Category Archives: French Movies

Venice Film Festival: Beixi moshuo / Behemoth 悲兮魔兽 (2015) – China / France

Venice Film Festival: Beixi moshuo / Behemoth 悲兮魔兽 (2015) – China / France

Reviewed by: Andrew Chan

Directed by: Liang Zhao

Reviewed at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival

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Director Liang Zhao have created a work of art that takes a lot of patience and thoughts before the unavoidable and impending misfortune that is the monster within humanity is revealed to us. While not as figuratively, nature is destroyed, human lives once roaming freely in the vast natural world is now being confined to working in toxic and polluted environments like the coal and steel productions. It is almost sad and teary to witness such predicament to fall upon the weakness, the most vulnerable and the innocence. Corporates and government bounded together in pursue of profits and in this case, the creations of “ghost towns” around China is all the more ironic.

This powerful documentary grows and stays with you. The image of a once healthy man having a happy family with a newborn baby rolling around the vast grass fields and clean air being juxtapose with grey and red chemical pollution that eventually proved fatal. Such is the nature of humankind that as we live in a cynical world this is just an example out of many around the world today. One day our children and their children will no longer be able to live in the world we are in and there will be no one else to blame, but ourselves.

“Beixi moshuo” (aka “Behemoth”) is a fitting film to be shown at Venice as they are now in the midst of a “living decay” with tourism over-exceeding what the islands can hold and soon all the beauty and whatever that is left of the Venetian culture will be sunk into the sea, lost for the value of more profits. Similarly, themes are relevant, but for the people of this Chinese town, their lives forever ruined and nobody is willing to help or assist. I have always believe that films and documentary have a huge role to play in society to express relevant social concerns to the wider public and in making “Behemoth”, director Liang Zhao succeeded and deservingly picked up the Green Drop Award at Venice 2015.

Recommended film and endorsed by HK Neo Reviews.

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Blue Is the Warmest Colour / La vie d’Adèle 接近無限溫暖的藍 (2013) – France

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 23rd December 2013

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche

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What a film that was. “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” is not only epic, but the manner it goes about depicting emotions, love, society, ambitions and life is almost unparalleled. The film is so well acted that everything seems like real life. Léa Seydoux shines as Emma, the dominant of the pair and Adèle Exarchopoulos is equally brilliant as the lead character depicting and encapsulating the essence of regret. Not unlike Wong Kar Wai’s most matured effort in cinema, “Happy Together”, director Abdellatif Kechiche knows love and relationship well and the details he goes about everything is almost breathtaking to endure. There is a scene in the restaurant where two meet again, after years of separation, the tears that dwell on their eyes shows precisely how much they love each other, yet there is no way they will be together again. “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” is likely to be 2013’s most powerful film and easily one of the best.

Adèle Exarchopoulos is absolutely stunning as the curious young girl about her sexuality who ended up going through with her desire to be a lesbian. Her relationship with Léa Seydoux simply radiates the screen as the two is almost inseparable both on-screen and off (lingering with audiences perfectly). Léa Seydoux as Emma is particularly wonderful and her blue hair simply captures the audience’s attention and oozes beauty in every erotic scenes she shares with Adèle. The two have such a powerful chemistry that makes the film works so seamlessly and evocatively within the audience’s mind and heart. In fact, it goes without saying that without the two leading performances, “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” will never be the same film.

There are times, when I literally forgot that I am actually watching a movie. Any critics or people that do not mention the explicit sex scenes are in denial. The sex and nudity while explicitly and controversially shot, with a couple of shots showing female genitals are never crude, but showing the freedom and pure love in the form of physical touch, sex, naked bodies and passion. While the film never reaches a point where the audience emotes deeper within their hearts, we are constantly connected to everything that goes on in the relationship. Whether it is Adèle waiting for Emma or one neglecting another without noticing. Blue is a powerful colour that can express numerous meanings and as the film reaches Chapter 2, Emma’s hair goes back to normal, clearly suggesting after passion, everything eventually goes back to normal.

All in all, “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” shows the audience how difficult a relationship is and the aftermath effects that goes on and on. Nothing is easy in life and director Abdellatif Kechiche does not hide or glorify any aspect of love, life or achievements. “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” won the highest honour at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and as a film, the subject matter, the sex scenes, the nudity have managed to cause plenty of divided opinions. However, there is no denying that “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” is one of best film of the year and probably a film that will stand the test of time for many years to come. This is not a perfect film, but there a few films in life, where you just cannot find an area of improvement or how it can be better. In fact, the performances of Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux deserves a bow… (Neo 2013)

I rated it 10/10

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JIFF Review: Foxfire (2012) – Canada / France

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 19th May 2013

Directed by: Laurent Cantet
Starring: Michelle Nolden (Well to do lady), Ali Liebert (Muriel Orvis), Kent Nolan (Viscount), Joris Jarsky (Construction worker 1), Briony Glassco (Mrs. Kellogg), David Patrick Green (Jerry), John Stead (Policeman), Madeleine Bisson (Rita O’Hagan), Raven Adamson (Legs), Katie Coseni (Maddy), Ian Matthews (Mr. Buttinger), Matthew Deslippe (Det. Morris), Victoria DiGiovanni (Prison Singer), Joey Iachetta (Mr. Wall), Jean-Michel Le Gal (Male Co-Worker), Allie White (Passerby), Christian Lloyd (Prosecuting Officer), Claire Mazerolle (Goldie), Claudio Masciulli (Factory worker), Rachael Nyhuus (Violet Kahn), Lindsay Rolland-Mills (VV), Faith Curnew (Robot Trick-or-treater), Jesse Marcellus Connors (Vinnie Roper), Alexandra Parker (Party Girl 1), Alexandria Ferguson (Marsha)

Reviewed as part of the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival

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Opening Film of the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival in South Korea.

