#290 Playtime

Watched: January 23 2021

Director: Jacques Tati

Starring: Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, about a thousand others

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 59min

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Monsieur Hulot (Tati) is back, as confused by modern life as ever. And honestly, we can’t blame him. The world which he inhabits is very confusing indeed, but it is also thoroughly entertaining.

Unpopular opinion: we know these are probably meant to be symbols of the dehumanization fo the workplace or whatever, but these cubicles actually seem like perfect workspaces for you local office introvert. We don’t all thrive in an open-plan office!

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We move from one strange location to the next, starting off in a glass and steel office building/hospital/furniture-and-or-gadget-fair/airport/everything-else-in-the-world, and ending in a nightclub which is still under construction yet serving guest all the same.

“The food is rubbish, the ceiling is caving in, the heating is all screwy, but these tassels were made for shaking, baby!”

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Despite M. Hulot being the natural focal point, there’s not real main character, no real plot, and no real climax. Like its predecessors, Playtime is as much a collection of storylines and gags as it is a feature film, but this is not a criticism. The choreography is perfect, the gags funny and charming, and the innocent romance sweet. Everything is filmed in wide shots and sometimes there’s too much going on onscreen for you to catch it in one screening, so be prepared to go back to it again and again.

Just kidding. You’ll never leave. There is no escape…

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The sense of alienation and confusion experienced by the inhabitants of “Tativille” is something we can probably all relate to on some level. Yet they move through life somehow making it work. As do we all. All we can do is our best.

The most useful person in this restaurant is the waiter all the others can switch ruined uniforms with. We all serve a purpose. Look at you go little buddy!

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What we learned: The world is complicated. But we should bring back the over-the-top restaurant/nightclub-hybrids. Once the pandemic is over and we can all go out again, that is.

Next time: Point Blank (1967)

#288 Le Samouraï

Watched: January 1st 2021

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Starring: Alain Delon, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier, François Périer

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 45min

So, happy new year, everyone. What a start. We’re not sure 2021 is going to be much better than 2020 judging by the first few weeks, but who knows? In Norway, we’ve gone right into a semi-lockdown so we’ve had our hands full dealing with the repercussions of that, while of course following the insanity that is the USA closely. However, we are the perpetual optimists and have high hopes for February! Things need to calm down at some point, right? And while we wait, why not watch some movies? Such as Jean-Pierre Melville’s amazing Le Samouraï.

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Remember when we said Tokyo Drifter was cool? Well, prepare to meet Le Samouraï! Jef Costello (Delon) is a French hitman. After being observed at a murder scene, he needs to avoid both the police and the people who hired him who now see him as a liability.

Unfortunately for a killer for hire, he is cursed with a face so ridiculously handsome that no eye witness will ever be able to forget him.

Silently and cooly, in his trenchcoat and fedora, he goes around Paris figuring out who to trust, who to love (if such a thing is possible), and how to survive.

He’s also working really hard on varying his facial expressions, but so far no dice.

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This movie is amazing. The story itself is not the most original, perhaps, but Alain Delon is fantastic as Costello. The world he inhabits is quiet, efficient, spartan and grey, but with the occasional song bird to brighten the mood. Or alert one of danger. Whatever rubs your Buddha.

Real question: how on earth did he end up owning a bird? Did he buy one? Did someone give it to him? Did it just come with the apartment? The public needs to know!

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We loved the little glimpses into the Parisian underworld, such as the mechanic Costello visits, the long, quiet scenes without dialogue, Costello’s M.O. in establishing his alibi and planning his evening of chilling and killing, the police’s strange practice of just rounding up a random 600 people to parade in front of eye witnesses in hopes of finding a match (we hope they put a bit more thought into it than it seemed..?), the two women in Costello’s life, and the quiet, suspenseful action of Le Samouraï.

“Witnesses descibed the shooter as a ridiculously handsome young man, so I got this middle aged lady in for the line-up, boss!” “Good work, officer! With work like this a promotion is just around the corner.”

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It’s stylish and suspenseful, visually a sort of mix between some of the other French films and the older American noirs, and a welcome distraction in a world gone topsy-turvy. And with that, we hope you are all safe and healthy, and we urge you to get your Samouraï on!

If hitmen in fedoras don’t get you hot, then you can at least appreciate the woman who actually manages to pull off this coat. You have our deepest admiration, Miss Rosier.

