Tag Archives: French Cinema

Lady J

Yes or No_-5

This May we’re going to do costume dramas because we fucking want to. No other reason.

I do love a good costume piece, I won’t lie. All those heaving breasts and swishing bustles – delicious. This week’s pick is no exception and looks at broken hearts, vengeance and pure desperation.

Lady J (2018) or Mademoiselle de Joncquières (original title)

Fooled by a notorious libertine, a widow plans her revenge.

Director: Emmanuel Mouret

Starring: Cécile de France • Edouard Baer • Alice Isaaz • Natalia Dontcheva

*Minor spoilers*

Same, TBH

Madame de La Pommeraye (Cécile de France) is being courted by notorious pussyhound and libertine Le marquis des Arcis (Edouard Baer). She’s having none of it though, preferring to stay friends with the boundless cad instead. After all, she lives in impressive grounds alone since her last husband and wants for nothing. She doesn’t need a man and anyway, claims not to be fussed about the whole love and romance thing.

Unfortunately, the marquis soon batters down her defenses and manages to convince Madame DLP that he’s a changed man, done with society, preferring to stay with her quietly in the countryside. Despite doubts expressed by her BFF Lucienne (Laure Calamy), DLP (as I’ll refer to her from now on) falls in love with the marquis and they embark on their new life together.

For a time.

A while passes and although outwardly our girl swears they’re living the dream, she is forced to admit to Lucienne that the marquis is leaving her to travel for work more and more – and she’s not feeling the love as much. Encouraged to confront him and put her paranoia to bed, she calls his bluff and claims to be questioning her own feelings. He is relieved and, believing she’s on exactly the same page as him, admits he’s not been into the relationship for a while and just didn’t know how to break it to her. But they can still be best friends though, non?

Nights in white cotton

DLP lets him go and the marquis does what all good man-sluts do – he goes back to slagging it up and being commended for it. They do remain friends but DLP has a revenge plan in mind – and she’ll go to extreme lengths to teach him a lesson. But first she needs to assemble a team…

Remembering a story Lucienne has told her about the illegitimate daughter of a couple of star-crossed noble people, DLP cooks up the perfect plan. She calls on Madame de Joncquières (Natalia Dontcheva), who has also been fucked over by a genteel man – and left with precisely nothing. Along with her lovely daughter Mademoiselle de Joncquières (Alice Isaaz), she has been forced to live in a brothel and service anyone who comes along with cold hard cash.

Beauty is pain

Trusting that the marquis will fall heavily for the Mademoiselle’s epic beauty, DLP figures she’ll trick him into marrying her – thinking she’s pure as driven snow and deeply pious – then reveal that he’s married a sex worker, thus becoming the laughing-stock of Paris.

A simple enough premise, right? Well, I’ll leave it to the viewer to work out whether the plan works. I have a lot of thoughts about it. For a start, DLP is an absolute arse who has every right to be heartbroken and devastated by the marquis’ behaviour – but has no right to play with these women’s lives, even if they do agree for the money.

Mademoiselle remains almost mute throughout the execution of the plan, however is ignored and emotionally blackmailed when she admits to her mother that she hates DLP and does not wish to start a marriage based on such deceit. Both Mademoiselle and mother are treated like garbage, taken from the brothel to relative comfort, promised a healthy income in exchange for their acting skills. DLP pretends to care about them, to be sympathetic to their cause – but all she cares about is revenge.

Team Mademoiselle all the way

There’s also a double standard at play here (obvs). *Spoiler* – when the marquis finds out the truth about his beautiful and innocent new wife, he has a lot to say about it – abandoning her in the dirt and threatening to hurt her badly. The irony regarding his sexual history is not lost.

I hate that these women are considered less than just because of their professions. A profession as old as time* but in this scenario, by no means chosen. So the fact that the newly wed couple work it out and the marquis falls in love with his wife is the greatest revenge. Fuck everyone.

While I don’t like the marquis either, I like to believe that he learns to love and become a decent human being because of his sincere and honest new wife, an allegedly ‘lowly’ woman with the strongest moral compass of anyone in the story. GO FUCK YOURSELF, MADAME DE LA POMMERAYE!

The performances are wonderful throughout, as is the period setting and the costuming. I really enjoyed myself and was rooting for Mademoiselle the whole way.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my love think of Lady J? Would she banish it to the streets or love it forever? Find out here.

*Respect sex workers.

Climax

Climax (2018)

*Minor spoilers*

TW: Violence, pregnancy, suicide.

Gaspar Noé and I share a complicated relationship. I just love to hate him and all because of the terrible, over-sexed Love (my review of it here). I always feel like he’s done more than just that to warrant this reaction but he really hasn’t.

Irreversible (2002) is not a bad film, however brutal and difficult it is to stomach and those, until this morning, were the only Noé films I had seen. 

And now there’s Climax.

I bloody loved it!

It still sports all the classic Noé trademarks: the hyper-real dialogue, the not very likeable characters, the rapid descent in madness and Hell – but it’s brilliant. I’ve rented it on Amazon Prime and I’m tempted to go back for another watch because honestly, I was gripped from the get go.

I don’t want to give anything away because – and I say this a lot within my ‘reviews’ – I went in with little to no knowledge of the plot. My lovely friend Matt and I listen to a podcast called Evolution of Horror and during their 2018 horror movie review, the host Mike Mucher and guest discussed their favourite movies of the year. Climax was one of them.

All I remember about it is that they compared it to Suspiria (2018) and coined the term Dance Horror, a sub-genre I am very much here for.

