  Its self-harming scenes are genuinely unsettling; it’s the sound and the look on Esther’s face more than just simply the gory bits.  It has very good effects and it has to be said the acting is excellent too.  I was glad I hadn’t eaten before watching it.  The scene with the arm during the meal in the restaurant is a bit surreal though and sort of doesn’t quite fit in with the tone of the rest of the film.

No cats and no decapitations.

Recommended for people into slow, intense, quiet horror, with a high “eew factor”.  Not recommended for people who get grossed out during first aid training courses.

Top badass moment?  In the words of the Smiths, “I tried but I failed”.  There’re no characters in this movie with enough redeeming qualities to qualify them as badass.  They weren’t exactly bad, but none had that self-sacrificing ‘hero quality’ that I was looking for. Move along now, nothing to see here; just a lot of flawed humans.

Dans ma peau at IMDB