The film that opened the 14th edition of the Jeonju Film Festival comes in the form of an exhausting and at times impacting journey through the lives of a bunch of neglected school girls in “FOXFIRE”. “FOXFIRE” has all the ingredients of being a standout film of the festival, but it suffers from an almost dead-ended middle part, before an impacting finale that almost redeem everything that happened before. Director Laurent Cantet does extremely well in keeping the group of girls as interesting as possible and one of the prime reasons why the film works is essentially the undeniably chemistry and interactions between the co-stars. This could have been an accomplished work, but it can also be an exhausting journey that may not be as rewarding as it should be. A flawed effort by all means, but still worthy in terms of the genre, topic and controversial nature of the material.

Raven Adamson carries the film with a certain flair and dignity that is almost crucial to the film. Her character is never clearly drawn out, but there is an element of presence about her that makes her perfect for the leading role. Her tom boyish good looks is charming enough as she is able to tackle the tough side of being the leader of the pack. Another actress that stand out of the proceeding is Madeleine Bisson, whose vulnerably is perfectly juxtaposed with the reality of the situation. As for the rest of the girls, they all performed well as an ensemble and the tension and focus between the girls is always a welcome to watch.

All in all, “FOXFIRE” tries too hard to be a true adaptation of the well-written novel, which at times make it difficult for the audience to truly assess the situation. The dragging middle part is almost detrimental to the film, but director Laurent Cantet redeems the preceding with an excellent last hour. It is never easy casting an ensemble of young untried female characters and in this aspect “FOXFIRE” easily succeeds. There are moments in the film that will likely impact the audience more than most and at the end of the day, “FOXFIRE” succeeds in parts and failed in others. Not exactly the masterpiece that I was expecting from the winner of 2008’s Cannes Palme d’Or. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 7/10

HKIFF Review: Ernest & Celestine / Ernest et Célestine 花都友奇緣 (2012) – France / Belgium

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 25th March 2013

Directed by: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner

Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013

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I am big fan of quality animation as I believe that it has the unique ability to transcend human emotions with a hint of childhood fairytale buried within. The “Ernest & Celestine” adaptation to the big screen, offers nothing new, but still remains refreshingly interesting, fun, enjoyable and will likely leave even the harshest of critics with smile on their face. What sets “Ernest & Celestine” apart from the current crop of animations, is that it goes back to the basics of cartoon, with characters carefully drawn in the most natural of manner. The result is a human story of two unlikely allies, a mouse living in harmony and befriending a bear. It is essentially that simple and it works just fine.

In midst of modern technology, as a member of the audience, we have missed the good old simple cartoon drawings, as animations has become pixels and CGI effects, “Ernest & Celestine” defies conventions and the effects is astounding, showing that there is still live in basic drawings, as long as the story is good. Directors Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner have created something special for all the ages.

All in all, “Ernest & Celestine” is able to bring the audience back into the world of imagination and revokes the memories of our own childhood. It is not the first in any way and is probably a story we have heard countless of time in our own bedtimes, but sometimes, less is more and this film proves perhaps, the simplest stories gives you the biggest joy. This is a nice little gem.

I rated it 8/10

Delicacy / La délicatesse (2011) – France

“Delicacy” works because Audrey Tautou is so amazing to watch. From the moment the film zoomed in on her pitch perfect classical pretty look, the film set its tone. However the part of the film that made it spectacularly brilliant is the final quadrant. Just when you feel the film moves toward melodrama, it turns over in full circle and finally laughter filled the cinema screening. The awkward moments became funny spots and the effortless unlikely romantic companion in Swedish François Damiens is as funny as Hong Kong’s iconic Lam Suet. “Delicacy” is film that starts off sweetly, then bitterly and in the end unlikely and delightfully.

Audrey Tautou is simply stunning to watch. Not unlike Audrey Hepburn, they can do nothing and just frankly filled with close up shots and you will still be captivated. Her ability to own the screen is simply a pleasure to watch. Whether she is sad, happy, shocked or even random, Audrey can seamlessly connects with the audience at its very core. Equal to the task is the scene stealing Swedish co-worker François Damiens. Their romantic chemistry does not crash any computer screen, but there is something about them that makes then a couple to root for. His comedic timing is just absolutely “laugh out loud” moments. In fact, there was a time in the film when I uncontrollably laughed out loud and resulted in several turning heads and looks. However it was all worth it.

All in all, “Delicacy” is really one of the lightest hearted melodramatic yet romantic comedies of the year. It is one of those delightful films that are best served after a long day at work where you can sit back and appreciate the beauty of Paris and Ms Audrey Tautou. Ever since Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, I have placed the city on top of my list and after “Delicacy”, I can only say that love is not just a four letter word. A highly enjoyable bittersweet rom-com…

Neo rates it 8.5/10