Tag Archives: French

Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent (played by Pierre Niney) grows up in Algeria and loves to design dresses for his mother, Lucienne (by Marianne Basler) and his two young sisters Michèle and Brigitte. At 18 years old, he moves to Paris to study fashion and quickly gets the attention of the Parisien Haute Couture set. He is instantly hired by Christian Dior. Slowly, his sketches and designs are adopted into the collections and when Dior dies prematurely, at only 21 Yves becomes his successor. His first solo collection achieves rave reviews and to ease media angst he shortens his name to Yves Saint Laurent. He struggles through the next few years, then he and his partner, Pierre Bergé (by Guillaume Gallienne) form their own fashion house – YSL. His label and “look” grow in popularity and many celebrities become his clients. Yves Saint Laurent’s heady lifestyle as one of the Paris jet set involves heavy drinking and cocaine. He continues to sketch and design, living in both Morocco and France. He holds fashion shows but struggles with his health and addictions, so if often distant from the day to day arrangements – relying on Pierre to keep the business operating. By the 2000’s the pair have established a steady routine, but he develops brain cancer and dies in June 2008 in Paris. Soon after, heartbroken Pierre undertakes an auction of their extensive collection of art and treasures.

This is a beautifully made movie and the performances by both Pierre Niney and Guillaume Gallienne are wonderful. As Yves Saint Laurent, Niney is captivating, strikingly like YSL in appearance, with a totally authentic portrayal of him. The relationship between these men is turbulent, at times violent but always passionate. It’s a very well told, fascinating story. For this work, Pierre Niney was awarded the César Best Actor (Meilleur acteur) at the 2015 France César Awards. Well done.

Made in 2014. Directed by Jalil Lespert

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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Movies


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My Old Lady

Can it be true? … can Mathias Gold (played by Kevin Kline) finally have had some good fortune? Having grown up in a wealthy New York family, Mathias’ luck hasn’t been great over his life – in fact he’s been quite unhappy. He’s never had a great relationship with his father and he’s had some bad marriages. His father died recently and left Mathias an apartment in Paris – fantastic! It’s got to be worth a fortune, right? – At last, something good’s going to come out of all these traumatic years. Mathias heads to Paris to take a look at his new property. On his arrival, he discovers a fabulous and huge apartment – but there’s one small snag … it’s currently inhabited. But the resident isn’t just a tenant who can be evicted, it’s Madame Mathilde Girard (by Maggie Smith). She lives in the apartment under a decades-old Parisian arrangement, along with her daughter Chloé (by Kristin Scott Thomas). Madame Girard has no intention of moving and expects to stay, along with Chloe, in the apartment until she dies. As a woman in her early nineties, she’s quite fit, so this change doesn’t seem to be coming anytime in the near future. So … luck hasn’t quite dealt Mathias a clear hand here. All he wants to do is sell the apartment for a fair price and get back to New York with the money – so how’s he going to get that done now?

This movie is far deeper and darker than I expected. To start with, the production itself is dark – the Parisian apartment is vast and roomy, but not light. There’s a garden, but it doesn’t offer any joy or freshness either. The moody atmosphere inside the house reflects the nature of the relationships between these people – there are several and they are complex, hence the density of the drama that unfolds. There’s no doubt that Kevin Kline is a brilliant comedy actor, so I thought this may be a far more light-hearted piece than it is. In this serious role he’s very good, as is Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas. Maggie Smith does play these eccentric old ladies very well. As Chloe, Kristin Scott Thomas is rather predictable and there’s little new here from her, that’s unfortunate as I am a fan of hers. If anything, the movie’s possibly a bit too long – but then again, the story is complex so may need that much time in the telling. It raises multitudes of questions about relationships … When is the best time to reveal truths in families? Who is the one to know what’s best for others? When infidelity is part of a relationship, can that be a long term feature? and Would a relationship work if it was?  … these are vexing questions indeed, ones that have more than one “right” answer no doubt. It’s an interesting piece that may cause the viewer to consider it long after the movie ends.

Made in 2014. Directed by Israel Horovitz.

