At the beginning of the 19th century, Sarah Baartman (Yahima Torres) follows her employer Hendrick Cesar (Andre Jacobs) from South Africa to the UK. She hopes for a better life there, instead Cesar exhibits her as a carnival attraction: a “savage” black woman with a big butt. When they meet bear tamer Réaux (Olivier Gourmet), he poshes them to go to the next level of the show, despite the troubles they already encountered in the UK.
The story of Sarah Baartman is a horrifying example of colonialism and racism and everything that is wrong with white people. Unfortunately, the film is an exercise in sensationalism and does neither Baartman nor her story justice.
Jenny (Adèle Haenel) runs a clinic in a rather poor area of town that she just took over from a now retired doctor. She’s the only doctor in the clinic and does her best,but also knows that she has to fight for her boundaries. So when the bell to her clinic is rung shortly after closing time, she ignores it, despite being still there. The next day, police show up at the clinic, informing her that they found the body of a dead young woman and they don’t know who she is. But it appears that it was her who rung the bell. Jenny is shocked and becomes obsessed with finding out who the woman was and what happened to her.
La fille inconnue was the perfect Double Feature with I, Daniel Blake. Like that film, it’s sociopolitical cinema that wears its heart on its sleeve and is absolutely (emotionally) engaging.
At the end of the 19th century, George Foottit (James Thiérrée) used to be a well-regarded clown, but his shtick has grown old and he is relegated to the sidelines more and more. That’s when he meets former slave Rafael Padilla (Omar Sy) who works in a small circus in Northern France. Foottit sees potential in him and proposes that they should form a clown duo – and one that defies all expectations, both regarding what clowns can do and what black people can do.
Chocolat tells an interesting story, but keeps to its surface only, nicely flowing along but never really getting to the bottom of it, ultimately complicit in the racism it tries to denounce.
Avril (Marion Cotillard) comes from a family of scientists. But scientists are an endangered species in her world, one of the reasons why everything is steampowered: scientists go missing all the time. And then Avril’s parents and her grandfather disappear, too. Avril is left alone with her cat Darwin (Philippe Katerine) who at least is able to speak due to some experiments. She is dead set on figuring out what happened to her parents. But it is only when small time criminal and police informant Julius (Marc-André Grondin) threatens Avril’s existence that things really start to get moving.
Avril et le monde truqué is a sweet, fun film and will probably warm the cockles of any heart that appreciates steampunk and (talking) cats. If that sounds like your thing, you should definitely see it.
In the middle of WW2 Violette Leduc (Emmanuelle Devos) lives with Maurice Sachs (Olivier Py) in the countryside. He tries to write, she tries to get by with black market sales. But mostly she wants his love but he isn’t having any of her neediness. So he tells her to write – and she throws herself into her writing. After Maurice leaves, Violette returns to Paris where she is first introduced to Simone de Beauvoir‘s (Sandrine Kiberlain) writing and then the woman herself. She hands Simone her first novel who gets her published. And so Violette’s career as a writer slowly takes off.
Violette was a mostly entertaining film, though it did have weaknesses. But since it’s a film about a queer woman and the woman who inspired her, I will let a lot of those weaknesses slide and tell you to see it anyway.
Gary (Tahar Rahim) has been looking for work and barely has any money at all. So when he ends up working in a nuclear power plant, he feels like he gets a new chance. Especially since he likes his colleagues Gilles (Olivier Gourmet) and Toni (Denis Ménochet) with whom he also practically lives together. But it really is Toni’s girlfriend Karole (Léa Seydoux) who keeps him there.
Grand Central has an interesting setting and a great cast. The plot itself is nothing to write home about, but that’s kind of the point. It does get a little long, but generally it was really good.
L’ennemi public n°1 starts with Mesrine’s (Vincent Cassel) death, then goes back for a while and unroll things until he dies (again). This time round, we see trials and prisone time for Mesrine, but also break-outs and political activism. There’s a little bit of Catch Me If You Can going on with police officer Broussard (Olivier Gourmet), and other stuff.
[If this plot summary sounds a little flighty, it is… but more on that later.]
The first part was good, though it had some problems. The second part was problem, though it had some goods. The cast is still strong, but the plot was all over the place, the pacing was off and I was more bored than anything else. Maybe that’s because they were trying to go for a light-hearted movie [at least compared to part one] with a really heavy-hearted topic. Just didn’t work.