At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
The Alliance Française shows its series of French films in a small room in their building at 138 Charoen Prathet Road. The building is directly opposite Wat Chaimongkhon, near the Chedi Hotel. Tell your taxi "Samakhom Frangset" and/or "Wat Chaimongkhon." A contribution of 30 baht is requested; you pay outside at the information desk of the Alliance Française proper.
At Alliance Française on Friday, January 22: Les soeurs fâchées / Me and My Sister (2004) by Alexandra Leclère – 93 mins – France, Comedy/ Drama. English subtitles.
With Catherine Frot, Isabelle Huppert, François Berléand.
Louise, 36, is a charming young woman who is disconcertingly open and rather awkward. She’s a beautician and lives in Le Mans. Martine, 38, is her older sister. She’s a very beautiful, elegant woman, although aloof. She lives a deeply middle-class world in Paris. Louise has written a novel and she has an important meeting in Paris that could change the course of her life. She comes to stay with Martine for three days, during which time she and her obvious happiness drive Martine up the wall and shatters her life...
– Alliance description
DVD Times, Noel Megahey: Essentially a story of two sisters, one from the country with simpler attitudes who comes to stay for a short while with her sophisticated sister who lives in the big city – what sounds like a straightforward fluff comedy of manners actually has a darker, more bitter undercurrent that gives the film an unexpected weight.
As she has an interview with a publishing company for a book she has written, Louise (Catherine Frot) travels out from the provinces to stay with her Parisian sister, Martine (Isabelle Huppert) and her husband Pierre (François Berléand). The two sisters couldn’t be more different. Louise from the country is a bit kooky and eccentric, but gentle with people and open to continually developing and improving herself. Martine on the other hand, is tense caught up in her world of shopping, hairdressers and lunches with an exclusive set of friends – she’s also bitterly unhappy with her lifestyle and her marriage, both of which are stagnant. Louise is embarrassingly gauche in social situations, but she seems to enjoy herself more than her sister and her friends, who take part in them for all the wrong reasons – to be seen and feel included in an exclusive social set. Inevitably, there is a clash of two different worlds here, which is as broad as it sounds while being fairly amusing at the same time. But the film has a lot more going for it than just this Odd Couple-style goofing around, the film revealing a more serious side. Predictably it must be admitted, this arises out of Martine’s dissatisfaction with the direction her life has taken – married to a man she despises, mother to a child she has no interest in, living a life that is empty and superficial. What is surprising about this and much less predicable from the story’s initial set-up and premise, is just quite how dark and bitterly this side of the film is portrayed.
There are a number of reasons why this uneasy combination of comedy and brutality works. One is the strength of the characters and the unexpected complexity of what are mainly broad character types. Martine’s husband, it transpires, is cheating on her with her best friend – this is revealed early in the film so is not a spoiler as such – which again might not sound like a particularly complex or original plot point, but in actuality, the reasons for his infidelity are not so straightforward. He could just be a brute or he could have been pushed to those lengths by an extremely uptight and unaffectionate wife. Again not exactly original, but what is different is that the film doesn’t automatically lead the viewer to sympathize with one partner over another – the behavior of both is reprehensible and the film makes that point with no reservations. The other reason the film works so well is down to the cast. Huppert, needless to say, is perfect for playing such complex, cold, bitter, and repressed characters. This role is not much of a stretch for her compared to similar roles in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, François Ozon’s 8 Women, or Olivier Assayas’ Les Destinées Sentimentales, but at the same time the depths she can bring to such a broadly defined character are astonishing – emotional, expressive and explosive, never falling into old routines or mannerisms. With Catherine Frot there is a delightful charm. Again, it’s not a role that is particularly going to stretch her and she might not have the qualities for the more physical comedy, but she has a wonderful cartoon face and brings an honest charm to the character without overplaying the kookiness. And best of all, there is genuine chemistry between these two great actresses.
At Alliance Française on Friday, January 29: Mon petit doigt m'a dit... / By the Pricking of My Thumbs (2005) by Pascal Thomas – 105 mins – France, Comedy/ Mystery. English subtitles. Adapted from the mystery thriller by Agatha Christie.
With Catherine Frot, André Dussolier, Geneviève Bujold.
An elderly woman who disappears. A village that, behind all its gossip, hides a dark secret, a house split in half, tombs that are better left untouched, a doll that reappears from the past, a terrifying lawyer who wears a death mask. It will take some doing for Prudence and Bélisaire Beresford, who have Hercule Poirot’s patience and Agatha Christie’s humor, to uncover the astounding truth...
– Alliance description
Films de France: Shortly after visiting their elderly aunt in a luxury retirement home, Bélisaire and Prudence Beresford are surprised by her sudden death. Prudence becomes convinced foul play is at work when she learns that one of the other old women she met in the home has mysteriously disappeared. In her aunt’s possessions, Prudence comes across a painting of a country house, a painting which awakens some dormant memory. Despite her husband’s objections, Prudence sets out to unravel the mystery...
At Alliance Française on Friday, February 5: Fanfan la tulipe (2003) by Gérard Krawczyk – 95 mins – France, Adventure/ Comedy/ Romance. English subtitles. Mixed or average reviews: 51 out of 100.
With Vincent Perez, Penélope Cruz, Didier Bourdon, Hélène De Fougerolles, Michel Muller.
In this 2003 remake of the classic 1952 French film, Fanfan la Tulipe (Perez) is a swashbuckling lover who is tricked into joining the army of King Louis XV by Adeline La Franchise (Cruz), who tells Fanfan that by doing so, he will eventually marry one of the king's daughters...
– Alliance description
Plume-noire, Sandrine Marques: To escape marriage, Fanfan (Vincent Pérez), a womanizer, joins Louis XV's army, foils a plot, and finds love with Adeline (Pénélope Cruz), a fortuneteller thirsty for freedom. A remake of a Christian-Jaque film shot in 1952, this Fanfan la Tulipe, from the Luc Besson stable, has neither the epic dimension, nor the panache of the original version, even though the "Besson method,” flanked by long-time drudge Gerard Krawczyk, has proven to be durable.
IMDb viewer: Not the most intelligent film ever made, but for those wishing to see a fun, swashbuckling movie then I would certainly recommend this to them.Fanfan himself is difficult to warm to to begin with but once you get past the cheeky arrogance Vincent Perez makes a fantastic Fanfan and although Penelope Cruz can be difficult to understand for non fluent viewers, due to her strong accent, her performance is still enjoyable enough.
It was obviously never intended to be the most technically brilliant movie ever created but I honestly believe anyone who knows a bit of French should give it a chance. Great for a rainy day!