Tag Archives: France

A TOWN CALLED PANIC

A Town Called Panic / Panique au village
d.  Stéphane Aubier & Vincent Patar / 2009 / Belgium-Luxembourg-France / 85 mins
Downstairs @ Prince Charles Cinema (London, UK)

Still from A Town Called Panic

Ahhh…the surreal silliness that is A Town Called Panic!

I love the television series – hell, I even love Aubier and Patar’s Cravendale milk ads. And I’d been waiting to see the film since it premiered at Cannes in 2009, but I couldn’t help but think that there was a distinct possibility that what worked for short-format television wouldn’t necessarily translate to a feature film, even one as fleeting as Horse, Indian and Cowboy’s first, brief foray onto the big screen. After all, I couldn’t shake the notion that such relentless surreality is vastly better experienced in short, tempered bursts, particularly when it is delivered via intentionally jerky stop-motion animation.

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ENTER THE VOID

Enter the Void
d. Gasper Noé /2009 / France / 137 mins
Downstairs @ Prince Charles Cinema (London, UK)

Still from Enter the Void

What can you say about a film like this? Really?

Noé’s fluid/florid style absolutely dominates every one of your aural and visual senses, to the point that its hard to gauge the quality of its performances or the strength of its narrative, making it even harder to adequately describe. Enter the Void is undoubtedly stunning visually – certainly like nothing I have ever seen before – but is that really enough?

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THE ILLUSIONIST

The Illusionist / L’Illusionniste
d. Sylvain Chomet / 2010 / France-UK / 89 mins
Cinema 1 @ Barbican (London, UK)

Still from The Illusionist

Beautifully animated, brilliantly related tale of a past-his-prime French magician, traipsing his way around mid-century Britain performing in music halls, variety theatres and pubs. Based on a story by Jacques Tati – who made his name playing the quintessential French caricature Monsieur Hulot – The Illusionist is shot through with his unmistakable brand of sublime, subtle, absurdist whimsy: from the gentle slapstick aloofness of Tatischeff the Magician to his maniacal white rabbit and the relentlessly glum London rain.

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THE GHOST

The Ghost [aka The Ghost Writer]
d. Roman Polanski / 2010 / France-Germany-UK / 128 min
Viewed at: Screen 12 @ Odeon (Norwich, UK)

Still from The Ghost

Adapted, as it was, from a novel by Robert Harris, Roman Polanski’s The Ghost is of a generic style which, though popular in novels, has somehow lost favour in the filmic realm. Espionage, intrigue and skullduggery continues to sell paperbacks across the globe, but in cinema, it often seems little more than a throwback to a certain brand of 1970s Hollywood. That said, this might be unapologetically old-fashioned filmmaking from Polanski, but it’s unfeasibly well done.

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M. HULOT’S HOLIDAY

M. Hulot’s Holiday / Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot
d. Jacques Tati / 1953 / France / 114 min

Still from M. Hulot's Holiday

Channelling all of the silent comedy tradition’s finest visual gags and pratfalls, this is Tati’s remarkably delightful masterpiece. It has aged somewhat, I suppose – its gentler pleasures now replaced with an often more nuanced style of visual comedy, but it remains charming nonetheless.

Interestingly, of the dialogue that does exist in this largely mute classic, much of it regards politics and there is a question – as exists with all similar narratives – regarding who exactly is the ‘crazy’ one in such situations? Is it Hulot, with his strange mannerisms and odd ways, or is it all the ‘ordinary’ vacationers, who are nevertheless much more neurotic and uptight.

This is a restored version (apparently restored to Tati’s ‘final’ version from the 1970s after twenty-odd years of meddling), but it does beg the question – as did F. W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh – as to what constitutes the ‘authentic’ version of such a film, and does such a concept of ‘authenticity’ ever really exist in the commercial cinema, when the final product has often been diluted by everyone from producers and studio bosses, to censors, distributors and exhibitors.

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