I Love Lucy N

Lacombe, Lucien (Louis Malle, 1974)

At the start of the movie, seventeen-year-old Lucien (Pierre Blaise) kills a bird with a catapult. As it is war time and this is occupied France, I at first assume this is food. (Later, he shoots rabbits and breaks the necks of chickens.) But there’s not a lot of meat on a song bird, even if you are desperate.

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A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Thanet

Ruby Blue (Jan Dunn, 2008)

Jan Dunn returned to the Isle of Thanet for her second feature, again on a low budget, but this time illuminated by Bob Hoskins’s last big screen appearance. We appear to be — and forgive me if this is a cliché of my reading of British film — in Ken Loach territory, as Kes seems to be in the mix.  I will be circumspect, but there are hints of spoilers.

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Look like th’innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t

Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd, 2016)

I confess I downloaded this assuming it was something entirely different and indeed Korean, but I was assuming it was a variant on The Scottish Play with a focus on Lady M. It was an odd experience, revising my sense of the film’s setting, from eleventh century to Elizabethan to mid-nineteenth century. I was, to be honest, tempted to give up, but I am glad I persevered.

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I Think You Mean Roma

Gypo (Jan Dunn, 2005)

Dunn’s debut low budget feature is Dogme 37, the first UK Dogme film, and is the three intersecting stories of Helen (Pauline McLynn), Paul (Paul McGann) and Tasha (Chloe Sirene). Helen is in a loveless marriage to carpet layer Paul, with a couple of kids, and befriends Czech refugee who is on the run from a bad relationshio with her mother Irina (Rula Lenska).

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Beyond the Pail

The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra, 2013)

This romantic-comedy is an unexpected bitter-sweet gem. Neglected by her husband, Rajeev Sehgal (Nakul Vaid), Ila Sehgal (Nimrat Kaur) tries to woo him back with new recipes with the aid of her unseen aunt (Bharati Achrekar). Unfortunately, the lunchbox goes to retiring insurance claims clerk and widower Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan), who loves the food and falls in love with her via a series of notes, as does Ila.

It is a long-distance relationship — for much of the film neither lead character is in the same room, nor does the aunt appear on screen. The alienation of contemporary Mumbai is evident — all those lonely people etc. — and we are prepared for some dark tones, even as we can’t seriously contemplate the happy ending you would expect. But the film is more gripping than a series of shots of people reading notes might suggest.

If You’re Happy and You Know it

Happy End (Michael Haneke, 2017)

On a scale of 1 to to Von Trier, this is about a seven.

The Laurent family run a formerly construction firm near Calais and in the second sequence, a long shot from a security camera, we see a collapse of earth next to a huge set of foundations, complete with a Portaloo falling into the abyss. We are already on the edge, having seen smart phone footage of Eve Laurent’s mother in a bathroom and apparently taking sedatives, and of Eve (Fantine Harduin) doping and possibly killing her pet hamster.

Eve goes to stay with her father Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) and his new wife Anaïs (Laura Verlinden), elderly grandfather Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and aunt Anne (Isabelle Huppert). The Laurent family is in crisis — Georges wants to die, Thomas is having an affair, Anne is considering marriage to Lawrence Bradshaw (the as-always splendid Toby Jones) and Laurent family firm manager Pierre (Franz Rogowski) is out of his deoth and drinking too heavily.

Haneke expects us to fill in a lot of the gaps — he likes filming from a distance, softening the suicide attempts and violence, sometimes letting us imagine it. There are skips in time where we have to infer events. And Thomas’s sexting is almost illegible, given the tiny surtitles, although that might be as well.

There are other lacunae — the class positioning of the Laurent’s servants, Rachid (Hassam Ghancy) and Jamila (Nabiha Akkari) is fairly obvious, but the role of the illegal migrants in the Jungle camp at Calais seems underdeveloped. There’s something here about white, upper middle class privilege, but it ends up more to Anne’s favour and Thomas’s detriment than might be helpful. Are these the same people that Georges has talked to in a long shot, a moment tinged with potential violence as that’s the filmic language of Happy End.

The title is of course ironic, or at least ambiguous, as those of us who have seen Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998) or even La Bonheur (Happiness, 1965) can attest. But perhaps that’s all too obvious.

A Short Film About French Feminism

La Belle Saison (Summertime, Catherine Corsini, 2015)

I spent a day grumbling about the sense that this was two films which didn’t quite dovetail together — but then I read an abstract about Nancy Astor and thought about her niece Joyce Grenfell and things slid into place.

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A Short Film About First Love

Un amour de jeunesse (Goodbye First Love, Mia Hansen-Løve, 2011)

(Spoilers in final paragraph)

So here the first love is between Camille (Lola Créton), 15, and Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), 19, and this doesn’t seem to bother anyone. He’s an artist, apparently, or a builder, possibly, but he’s going to drop out of university and go to South America for nine months. She’s going to sulk, because she doesn’t want him to go, and doesn’t seem to want to go either. Or he won’t let her.So, whilst he’s off channelling his inner Angel Clare, she goes through a series of objectifying jobs and trains to be an architect, taking up with a Norwegian architect. Lorenz (Magne Håvard-Brekke). Then Sullivan comes back.

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