Category Archives: French Film

Pretty Devils (2000)

This is a story that should focus on the traumatic events of youth and the effects they have down the road–which it presents, but doesn’t fully explore.  Naughty Lea (Olivia Bonamy) and sly Aurelie (Axelle Ade-Pasdeloup) are a pair of teenage girls with a taste for mayhem–they chat up men and rob them, they steal from locker rooms, and generally use a near abandoned gym as their larceny playground.  Why?  They are living a middle class existence with their mother, so it is not that they are destitute.  We later learn that their father has died in a diving accident, and that their mother was unable to show any sort of affection or interest in them for a long time afterwards.  So maybe it is attention seeking.  They are beginning to worry that Mom’s new boyfriend, a local gendarme, may be on to them.

Enter Anne-Sophie (Audrey Tatou), who has been dumped by a lover.  She is interested in revenge, and Lea and Aurelie have lots of ideas about how to foil his relationship with his latest love interest–which they successfully accomplish.  Anne-Sophie is eager to be their friend, and gets immediately wrapped up in their antics, but quickly there are two consecutive and unrelated disasters that lead to an end to the acting out, and provide a way for the policeman to gain an entrance to their stone cold hearts as well.  Well acted, and gives one the ability to connect the dots on why these girls are acting as they do, but not much else.  I recommend, with a 7/10 rating.

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Coco Before Chanel (2009)


Directed by Anne Fontaine and based upon the book by Edmonde Charles-Roux, Coco Before Chanel is a biographical tale of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel set a timeline which is just that, before she founded her empire. So for those who are more intrigued about the fashion world and the impact Chanel has on it, then this is not the movie you’re looking for, as it firmly dwells on Coco as a person, and her romantic dalliances with two men who played significant roles in her life, be it in support of her daily sustenance, or inspiring her love, beleiving in her, and providing the means for her desire to make a name for herself.
The film dedicated plenty of time in Coco’s awakening to the French high life of the time, since she became a voluntary insinuated herself as the mistress of rich playboy Etienne Balsan (Benoit Poelvoorde), who rescued her from poverty, and whose riches afforded to her access to the slacker lifestyles of the rich and famous. The audience gets reminded time and again of how stifling a woman’s place in high society was at the turn of the century, made worse by the restrictive clothing like corsets, frills, and lace from the neck right down to sweeping the floors. Coco’s disdain for constraint, combined with her penchant for freedom from social norms led to bold designs that did not conform, starting from her hats, which provided her some attention and notoriety.
As Coco Chanel, Audrey Tautou epitomizes that level of elegance, vulnerability with a rebellious streak to do things differently. Her petiteness and somewhat boyish cut figure probably suited the role really well as the initial designs by Coco were those inspired by menswear, though you only get glimpses of her design genius from short montages scattered throughout, and from some scenes which show her working at a tailor shop, but other than that you will gain very little from this bio-pic about the evolution of the fashion designer she was to become.

Coco is a woman who did, finally, fall in love, but again with a man to whom she was a mistress, not a wife–though he carried her about on his arm, and who saw her vast talent and her iron fist as the keys to being a great success. Sadly, he dies (but not before he has financed her beginning), and Chanel never really recovers.
Though it is not a movie about fashion but rather the making of a designer, the clothes here are the star of the show, from the fashions of societal norms in both directions of the rich-poor spectrum, to Coco Chanel’s designs with her menswear inspired pieces, and the glamour-chic pieces only making it through in a parting shot at the finale. The opulently designed clothes of that era stand in stark contrast to the Chanel pieces, which celebrates sheer beauty and elegance in their simplicity, and probably from there, stamping its mark on the fashion industry.

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The Secret of the Grain (2007)


This is a loud, bustling, vibrant movie. The message is not so much of hope or of fear, but rather that it is what it is. At the center of the film is a stubborn, taciturn immigrant from Tunisia, Slimane (Habib Boufares) has spent 35 years working in the shipyards of Sète, a rough little French port city on the Mediterranean coast. The other members of his large, cantankerous family — his former wife, Souad (Bouraouïa Marzouk), and their assorted children and grandchildren — live mostly in a battered high-rise housing project. Slimane, meanwhile, keeps a modest room in the blue-collar hotel run by his lover, Latifa (Hatika Karaoui), and her 20-year-old daughter, Rym (the amazing Hafsia Herzi), on whom he dotes as if she were his own.

The story of immigrants in France is demonstrated rather than explored. The sense of being French, not being French, and not accepted as French is a constant theme, and this exists outside of any overt prejudice or mistreatment. The adherence to the culture of the homeland is also quite evident. The family structure is as it was in Tunisia, and it is quite inviting. The involvement of the family across generations is easy going and balanced. They work together for the greater good throughout the movie, and even the black sheep of the family is neutralized by the reaction of others. It is a winsome yet hopeful voice of immigration for a better life.

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