Chambre Bleue, La (2014)

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An illicit affair leads to murder!
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vt The Blue Room
France / 76 minutes / color / Alfama, Arte France Cinéma, Centre National du Cinéma et de L’Image Animée, Canal+, Ciné+, Cofinova 10, La Région des Pays-de-la-Loire, Le CNC Dir: Mathieu Amalric Pr: Paulo Branco Scr: Stéphanie Cléau, Mathieu Amalric Story: La Chambre Bleue (1964; vt The Blue Room) by Georges Simenon Cine: Christophe Beaucarne Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Léa Drucker, Stéphanie Cléau, Laurent Poitrenaux, Serge Bozon, Blutch, Mona Jaffart, Véronique Alain, Paul Kramer, Alain Fraitag, Christelle Pichon, Olivier Mauvezin, Joseph Ancel, Marie-Agnès Renard.

In the small French town of St. Justin, farm-machinery merchant Julien Gahyde (Amalric) has been having an affair for the past eleven months with pharmacist’s assistant Esther Despierre (Cléau); the pair might have been childhood sweethearts had Julien’s family not moved out of the area. In the interval before his return, both of them got married, Julien to Delphine (Drucker), now mother of his child Suzanne (Jaffart), and Esther to the rich but sickly Nicolas Despierre (Mauvezin). The illicit couple meet clandestinely on occasional afternoons in the Blue Room (so-named because of the color its walls are painted) of the Hôtel de la Gare.

Esther (Stéphanie Cléau).

Julien (Mathieu Amalric).

One day, between bouts, Julien sees from the Blue Room’s window Esther’s husband Nicolas, apparently making his way intently toward the hotel. This sparks both of the lovers into a rethink of Continue reading

Bande à Bonnot, La (1968)

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Classic gangsterism!
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vt Les Anarchistes; vt Bonnot’s Gang
France / 86 minutes / color plus some bw / Intermondia, Kinesis, Mega, Valoria Dir: Philippe Fourastié Pr: Jean-Paul Guibert Scr: Jean Pierre Beaurenaut, Pierre Fabre, Rémo Forlani, Philippe Fourastié, Marcel Jullian Cine: Alain Levent Cast: Jacques Brel, Bruno Cremer, Annie Girardot, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, François Dyrek, Dominique Maurin, Michel Vitold, Nella Bielski, Pascal Aubier, Anne Wiazemsky, Armand Mestral, François Moro-Giafferi, Léonce Corne, Jacqueline Noel.

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In reality, Jules Bonnot was a very minor criminal; he was not even the leader of the gang that the French press of the day—the early 1910s—dubbed La Bande à Bonnot (the Bonnot Gang; the movie’s anglophone variant title, Bonnot’s Gang, is actually a mistranslation). Bonnot began as a bit of a rebel without a clue, became interested in anarchist politics and then, in 1908, joined a counterfeiting gang. The gang diversified into auto theft and burglary. In 1911 he became a member of the anarcho-criminal gang led by Octave Garnier, where he pioneered the use of the getaway car. The following year, with the public in an uproar and the cops coming ever closer, the gang split up. On April 24 1912 the flics almost nabbed Bonnot; in a shootout, he killed Louis Jouin, deputy head of the Sûreté Nationale. A few days later the cops surrounded the house where he was now hiding, and there was a major standoff that ended only when the cops dynamited the building.

The events in this movie bear some resemblance to the ones just recounted (with the help of en.wikipedia.org and fr.wikipedia.org).

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Jacques Brel as Raymond.

Raymond Callemin (Brel), nicknamed “Raymond la Science,” is an anarchist and a bit of a troublemaker; he and his pal Édouard Carouy (Dyrek) tend to get thrown out of places a lot. They join up with an anarchist group led by Continue reading

Une Journée Bien Remplie, ou Neuf Meurtres Insolites dans une Même Journée par un Seul Homme Dont Ce n’est pas le Métier (1973)

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If Jacques Tati had made a serial-killer movie . . .
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vt A Full Day’s Work
France, Italy / 86 minutes / color / Cinétel, EIA, Président, Valoria, BAC Dir & Scr: Jean-Louis Trintignant Pr: Jacques-Éric Strauss Cine: William Lubtchansky Cast: Jacques Dufilho, Luce Marquand, Franco Pesce, Albin Guichard, Andrée Bernard, Louis Malignon, T. Requenae, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Antoine Marin, Pierre Dominique, Vittorio Caprioli, Gisèle Abetissian, Gérard Streiff, Maurice Duc, Manuel Segura, Denise Péron, André Falcon, Hella Petri, Jean-Pierre Elga, Robert Orsini, Eugène Berthier, Gérard Sire, Jean-Louis Trintignant.