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What we learned: In Paris in 1967 there were only 100 different keys. Together, they opened every single door and started every engine. Also, everyone owned a set.

Next time: Mad Monster Party? (1967)

#282 Belle de Jour

Watched: November 2 2020

Director: Luis Buñuel

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page, Pierre Clémenti

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 40min

Séverine (Deneuve) is married to Pierre (Sorel) and on the surface their relationship is perfect. He is a respected and successful doctor and she is… pretty. That’s basically all you need to make a marriage work.

Well, that and the occasional light BDSM

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However, there is trouble in paradise. Séverine struggles with her sexuality after childhood molestation and is unable to have a normal sexlife with her husband. Her sexuality is further confused by her BDSM/rape fantasies – fantasies she cannot act on or even communicate to Pierre.

“You’re right, it has been a while since we saw your parents. Perhaps we should go next weekend? Oh, and could you pick up some milk after work tomorrow? Great. By the way, I’m going to need you to tie me up and rape me in order to get over my sexual hang-ups. And Renee says hi! We played tennis earlier today.”

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Since therapy was obviously not yet invented in France in the 1960s, Séverine decides to deal with her problems in her own way, by becoming a prostitute. Every day between two and five, she entertains at Madame Anais’ (Page) brothel as “Belle de jour” – Beauty of the day. Now, while this gives Séverine an opportunity to explore her sexuality in a “safe” way (i.e. with no emotional involvement or societal expectation of purity), this charade cannot last. Especially when one client becomes more than just a random John…

What woman can resist an underfed, criminal, alternative rock band front man with violent tendencies and an emo haircut?

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We love us some Buñuel, and Belle de jour delivers. The surrealism he’s known for may not be as pronounced as in many of his other works, but there are definite influences in the blurring of fantasy, dream and reality. It’s also an excellent example of how to make something sexy and alluring without actually showing much skin, and a very interesting exploration of “broken” female sexuality.

Oh, and did we mention Séverine’s outfits by Yves Saint-Laurent? That girl looks gooood in this movie (as opposed to her usual drab and dowdy look, you know).

Life Hack: You can always tell fiction from reality based on how many coats a person owns. If you’re supposed to be middle class but have a new coat for every day of the month, you’re a fictional character. If you’re unsure about your own status, check your closet and start counting.

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The costumes were great, we loved the Asian client (what’s with the bells?? What’s in the box???), we loved to hate Mr Husson (a truly horrible man), and we really enjoyed not always knowing which part was real life, which part was fantasy… There was also a touch of À bout de souffle towards the ending. All in all, this was a winner!

“I never imagined it could be so… small. And shiny! Has it always been detachable?”

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What we learned: All the things that can fuck up a girl’s sexuality. Also, men can proudly visit prostitutes, but prostitutes must be ashamed of providing the service. Go figure.

Next time: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

#246 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg/Les parapluies de Cherbourg

Watched: November 11 2019

Director: Jacques Demy

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Marc Michel, Ellen Farner, Mireille Perrey

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 31min

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Geneviève Emery (Deneuve) lives with her mother Mme Emery (Vernon) in Cherbourg, selling umbrellas. Not umbrellas, bags, shoes, and raincoats, or anything which might help them actually earn a living. Nope. Just umbrellas. We’ve never been to Cherbourg, but now our impression is that of a rainy town filled with forgetful and/or wasteful people.

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“Maman! Maman! I think I see a raincloud! If someone didn’t check the forecast before they left the house today we might actually eat something this week.”

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Not surprisingly, the mother-daughter-team struggle to make ends meet and Maman wants her daughter to marry rich. Specifically Roland (Michel), a character we remember from Lola, who has taken a fancy to the young umbrella salesgirl. Geneviève on the other hand is in love with mechanic Guy (Castelnuovo) and plans to marry him, money be damned!

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“Don’t worry about money, my love. The constant rain makes the roads very slippery, so my mechanics business is thriving!”

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Then, Guy is drafted into the army and sent off to fight in the Algerian War. A few months later, Geneviève confesses to her mother than she is pregnant. She is also worried about Guy who only answers her letters sporadically.

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“You did actually get something in the mail, but it’s possible all the wallpaper in this house has damaged your eyesight to the point that you cannot read simple letters”

 

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Roland (who may or may not have grown up a bit since the last movie where he famously made his unrequited feelings for Lola her problem instead of dealing with it on his own) is still willing to marry Geneviève despite her being pregnant by someone else. He offers security and comfort. So what should she do?

