Monday, July 14, 2014

French Film

Because it is Bastille Day I'm going to talk about some small gems from France.

Isn't Netflix the greatest? I've been a fan of French cinema for years, but it has always meant driving to small, out-of-the way theaters, with blink-and-you've-missed-it show times. Assuming they come to Houston at all. But now if I get a craving to see life in a foreign language all I have to do is find a strong wi-fi connection and a comfy chair. 

Aside: It is a matter of extreme frustration that even though I live in the 4th largest city in the US, many films (particularly art, independent, or foreign films) simply aren't released here. Hey film distributors! The people in the center of the country want to see things other than Transformers and Glenn Beck being a loon.

One of the things I appreciate about French Cinema, is that there are real roles for women over 40. They are even (gasp) the lead! In this vein I give you Haute Cuisine and Queen to Play.

Haute Cuisine [Les Saveurs du Palais] is about the personal chef of the Fran├žois Mitterrand. There is no real plot, almost nothing happens. It's basically a character study of a strong-minded and talented woman practicing her art. Sometimes she has to deal with people who don't (or can't) appreciate her work, dietitians don't know anything about food so they just make blanket decrees (no sauces!), and other chefs whose focus is on competition and not on the food. But the ones who do get it, these people make up for the idiots she has to deal with along the way. I loved this movie. I loved her style, her steeliness, her obvious pleasure in what she does, and her refusal to let idiots stop her. 

Queen to Play (Joueuse) has a chewier storyline and the always charming Kevin Kline. It's about a working class woman who, on a whim, takes up chess, and the consequences of her growing obsession with the game. I, personally, do not play, but it's movies like this and novels like The Flanders Panel (great read!) that make me want to learn.

Both are in French, with subtitles, so if reading dialogue bothers you, then you will have to find other movies. But I really hope you give them a chance. A show does not have to feature killer alien robots to be a good time. That being said, I am looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy, because it looks like my kind of silly. 

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