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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Movies


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Delicacy (La délicatesse)

Nathalie (played by Audrey Tautou) and François (by Pio Marmaï) meet at the same café every year on the anniversary of the day they met – they savour the delicious memory. Their’s is a beautiful, trusting and happy relationship. When they marry, both Nathalie’s parents (by Ariane Ascaride and Christophe Malavoy) are overjoyed and can’t wait for the grandchildren to arrive. They settle into married life until François has a tragic accident and Nathalie’s world turns upside down. She’s thrown into deep despair and is barely able to function. After a time, she returns to work and is glad that her boss, Charles (by Bruno Todeschini), will support her with lots of work to keep her occupied as she recovers. With her life in tatters, her best friend Sophie (by Joséphine de Meaux) has no clue how to help her and Nathalie’s behaviour becomes erratic. One day at work she has a random encounter with fellow worker, Markus (by François Damiens). Although her behaviour is beyond her control – and often her consciousness – she forms an unlikely friendship with the awkward and hapless Markus and she begins to emerge from her darkness. Charles, hopelessly in love with Nathalie, is outraged at their friendship and Natalie’s assistant, Chloe (by Mélanie Bernier) discovers the best office gossip for a long time. This situation can’t possibly end well … can it?

This is one of those movies that is billed as a comedy, but there isn’t much that’s funny in it. I guess some plot lines could be amusing to some viewers – a woman’s journey through tragedy and grief that produces some erratic behaviour; the despicable behaviour of Nathalie’s boss who is infatuated with her to the complete disregard of all other people; the awkward Markus and his confusion mixed with delight at the thought of making a personal connection with Nathalie. These are lovely storylines, but not really all that funny. Having said that, this movie this is easy to watch. As Nathalie, Audrey Tautou is as she always is, like a porcelain doll – so delicate, beautiful, unconsciously classy and flawlessly styled. François Damiens’ portrayal of Markus is a perfect balance – he is huge, awkward, scruffy and desperately average. Compare him to the behaviour of their boss Charles – he is totally French – egotistical, pretentious and arrogant. The friendship that develops between Nathalie and Markus is nice and it becomes beautiful towards the end when they pay a visit to Nathalie’s grandmother, Madeleine (by Monique Chaumette) – she’s just lovely. I guess some may find this funny. For his work here as Markus, François Damiens won the Prix Aquitaine Prix d’interprétation masculine at the 2011 Sarlat International Cinema Festival.  This is based on David Foenkinos’ best selling novel “La délicatesse”.

Made in 2011.  Directed by David Foenkinos and Stephane Foenkinos

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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Movies


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Lagerfeld Confidential

Karl Lagerfeld is a German fashion designer, artist and photographer who is now based in Paris. He is most well known as head designer and creative director of the French fashion house Chanel and the Italian house Fendi. He also has his own successful label. As a recognised style icon, his trademark is his white hair tied back in a ponytail, his dark glasses and his stiff, high white collars. He is an enigma – a mysterious man with multiple layers and facets. This documentary follows his activities for several months to try to get closer to him and understand how he thinks.

I love watching movies like this. It’s a documentary that’s a “fly on the wall” biopic to show Karl Lagerfeld doing his day-to-day ordinary things. There’s no doubt that he is eccentric – he won’t be photographed without his glasses – and he’s an excellent artist – we watch him sketch several times, which is magical. But he presents a dilemma – confusing and highly fascinating at the same time – he’s direct and honest about himself, but can also get into long raves about his life philosophies that perhaps make sense only to him. The movie makes a big fuss about Nicole Kidman being part of it, but she doesn’t feature for long. I was far more interested in the surprise appearance of Princess Caroline of Monaco at a private function. I’m not sure that we are any better informed about Karl Lagerfeld at the conclusion of the movie, but it’s good to watch if you like this type of thing.

Made in 2007. Directed by Rodolophe Marconi,

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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Movies


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The Son (Le Fils)

Olivier (played by Olivier Gourmet) is a skilled carpenter. He works at a Young Persons’ Rehab Centre to help youths develop skills in carpentry. This is a good job for him – he can focus on this totally and rebuild his quiet life after a terrible trauma involving the violent death of his young son. He tries hard to give the Centre’s attendees a solid a start so they can have hope of a more positive future. He has somehow transferred his attention from his lost son to them, so he’s happy to do it. One day, the Centre Director (by Annette Closset) brings a new attendee to his class. He recognises this young man, Francis (by Morgan Marianne) with a terrible feeling – so he refuses and tells her the class is full. When he follows up, he realises this is the boy who committed the crime that resulted in his son’s death. What should he do? His son is not coming back … should he refuse this boy his chance of improving his future prospects?