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If you can imagine what the result might have been had Jacques Tati ever taken it into his head to make a serial-killer movie, you might begin to envisage how this, the first of Jean-Louis Trintignant’s two directorial outings, Une Journée Bien Remplie, plays. Leading man Jacques Dufilho on occasion even emulates the master in his body language and his walk. Despite the generally used English-language variant title, A Full Day’s Work, the main French title is really far better translated as “A Day Well Spent”: that gives you a far better idea of the caustic yet whimsical humor on offer here, because the day of the central character, mild-mannered French provincial baker Jean “Jeannot” Rousseau (Dufilho) is spent knocking off, in individual and inventive ways, the nine jurors who sent his murdering son Fernand to the guillotine.

(The subtitle translates roughly as—creak of schoolboy French moving into action—“Nine Unusual Murders Committed in the Same Day by a Solitary Man for Whom This is not a Profession.”)

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Dad (Franco Pesce) holds the fort back at the bakery.

In this endeavor Jean is aided and abetted by his dear old mom (Marquand) and his dear old dad (Pesce), the former, dressed funereally and bearing a black umbrella, riding as sidecar passenger on Jean’s motorbike, the latter continuing the business of the bakery in Jean’s absence, and trying to cover for him when the cops come calling.

At first everything goes smoothly.

une-journee-bien-remplie-1-the-guy-looking-out-of-the-rear-window-is-juror-person

The guy looking out the rear window is juror Person (Gérard Streiff). Continue reading

Dernier Domicile Connu (1970)

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Lino Ventura, midst trademark ass-kicking, warms to Marlène Jobert!
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vt Last Known Address
France, Italy / 101 minutes / color / Cité, Valoria, Parme, Simar, Rizzoli Dir & Scr: José Giovanni Pr: Jacques Bar Story: The Last Known Address (1965) by Joseph Harrington Cine: Étienne Becker Cast: Lino Ventura, Marlène Jobert, Michel Constantin, Paul Crauchet, Alain Mottet, Béatrice Arnac, Guy Heron, Albert Dagnant, Monique Mélinand, Marcel Pérès, Germaine Delbat, Hervé Sand, François Jaubert, Philippe March, Jean Sobieski, Bianca Saury, Raymond Meunier, Frédéric Santaya, Luc Bartholomé, Michel Charrel, Max Desrau.

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Paris cop Marceau Leonetti (Ventura) has a reputation for toughness. In the opening minutes of the movie—as per the opening minutes of a Bond movie—we witness some action-packed sequences that have nothing to do with the plot but fix in our minds that this is the hard man of Paris policing. When he arrests the drunk-driving son of a prominent Paris lawyer, however, he discovers there’s something tougher than him: political corruption.

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Arnold (Albert Dagnant, left) explains to Marceau (Lino Ventura) that he’s this month’s scapegoat.

His boss, Arnold (Dagnant), manages to spare Marceau the worst of the flak, but only by dint of transferring him to a sleepy suburban precinct, the Commissariat du XVIIIth Arrondissement, Section Junot 54. There the most exciting case that’s likely to come Marceau’s way . . . well, one day a little boy (uncredited) reports that his fancy pet pigeons have been stolen and, even though the desk sergeant declines to do anything about it, Marceau, like the good serious-crime cop that he is, successfully tracks down and nails the perpetrator.

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Big Frank Lambert (Alain Mottet) has a job for Marceau.

But that’s hardly enough. So, when one day his old colleague and friend “Big” Frank Lambert (Mottet) phones him up to recruit him into a new Special Squad that Lambert’s been asked to form, Marceau leaps at the chance. The fact that the new squad liaises with the Flying Squad and Vice sounds great; in fact it’s been formed to catch a plague of perverts who’ve been pestering young women in the Paris cinemas.

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Marceau’s new partner, Jeanne Dumas (Marlène Jobert), arrives for her first day working with the Special Squad.

As his partner, Marceau is assigned a rookie, Jeanne Dumas (Jobert). At first glance he realizes she’s not so much his partner as his baitfish: it’s her job to sit in the cinemas looking repressed and virginal—to be a sort of perve-magnet, luring the creeps so that Marceau can then leap out of the shadows and Continue reading

Passage à l’Acte (1996)

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A psychoanalyst copes with a failed marriage, a psychopathic patient and the advances of a neurotic femme fatale!

vt Death in Therapy
France / 100 minutes / color / Arena, Camera One, D.A. Films, France 2 Cinéma, Canal+, Cofimage 7, Pyramide Dir: Francis Girod Pr: Bruno Pesery, Michel Seydoux Scr: Francis Girod, Michel Grisolia, Gerard Miller Story: Neutralité Malveillante (1992) by Jean-Pierre Gattégno Cine: Charlie Van Damme Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Patrick Timsit, Anne Parillaud, Michèle Laroque, Marc Berman, Marc Chouppart, Clotilde de Bayser, Marianne Denicourt, Jean-Michel Noirey, Anne-Marie Philipe, Hélène Fillières, Aurélien Recoing, Florence Viala, Anne Le Ny, Eric Laugerias, Romain Legrand.