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Just try to blend in and wait for all this to blow over.

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Oh, and did we mention that all of this is conveyed to us through the medium of song? Because it is. Every single word in this movie is sung (not necessarily by the actors), and continuously accompanied by the wonderful score. Additionally, the photography and colours are so bright and vivid that you can’t help being sucked into the story.

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It’s enough to give you a toothache. But, like, a good one.

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We loved the colours, the music, the random interruptions by passers-by during Geneviève and Guy’s date, the wallpaper (we want ALL of it – we don’t care if it blinds us!), and drama queen Auntie Élise (Perrey).

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“As I keep saying, I’ll probably die soon. Most likely when you’re away. When that happens, be a dear and send all my capes to a couple of sisters in Trondheim, Norway.”

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a sort of continuation of Lola (1961), and also connected to the upcoming The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). It’s an intriguing universe filled with men befriending the mothers of young girls, and storylines that don’t always go where you expect them to. It is a universe we recommend you visit at some point.

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Gorgeous!

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What we learned: Use protection. Also, life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned. But it might be OK after all.

Next time: Topkapi (1964)

#236 Band of Outsiders/Bande à part

Watched: June 26 2019

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur, Louisa Colpeyn

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 35min

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Odile (Karina) attends an English class where she meets would-be “American gangsters” Franz and Arthur (Frey and Brasseur, respectively). For some reason, she is charmed by these juvenile and annoying guys, and after being negged into submission she finds herself a key player in their “master plan” to rob her aunt’s employer.

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“And we’ll be like ‘Bang!’ and he’ll be like ‘Help!’ and we’ll be like ‘Give us all your money!’ and he’ll be like ‘Take it all!'” “Yeah, totally! We’re so cool.”

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Don’t get us wrong, there were things we liked about this movie. It’s very stylish, and there are fun and interesting bits such as the minute of (complete) silence. We really enjoyed the dance scene in the café (which you can watch here) and the record breaking tour of the Louvre as well.

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Heeeeey Macarena!

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We just could not deal with the characters. Odile is very simple, bland and easily manipulated, and Arthur is a negging dick, so they’re clearly meant to be. Franz is just boring, and both him and Arthur are playing at being American gangsters despite being far too old for that sort of behaviour (they both look about 40 but act like 15-year-olds). We’re at a loss to see how Odile would feel a need to impress these two and we fail to see her motivation.

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The only semi-charming thing they do with her is the Louvre run. Girl, you can do better!

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We just found them all really annoying and boring. Then again, this might be our own fault as we are probably expecting too much traditional character development from a French new wave classic.

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“OK guys, explain it to a simple Danish girl: what is the French fascination with love triangles?”

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We did love Mme Victoria (Colpeyn), the dog, the over-the-top death scene (won’t spoil it by saying whose), and the voice over – particularly at the end. It was just that the main characters irked us. A lot. And we found it difficult to see past that. Sorry, Godard (and Edgar)…

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No film with a random dance scene is a total waste though, so we’re glad we watched it.

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What we learned: Come on, Godard. Odile certainly was not thinking about her boobs all the time. Despite popular opinion, women spend very little time actually thinking about them. They’re just kind of there…

Next time: Blood and Black Lace (1964)

#219 Vivre sa Vie

Watched: January 22 2019

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Anna Karina, Sady Rebbot, André S. Labarthe, Guylaine Schlumberger, Monique Messine

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 20min

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Vivre sa Vie. A blog post in 12 scenes.

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Scene I: The backs of people’s heads are fascinating

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Scene II: Nana becomes the world’s slowest shop attendant

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Scene III: Nana has excellent taste in movies, and makes terrible decisions about men

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Scene IV: Nana is interrogated

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Scene V: Nana becomes an entrepreneur

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Scene VI: Nana is responsible

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Scene VII: Nana slowly writes a letter and finds out how tall she is

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Scene VIII: Nana learns the rules of prostitution. But apparently not the function of a pimp…

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Scene IX: Nana needs attention

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Scene X: Nana is ignored in a threesome

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Scene XI: Nana meets a philosopher and is treated like a person

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Scene XII: Nana learns that you cannot just leave this business…

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Engaging and visually interesting, Vivre sa Vie is a must for all fans of French new wave cinema. For hardcore fans, we may also recommend two classic shorts: one here, and the other here. Enjoy!

