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My Name is Hmmm... Review


Excellent

From France, this artful drama is designed to stir controversy among viewers, approaching taboo issues in a way that can't help but raise the hackles. But by doing this, the film forces people to think about these things in new ways, challenging accepted wisdom and even the letter of the law. It's a bracingly fresh approach to filmmaking for writer-director-producer Agnes Trouble, who's far better known as the designer agnes b.

At the centre is 11-year-old Celine (Lou-Lelia Demerliac), who ends up caring for her younger siblings because their mother (Sylvie Testud) is working extra shifts and their father (Jacques Bonaffe) just sits around the house uselessly, moaning about the fact that he's unemployed. But he also has some very dark urges, inviting Celine upstairs for special time that's all too clearly horrific sexual abuse. So it's no surprise that Celine begs to go on a school camping trip, then quietly runs off when no one's watching. She stows away in the cab of friendly Scottish truck driver Peter (Douglas Gordon), who instantly understands everything that's happened to her. So he decides to help her escape.

The film is shot and edited with a lot of swirly and gimmicky stylistic touches that often obscure the precise nature of a scene, capturing Celine's perspective on events while forcing the audience to look closer. This also makes the film feel almost like a caper, as Celine goes on this apparently exciting adventure with a stranger who, for the first time in her life, lets her play as the happy little girl that she should be. Meanwhile, as viewers, we have constant chills down the spine, understanding various ramifications of what's happening and wondering why Peter never calls the authorities. What we know also clouds the scenes of Celine's parents desperately searching for their missing daughter.

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Rebellion [L'Ordre et la Morale] Review


Excellent

French actor-filmmaker Mathieu Kassovitz (Gothika) takes on a major event in his nation's colonial history with this true action-adventure set on the lush South Pacific island of New Caledonia. It's a muscular, harrowing military thriller that has echoes of Zero Dark Thirty in its urgent story's drive to a big action climax. And it was made a year earlier.

The events take place in 1988, as politicians in France are preparing for general elections when an uprising breaks out in New Caledonia and several people are taken hostage by Kanak islanders. So French special forces captain Philippe (Kassovitz) assembles a crack team to diffuse the situation. Their goal is to facilitate talks to find a peaceful solution, but the local French politician (Martin) and military bosses are keen on a much more aggressive approach to crush any percieved rebellion. This is especially frustrating to Philippe after he meets the Kanak leader (Lapacas) and discovers that they also want peace, and that the whole situation is the result of panic and inexperience.

As the military and government pushes violence over peace, the story becomes increasingly intense. The political gamesmanship is shocking, as candidates falsely label the Kanaks as "savages" to get votes while arrogant leaders make snap decisions thousands of miles away in Paris. So the film begins to feel like a real attempt to right France's colonial wrongs, and it's infused with the righteous anger of centuries of mistreatment of indigenous peoples. It even opens with the caption, "The truth hurts, but lies kill".

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Lourdes Review


Good
This off-centre film looks like a paean to devotion with its stately images of pilgrims seeking healing at a holy Catholic site. And yet Hausner quietly and cleverly undermines this with a searing undercurrent about the mindlessness of organised religion.

Christine (Testud) is a prisoner of her body due to MS, and travels to Lourdes with a tour group of people hoping for a miracle. Accompanied by a team of nurses and assistants, they visit the famed grotto, are bathed in the sacred waters, attend services and are blessed by priests. Her nurse (Seydoux) has other things on her mind, and her roommate (Barbier) is a little too helpful.

And then the unexpected happens: Christine moves. But the pilgrims question why she's the one who was chosen when clearly others are more needy and deserving.

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La Vie en Rose Review


OK
The fact that Olivier Dahan's lengthy retread into the life of French chanteuse Edith Piaf has subtitles shouldn't distract you from what's going on. La Vie En Rose, though more stylish in a half-assed, Jeunet-aping sort of way, carbon-copies the DNA of Hollywood musician biopics Ray and Walk the Line and, for better or worse, becomes another in a long line of over-hyped cinematic biographies.

Played by the radiant Marion Cotillard, Piaf rose to stardom as France's most infamous and celebrated singer. Her inebriated bravado and playful demeanor only enlivened her fluid, stunning voice, creating some of the most entertaining and dynamic live performances ever given by a solo vocalist. Rising up with her best friend Momone (a solid Sylvie Testud), Piaf was saved from a youth spent being raised in a bordello when her father couldn't keep things together. Singing on the street, Piaf was finally found by club owner Louis Leplee (the reliably great Gerard Depardieu). From there, Piaf furthered her talents and eventually became the great singer we now know her as.

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Fear And Trembling Review


Excellent
Wow! Talk about lost in translation! Fear and Trembling spends most of its 107-minute running time inside the accounting office of a Japanese conglomerate, but no matter how boring that may sound, rest assured the film is never less than gripping. It's East meets West (or rather West crashes into East) like you've never seen it before.

Young Amelie (Sylvie Testud) is a Belgian who spent the first five years of her life in Japan and never lost her love for the culture. Now out of college and fluent in Japanese, she returns to Tokyo on a one-year contract to act as a translator for the gigantic Yumimoto Corporation. But no sooner does she take her seat across from her immediate superior, the impossibly glamorous Fubuki (Kaori Tsuji), than the culture clashes begin.

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A Loving Father Review


OK
Set aside the unlikely story: Gérard Depardieu's Leo wins the Nobel Prize for literature. Decides to drive his motorcycle to Sweden to pick it up. Encounters spiteful and disowned son at a gas station on the way. Son follows dad, dad crashes his motorcycle. Son kidnaps disoriented dad. World thinks dad is dead when they find his wallet on the scene (where, conveniently, another motorcycle has crashed and the rider hasn't survived).

Yeah, that sounds pretty stupid, but Depardieu's a good enough actor to pull most of this off: A mean-spirited story of intra-family backbiting and angst, with the son played by real-life Depardieu junior, Guillaume. Gérard Depardieu proves he's still go the chops to pull off a hateful father role even though he's playing against his own son.

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Murderous Maids Review


Good
One of history's most perverse accounts of murder, naturally it took place in France.

Murderous Maids tells the story of two sisters that are just a little to close and a little too sociopathic... which means plenty of incestual lesbianism capped off with the murder of their employer. This story -- a true-ish account that occured in the 1930s -- was told in film once before in the lackluster Sister My Sister, and it keeps cropping up in plays, books, and popular culture. In fact, this version of the film is based on a novelization of the events called L'affaire Papin.

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The Château Review


Good
Director Jesse Peretz scores some major laughs in the delightful, shrewd, and cozy French farce The Château, a cross-cultural comedy which can be considered the eccentric and frothy version of Gosford Park. Peretz, who helmed the arbitrary and forgettable First Love, Last Rites, serves up an energetic and irreverent examination of class study in a wickedly humorous charmer. The film was shot, to mixed results, with a hand-held digital video camera to give the movie an informal, spontaneous feel, and Peretz's ensemble cast were all encouraged to improvise without the safety net of a solid script. Although The Château at times appears as a scattershot project, the spry storyline more than compensates for the minor drawbacks. This is one small-scale satire that certainly knows how to celebrate its off-kilter conventions.

All is quaint at the titular chateau amongst the chief manservant and his intimate staff until a sudden shockwave rocks the establishment. Suddenly two adoptive American brothers arrive, one a Midwestern white, frumpy bohemian type (Paul Rudd) and the other a black, balding, sharply-dressed businessman (Romany Malco). The siblings are there in the scenic French countryside to claim the expansive deteriorating estate left to them by an unknown departed great uncle.

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