Passage a l'Acte - 3 The evidence of the newspaper article

A year or so ago, high-flying psychoanalyst Sylvain Meyer was killed in an outlandish car accident. Today his protégé Antoine Rivière (Auteuil) is having a little difficulty making ends meet in his solo psychoanalytic practice: even though he has cachet enough to attract patients and charge high prices, the mansion that he bought to house the practice is draining his finances and the bank is on his neck. His ex-wife Florence (Laroque), with whom he’s still on friendly terms, seems to be doing much better—certainly she’s able and willing to lend him fat sums of money when need be.

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Florence (Michèle Laroque), the separated wife but loyal friend.

His brokeness is all the more surprising in that he’s evidently a bestselling author and a regular participant on TV talk shows. Of course, he has to maintain a staff of two: Felicité (uncredited) and Fabienne (Le Ny).

Passage a l'Acte - 1 Isabelle undergoes therapy

Isabelle (Anne Parillaud) undergoes therapy with Antoine (Daniel Auteuil).

In all directions he’s surrounded by heartstoppingly beautiful women. Ex-wife Florence is one. His editor at the publishing house (uncredited) is another. His colleague Nathalie (Denicourt) is yet another. Two of his patients fit the bill as well, one unidentified and uncredited, the other the wealthy heiress Isabelle d’Archambault (Parillaud, of NIKITA [1990] fame), who states quite explicitly that Continue reading

Trouble (2005)

vt Duplicity
France, Belgium / 92 minutes / color / TF1, Outsider, To Do Today, VnO, France 3, RTBF, Laurent Brochand, TFM Dir: Harry Cleven Pr: Laurent Brochand Scr: Harry Cleven, Jérôme Salle, Isabelle Coudrier, Yann Le Nivet, Sophie Hiet Story: Harry Cleven Cine: Vincent Mathias Cast: Benoît Magimel, Natacha Regnier, Olivier Gourmet, Hanna Novak, Nathan Lacroix, Benjamin Engelman, David Engelman, Morgan Perez, Fabienne Loriaux.

Trouble - 1 The happy family of Claire, Pierre and Matyas

The happy family Hebert: Claire (Natacha Regnier), Pierre (Nathan Lacroix) and Matyas (Benoît Magimel).

Matyas Hebert (Magimel) lives happily with his heavily pregnant wife Claire (Regnier) and their little son Pierre (Lacroix), and works as a photographer—nothing grand, just portraits of schoolkids and the like. One day he’s horrified to get a letter telling him that his mother, Mme Depierpont-Dussart, has died—horrified because Matyas was reared in an orphanage in the belief that his parents were dead. More startling still, he discovers he has an identical twin brother, Thomas Dussart (Magimel again), who was told at age 6 that Matyas had died in a car accident.

Trouble - 2 The two brothers first meet each other

The two brothers (both played by Benoît Magimel, obviously) first meet each other.

Matyas senses from the outset that Thomas is a manipulative creep, and soon this suspicion seems more than amply justified as Continue reading

Premier Cercle, Le (2009)

vt Inside Ring; vt The Dead List; vt Ultimate Heist; vt The First Circle
France, Italy / 92 minutes / color with bw stock footage before credits / Alter, Thelma, TF1, Canal+, CNC, TFM, Medusa Dir: Laurent Tuel Pr: Alain Terzian, Christine Gozlan Scr: Laurent Tuel, Simon Moutaïrou, Laurent Turner Cine: Laurent Machuel Cast: Jean Reno, Gaspard Ulliel, Vahina Giocante, Sami Bouajila, Isaac Sharry, Alberto Gimignani, Nicolas Bridet, Tony Gaultier, Jean-Paul Zennacker, Eric Challier, Julian Negulesco, Franco Trevisi, Gisèle Casadesus, Ruben Bakar.