What we learned: In France, the lion is DEAD tonight.

Next time: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

#213 Jules et Jim

Watched: January 11 2019

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 45min

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Introvert Austrian Jules (Werner) and extrovert Frenchy Jim (Serre) meet as young men in 1912 and a lifelong friendship is born. While rocking their bohemian lifestyle and moving through relationships with various women, they meet free spirited Catherine (Moreau) who they both fall for in their own way.

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We’re sure there’s some symbolism in the fact that Catherine dresses up as a man when they first get to know her… But we’re not ones to speculate.

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Catherine is impulsive and fun, but also intelligent and charming. Jules loves her but is a misogynistic bastard at heart despite his ideas of himself as progressive (as demonstrated by his speech after the Strindberg play they go to see). Still, he convinces her to marry him for some strange reason, although she seems a bit luke warm towards the whole thing. As WWI breaks out, the two men are drafted on opposite sides with Catherine stuck in Austria by herself.

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Shouldn’t be a problem though. A statue doesn’t change just because you leave it alone for a few years.

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After the war, the men rekindle their relationship, and Catherine is once again stuck in the middle with both men wanting to marry her. And they do. But while she has a daughter with Jules, she is unable to conceive with Jim which causes a rift. In addition, the fact that Jim has another girlfriend might also contribute to some tension.

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“So, is this your night or mine?” “I’ve completely lost track. It’s an odd numbered weeknight starting with a T… I think maybe those are yours..?”

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Jules et Jim is a very interesting movie for many reasons. It’s pretty much the epitome of French New Wave and Jeanne Moreau’s great international break out role. It’s also filled with very interesting characters. We cannot quite decide if they are all complex and realistic or just inconsistent and difficult to read. Despite the title, the film is really all about Catherine, but without ever revealing her thoughts and feelings.

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She is as mysterious and inscrutable as the statue the men were initially drawn to

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Because let’s face it: there’s a very strange relationship between Catherine and men. She is always surrounded by them, with no female friends. Nor does she have any friends who aren’t interested in sleeping with her. Yet none of the ones who consider themselves close to her are interested in listening to her. She is ignored whenever she tries to talk about something other than the men or her feelings towards them. Anything else is uninteresting to the men who claim to “love” her.

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“You just get on with your knitting and let us sit here and lust after you in silence.”

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This is no way excuses her final actions, but perhaps it goes some way towards explaining them. She is a nonconformist forced to conform to wife and mother, and an intellectual forced to only talk about men and relationships. It’s enough to make anyone snap.

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Life would have been easier if she was an actual man

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Jules et Jim is a technically interesting movie as well: we loved the voice-over; the “erratic” filming; the cuts and “fast-forward” feeling which felt like snapshots from their lives, and the distance this in many ways created; the costumes; and the complex and  unusual characters. There’s a reason this is considered a classic. And we’re sure there are a thousand ways to interpret the relationship between the characters. This was just our two cents.

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On a lighter note: it made us long for spring, summer and bicycle rides

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What we learned: Relationships are hard. But sometimes it might be a good idea to actually communicate with each other… Also, real friends don’t need to fuck you to stick around.

Next time: Knife in the Water (1962)

#205 Lola

Watched: November 1 2018

Director: Jacques Demy

Starring: Anouk Aimée, Marc Michel, Jacques Harden, Alan Scott, Annie Duperoux, Elina Labourdette

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 30min

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Roland Cassard (Michel) loses his job and randomly decides to give a young girl his dictionary due to her resemblance to his old friend Cécile (Aimée) – even sharing her name. By chance, he then runs into said friend, who now goes by the name Lola. And is a showgirl…

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Would you believe she both merengues and does the cha-cha..?

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Lola, now a single mother, is very happy to see her old friend, and the two go out to dinner before her show one evening. Roland finds out that despite not having heard from him in seven years, Lola is still hung up on her baby daddy Michel (Harden). While waiting for him to return, the dancer passes the time with American sailor Frankie, who also develops a strange and unhealthy relationship with Lola’s young lookalike Cécile (Duperoux), seeming destined to repeat history.

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The young girl is easy prey too – the only person invited to her birthday party was a random dude she had met only once and who her mother wanted to bang. Way to make a girl feel special.

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Roland falls for Lola and decides to make his unrequited love her problem by telling her about his feelings and being childish and mean when she rebuffs him. Because naturally it is her fault that he fell for her and she should feel bad about it.

