“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?” “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.” 

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy





Filtering by Category: French Film

Camille Claudel 1915

Amanda Collins

La Valse by Camille Claudel

There is no doubt, Camille Claudel was a gifted sculpter. As is often the case, with great talent comes some form of instability.
In Camille's case, Camille Claudel 1915 asks the question, was she really insane? 
Or was the world, and her family, so threatened by her genius, and her unconventionality, that they felt the only solution was to lock her away?

For more of a review on this intense film, head to MyFrenchLife.

Homeland - the challenge of translation

Amanda Collins

homeland ticket.JPG

Né Quelque Part – Homeland - is Mohamed Hamidi’s first feature film starring Tewfik Jallab. It’s not the first time I’ve been struck by the challenges inherent in putting those words across the bottom of the screen.

Translating for the big screen is one of those rare skills that often goes completely unnoticed. When it's done well, it's subtle; a transparent veil which helps the outsider into the story. 

The story of Farid Hadji’s efforts to save the house his father built in Algeria – a country he has never set foot in – brings the complexity level of translation and subtitling up an extra notch. 

Not only is there the French-Arab idiom of Farid’s French family, there’s also the Algerian Arabic to translate. In the French version, of course, there are subtitles for the Arabic. But once the subtitles move to a third language, what is a subtitler to do? What Ian Burley (of the ubiquitous but almost invisible LVT) did is to meld everything into one stream of English.

For movie goers who depend upon the subtitles, that’s a godsend. It’s a stream of language that leads us into the story without extra drama. But for those who listen to the French, well, it’s a mind-flip. I found myself double checking my brain, as Farid would say something in French, receive a reply in Arabic, and see all of it neatly translated and delivered in English text at the bottom of the screen. It is all the more complex as the majority of Algerians speak and understand French, so conversations on screen happen in two languages throughout the film.
I’ve only seen snippets of the Arabic-French subtitles (which of course were fundamental to the French print), but did enjoy the idea of Farid’s felonious cousin being called “Farid le roublard” (“Farid the dodger” in the English subtitles).

There are a lot of threads in this film, which was an Out of Competition Special Screening at Cannes in 2013. There’s the story of Farid, reluctantly heading to Algeria to - hopefully - save a house his father built for him. Add to that the criminal activities of his cousin of the same name, played by major drawcard Jamel Debbouze (the simple minded grocer from Amélie),  an uncertain relationship with French girlfriend Audrey, and the complexities of illegal immigration into France, and there’s a lot to juggle. I found more pleasure in peeking over Farid’s shoulder and enjoying the sparse beauty of his village and the craziness of the local Café Secteur, where an escaped animal provides almost as much entertainment as an overseas telephone call. The ruins he explores were lovely, and I agreed with Farid as he explained to Audrey over the phone, “C’est incroyable” (It’s incredible).

Farid learning about his Homeland   

Farid learning about his Homeland


Given the topicality of illegal immigration in Australia at the moment, I was waiting for a more in-depth exploration of this aspect of the film, but in the end, the director chose to use what drove the film along.

It's not a film I would see again, except perhaps to once again appreciate Ian Burley's hard - and almost invisible - subtitling work.

Sur le Quai

Amanda Collins

Quai D’Orsay – what a fun film!

I enjoyed Thierry Lhermitte’s suave uncle in Le Divorce – let’s face it, he was a rogue who bestowed $8,000 handbags on unsuspecting young Americans, but he did it so assuredly!

I like him even more in this great farce, where his filibustering and pomposity are of Olympian proportions:

A film where the 'where' is as interesting as the 'who'

A film where the 'where' is as interesting as the 'who'

Read more when you make the magic

On the first, the subsequent, and M. Depardieu.

Amanda Collins

Do you remember your first real French Film?  Mine was Les Fugitifs – the Francis Veber comedy, which was already a classic when my first year university lecturer decided we needed educating, back in the late 80s. Having learned my French at a country high school, and being 200km from any cinema that showed foreign films, I really had very little concept of modern French cinema culture. SBS was TV that happened to other families. I thought ‘zut’ was a rude word. 

In a darkened lecture theatre, all of that was about to change. Although I could barely keep up with the subtitles, let alone the dialogue, I realised that a new world was opening in front of me. I fell in love with Gerard Depardieu, I learned a few more effective swearwords (although I wasn’t brave enough to use them), and I discovered a visual language that told as much about its people as the spoken language I had been studying for 6 ½  years. 
If you get the chance, Les Fugitifs has stood the test of time and is worth a watch. The gentle clown Pierre Richard is Francois Pignon, a miserable failure as a bank robber, while Gerard Depardieu is an ex-con with a heart of gold. There are some gloriously 1980’s moments such as the arrival of hoodlums with boombox-on-shoulder, not to mention the fabulous hair and shoulder pads.  

Gerard Depardieu - par dieu! 

Gerard Depardieu - par dieu! 

The situations in Veber’s comedies are original and clever, and many of his films have been re-made for the American market. Richard Pryor’s star turn in The Toy (originally Le Jouet, 1976) grossed over 50 million at the box office in 1982, while 3 Men and a Baby (Trois Hommes et un Couffin) did three times that for Tom Selleck and director Leonard Nimoy (oui!) in 1987.   Veber is a prolific writer and director – and credits  include La Doublure (The Valet – in US pre-production) in 2006 and Dinner for Schmucks (Le Dîner des Cons) in 2010, and plenty of comic classics you may not have realised were his. It’s always fun to see what kind of scenario Veber will throw us in to.

The first one I saw stole my cinema heart.