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Terrorizing their area of southern France is the Malakian clan, originally of Armenian stock; it’s led by ruthless patriarch Milo Malakian (Reno). Some years ago he lost his son Georgy in a shootout with the cops; now his hopes rest on his other son, Anton (Ulliel). Some of the clan’s activities are relatively innocuous, such as a clever car-theft trick they’ve worked out, but others are more serious. In course of a major heist at the grand Villa Marine, Milo ruthlessly Continue reading

Maison sous les Arbres, La (1971)

vt The Deadly Trap; vt Death Scream
France, Italy / 96 minutes / color / Corona, Pomereu, Oceania Dir: René Clément Pr: Robert Dorfmann, Bertrand Javal Scr: Sydney Buchman, Eleanor Perry Story: The Children Are Gone (1965) by Arthur Cavanaugh Cine: Andreas Winding Cast: Faye Dunaway, Frank Langella, Barbara Parkins, Karen Blanguernon, Raymond Gérôme, Maurice Ronet, Michèle Lourie, Patrick Vincent, Gérard Buhr.

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Two Americans, Jill Halard (Dunaway) and her scientist husband Philippe (Langella), live in their Paris apartment with their children Cathy (Lourie) and Patrick (Vincent). There’s a sense that Philippe has fled a project or situation that he disliked in the US, because he’s now copyediting science books for a French publisher. At the start of the movie he’s contacted by a spokesman (Ronet) for “The Organization” with an offer to go back to his old work to carry out, in noirish parlance, One Last Job. When Philippe hotly refuses, the persuasions turns to veiled threats against his family, which threats he treats as just so much rhetoric.

Maison Sous les Arbres - 3 PatrickPatrick (Patrick Vincent) finds a new toy.

Maison Sous les Arbres - 1 CathyCathy (Michèle Lourie) tries to hold the family together.

But then things do indeed start going alarmingly awry with the Halards’ world. While Philippe is off at a conference in Toulouse, Jill and the kids are Continue reading

Boîte Noire, La (2005)

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vt The Black Box
France / 88 minutes / color plus some limited color / EuropaCorp, TF1, Canal+, TPS Star, Sofica EuropaCorp Dir: Richard Berry Pr: Michel Feller Scr: Eric Assous, Richard Berry Story: “La Boîte Noire” (2000) by Tonino Benacquista Cine: Thomas Hardmeier Cast: José Garcia, Marion Cotillard, Michel Duchaussoy, Bernard Le Coq, Gérald Laroche, Helena Noguerra, Marisa Borini, Nathalie Nell, Pascal Bongard, Steve Campos, Hugo Brunswick, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam.

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When Arthur Seligman (Garcia) wakes in hospital from a coma he’s convinced that, driving too fast, he slew a young boy on a bicycle who was coming the other way along the road. The nurse in charge of his case, Isabelle Kruger (Cotillard), tells him that no trace of boy or bicycle has been found; it seems that he missed a bend, rolled the car, and is mighty lucky to still be alive. However, she can tell him that he burbled mightily during his coma and that she took copious notes of what he said. The contents of the notebook that she gives to him could serve, she says, as his black box to recover what was going through his mind just before the crash.

Boite Noire - 6 Nurse Isabelle

Nurse Isabelle (Marion Cotillard).

Arthur discharges himself from the hospital, discovers to his horror that he’s in Cherbourg rather than his native Paris, takes the train home, finds his tatty apartment much the same as always and his booted-up computer waiting, starts typing Isabelle’s notes into the computer and Continue reading

3615 Code Père Noël (1990)

vt Game Over; vt Hide and Freak; vt Deadly Games

France / 88 minutes / color / LM, Deal, Garance Dir & Scr: René Manzor Pr: Francis Lalanne Cine: Michel Gaffier Cast: Brigitte Fossey, Louis Ducreux, Patrick Floersheim, Alain Musy, François-Eric Gendron, Stéphane Legros, Franck Capillery, Marion Bureau.

Nine-year-old Thomas “Tommy” de Frémont (Musy) has his every whim indulged, it seems, in the château owned by his mother, Julie (Fossey): he has more toys than a toyshop, thanks not a little to the fact that Julie is manager of the megastore Printemps, and he enjoys dressing himself up like Rambo and slugging it out with his dog J.R. We get the message that Julie spoils Thomas in foolish hope of compensating for the fact—much resented by him—that the demands of her job and her love life mean she’s hardly ever around for him.

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Young Tommy (Alain Musy) sees himself as Rambo.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Julie is off to Printemps, warning Tommy that she’ll likely have to work late; at the movie’s opening it seems this means she’ll be spending time with her assistant and lover Roland (Gendron) but later on it becomes evident that “doing the year-end accounts” is not in fact a euphemism. Tommy is left in charge of the frail old grandfather he loves, Papy (Ducreux), who’s befuddled and largely blind from diabetes.

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The family domicile — Cinderalla’s castle, anyone?

Thomas is a geekly genius, whose hobbies include Continue reading