This movie is an enigma. The performances of Olivier Gourmet, Morgan Marianne and Isabella Soupart, who plays Magali, the mother of Olivier’s son, are strong. The production is very good – it has a very specific plot focus, often with little dialogue – but talk is not necessary, the audience is engaged enough to watch and want to know what will happen next. The camera work is like nothing I’ve seen before – it’s not “fly on the wall” exactly, but more like “spider on the shoulder” … sounds weird, I know, but it’s shot from the close-up perspective of Olivier’s movements and often seems like the viewer is sitting on Olivier’s shoulder. It’s very well done and Directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne would have been highly meticulous in their work to create it. The movie has been universally applauded, including the 2002 Cannes Film Festival which gave the award for Best Actor to Olivier Gourmet and the movie a nomination for Palm D’Or. Very well done.

Made in 2002. Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

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Posted by on January 22, 2015 in Movies


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Young and Beautiful (Jeune Et Jolie)

Isabelle (played by Marine Vacth) is holidaying with her family in the south of France. They happily celebrate her seventeenth birthday in the summer sun and along the beach. One day, a holiday romance becomes her first sexual experience and in a less than romantic encounter she loses her virginity. When she and her family travel back to Paris, she’s curious to know more about sex so she secretly becomes a call girl. She meets several regular clients when her mother, Sylvie (by Géraldine Pailhas) thinks she’s either at school or studying with her friends. During one hotel liaison, Isabelle’s client Georges (by Johan Leysen) suddenly dies and she flees. When the police track her down and question her – she is unapologetic, but doesn’t behave like a victim either.  Her mother is horrified and her brother, Victor (by Fantin Ravat) is totally amazed – he wants to know more too.  Her life continues on and she tries to balance her adult experiences with her still maturing emotions.

This film is okay – of course the south of France and Paris are both lovely, but the story is strangely remote. I didn’t find Isabella particularly interesting at all, nor any of her family. The saviour for me is the cameo by Charlotte Rampling, but you need to wait quite a while for that. As a drama, it’s interesting in that you’d like to understand what makes this girl tick and what motivates her – she wants to have adult sexual interactions, but wants a teenage love affair with someone her own age too … difficult adolescent times, I suppose. I would be interested to see both Marine Vacth and Fantin Ravat in other things as I don’t think this is enough to judge. The director, François Ozon,  has also made “8 Women” and “Swimming Pool”, which I found far better than this one.

Made in 2013. Directed by François Ozon.

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Posted by on November 28, 2014 in Movies


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A Lady in Paris (Une Estonienne à Paris)

Anne (played by Laine Magi) has been caring for her mother in Estonia. To do this, Anne has stopped work, so they are struggling to make ends meet. The winter is cold and things are bleak. Since her divorce, Anne’s her life hasn’t held much joy – even her children have found their own lives now. When her mother dies, her employer offers her a position in Paris, to care for an elderly lady. Anne is unsure, but takes a chance – just to get a change of scenery, more than anything. Once in Paris, she meets Frida (by Jeanne Moreau). She discovers that Frida is a fellow Estonian, but she isn’t interested in Anne’s care and is quite insulting towards her. So, this is what she left her home and family for? Frida is adamant that she doesn’t need help but Anne eventually finds a way to provide the care she has been employed to carry out, without damaging the pride of the once well to do woman.

This movie is quite harmless. It’s a sweet story of lonely people who are too proud to admit it – and I suppose it’s about about accepting that life doesn’t stay the sMe for ever. However, there’s not really enough in it for me. The only potential source of real drama or conflict is from Stephan, but he is impotent here also. The director provides several places where things could take a turn for the dramatic – and the viewer actually anticipates they will – but they don’t and the tension just fizzles. It has its moments, but there aren’t many.

Made in 2012. Directed by Ilmar Raag

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Posted by on March 9, 2014 in Movies


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