In 1996, 20 French urban dancers gather in an abandoned dance school (familiar?) for a three-day rehearsal before they embark on a tour of the US. In high spirits and gagging for a party to celebrate their hard work, the collective enjoy a night swilling sangria and getting crazy. As there are so many characters it does get quite challenging to keep up with who’s who and more importantly, who’s banging who. As you’d expect, all those writhing nubile bodies need somewhere to connect and so there’s a whole lot of coupling going on.

David (Romain Guillermic) is with group leader Selva (Sofia Boutella) but boasts that he’s fucked every other woman in the troupe on the side. One of dancers ‘jokes’ that he must be riddled with STDs. He’s literally the worst (a classic Noé fuck boi) and the way he talks about women makes me look forward to all he’s got coming to him.

Gazelle (Giselle Palmer) has been dating Omar (Adrien Sissoko) for nine months, much to the disgust of her older brother who maintains that just ‘cos he can have his dick sucked any time he likes, it doesn’t mean she gets to suck any. (This is just a slice of the kind of conversation you can expect from the group, it’s coarse, misogynistic AF and rife with double standard).

We also have Emmanuelle (Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull), a single mum with her son Tito in tow, secretly pregnant dancer Lou (Souheila Yacoub) who has no clue who the father is and young Riley (Lakdhar Dridi), who’s determined to get his cherry popped tonight, preferably by David.

Psyche (Thea Carla Schott) and her lover Ivana (Sharleen Temple) are a couple on the rocks while Daddy (Kiddy Smile) watches over the flock, a grinning teddy bear on the decks. There are many other side characters and nobody here is all that relateable or nice. However, I did feel small mounts of sympathy when things get real quickly. Even David warrants some later on, however fleeting.

Climax works beautifully. It descends into horror and chaos quickly, after a very healthy intro. In fact, the actual opening title sequence starts around halfway through the film (while the closing credits appear at the beginning, and the title card at the very end). The dance sequences are enjoyable and much more accessible that the artistic moves of Suspiria. There’s a lot of Vogue-ing going on and all those limbs! These kids can contort in ways I never knew possible.

Later these shapes and movements will come back to haunt us as grotesque background pieces. Again, without giving too much away, shit kicks off and the troupe quickly begins to unravel. Former alliances crumble as distrust grows and pack mentality wins out. People are punished for imagined crimes (horribly) while others are pressured into taking their own action.

As the horror escalates we follow Selva and friends through the gateway to twenty personal nightmares. Things become disorientated, camera angles turn on their head. The use of colour is very effective, and reminiscent of a lot of Noé’s work – and just adds to the feeling of control slipping through our fingers, even as viewer.

Each room in the school becomes it’s own grimy vignette and you don’t know what’s coming next, what you’re walking into. And the sound – the screams and the yelling as they echo around the building – they hint at unimaginable horror.

I can imagine that anyone going into this with the expectation of traditional horror might be disappointed. I’ve read a few reviews that suggest that apart from some clever camera work not all that much happens. I disagree and the more I think about it the more I love it. It might not follow the rules of your average slasher nor submit to a supernatural narrative but that in some ways makes it worse. The dark side of human nature is terrifying and in this claustrophobic setting, with the lights off and the doors locked – what could be worse than losing control of all your senses?

I wouldn’t say I’m a newly converted Gaspar Noé fan but I suppose I’ll be open to what he does next. I still don’t think I’ll ever be ready for Enter the Void (2009) though.

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

 

The Most Assassinated Woman in the World (Film) Review

Or La femme la plus assassinée du monde (original title)

Not much preamble today but I will say this. This film is very French and very confusing. Beautiful though.

*Minor spoilers*

The Most Assassinated Woman in the World (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

Paula Maxa is the Parisian Grand Guignol Theatre’s leading lady, famous for being murdered on stage every day. But is there a link between the theatre and a series of gruesome real-life murders?

My Review

Um. Let’s not rely on anything I say here in this review, I may well have the wrong end of the stick. Paula Maxa (Anna Mouglalis) is a beloved by some, hated by a lot actress at the Grand Guignol Theatre in good old gay Paree. She’s been slaughtered on stage more times that she’s had hot dinners and relies on stage-hand Paul (Jean-Michel Balthazar) to make it look as real as possible.

The theatre itself is run by some right oddballs who seem to have a very bizarre arrangement in place. Although the shows they put on nightly seem to do alright there is a very real threat on the horizon: the birth of cinema.

large-screenshot1

Rattle dem bones

When journalist Jean (Niels Schneider) arrives to interview Paula, a friendship is formed and there’s possibly something more a-brewing, though our girl is rather closed off. Via Paula’s own mouth we learn about the terrible secret that haunts her – the very driving force that keeps her screaming night in, night out. Meanwhile, there seems to be a plot to turn Paula over for real to a mysterious gentleman who might have a connection to her past… What the devil is that all about?

TMAWITW is gorgeous looking. It seems to capture the time period perfectly. All the costuming is wonderful and Paula’s supporting actresses are a lot of fun. Mouglalis is soulful as Paula, a haunted woman with a sad story, one that revolves around the death of her sister at the hands of a very bad man – and her inability to do anything to save her.

Guilt is a powerful emotion and it eats at Paula, who stays at the theatre as some sort of penance. Here she can scream as much as she likes, something she failed to do to save her sister’s life. When Jean arrives to offer her a way out, she’s torn. Can she leave this place and make it in Hollywood?

LE-FEMME-LA-PLUS-ASSASSINE-DU-MONDE-4

Oggly boggly

The ending is a little bit confusing, I won’t lie. But it doesn’t really matter. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this movie, which has some suspenseful moments and really is wonderfully OTT. The murders on stage are gloriously bat-shit and the audience laps it up. They come complete with bibs to capture the splashes of blood that coats everything around them.

Ooh la la!

My Rating

3/5.

What does my leading lady think of this one? Would she beg it for an encore or slit its throat? Find out here.