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Perhaps Roland should practise reading body language instead of guilt-tripping women when they don’t love him?

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Lola is an interesting movie – the perspective switches between characters and goes off in all kinds of directions, while still telling the story quite efficiently. Lola is a bit simple, but sweet, and we loved how she was never apologetic about her work or her status as a single parent.

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Of course, she had nothing to apologise for, being a fabulous woman and great mother, but we have a feeling not everyone would have thought so, especially in 1961

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While we’re still unclear how their days worked (does Yvon go to night school? How on earth do they get so much done before school? And did Roland come to work late five times in three days???), Roland acted like a stereotypical “nice guy” with Lola, and we’re very worried about Frankie grooming the young Cécile, we absolutely enjoyed this movie and we can’t wait for what else Jacques Demy has in store for us. Also, we need Lola’s corset. And top hat.

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If you’re only going to own one outfit, make it a classic!

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What we learned: Never go with service men.

Next time: The Guns of Navarone (1961)

#203 Zazie dans le Métro

Watched: October 8 2018

Director: Louis Malle

Starring: Catherine Demongeot, Philippe Noiret, Hubert Deschamps, Carla Marlier, Vittorio Caprioli, Yvonne Clech

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 33min

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Zazie (Demongeot), a charming ten-year-old precocious brat, is left with her uncle Gabriel (Noiret) in Paris for the weekend so that her mum can get some sexytime with her new lover.

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All you need to take over the world is a jaunty hat and absolutely no shame

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Zazie’s only goal for the weekend is to go on the metro, so she is less than impressed when it is closed due to a strike. On her first morning at her uncle’s place, she sneaks off to explore the city on her own and try to find an open metro, but instead she finds a very creepy stranger (Caprioli) and lots of trouble.

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We were surprised to find where we’ve gone wrong trying to attract guys…

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The creepy stranger may or may not be a paedophile, may or may not be a cop, and may or may not also be attracted to Zazie’s aunt and a merry widow they encounter on their adventures. It’s all a bit fuzzy and bewildering.

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We’re not sure if we ever got an explanation of the furry

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While we didn’t quite understand what was happening half the time, Zazie dans le Métro was a wild ride from start to finish. The visual comedy of it reminded us a bit of Hulot, and we loved the silliness of it all, although we’re pretty sure we saw a poor lady stabbed at some point. And there’s an attempted rape. And there’s a fairly big chance Zazie is a victim of abuse or a psychopath, judging from her reactions to people and events. Now that we think about it, are we sure this is a comedy..?

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Trust us – this girl has seen some shit!

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Still, we loved the cuts, the speeding up and slowing down of the film, the absurdity, the chaos and the colours, and the assortment of strange and unusual characters.

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Such as the dapper drag queen uncle who has a huge problem with other people’s personal hygiene

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There’s a reason this film keeps playing in film clubs and cinemas to this day, and it’s well worth catching. Enjoy a strange romp through an even stranger Paris!

What we learned: Not everything needs to make sense all the time. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride.

Next time: A Taste of Honey (1961)

#195 Shoot the Piano Player

Watched: August 26 2018

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michèle Mercier, Albert Rémy

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 21min

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Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan (Aznavour) is a piano player in a dive bar, but a former classical concert pianist. When his brother Chico (Rémy) seeks him out to shelter him from a couple of gangsters he’s pissed off, Charlie gets dragged back into the criminal family he’s avoided for years.

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“Just ran into the weirdest dude out there. Told me all about his marriage and his wife, completely unprompted. Oh, and also, I’m chased by some thugs and I need you to help me escape.”

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Simultaneously, the shy and slightly awkward musician strikes up a relationship with waitress Léna (Dubois), but the gangsters follow them one night and the couple are kidnapped. However, they get on surprisingly well with their kidnappers.

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Although not as well as Charlie gets on with his friendly neighbourhood prostitute next door

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They get out of that fix unharmed, but as the gangsters become more and more determined to use Chico’s family members to track him down, Charlie realises he must flee and leave his girlfriend behind. Lest she ends up like his first wife…

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“So, first there was the wife. That ended badly.” “How badly?” Well, she’s dead. Then there’s my neighbour Clarisse, but she’s more of a very good friend.” “How good?” “Oh, very, very good… But I swear I’m actually a good guy. Just very unlucky.”

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Shoot the Piano Player is very different from our last encounter with Truffaut, The 400 Blows. It’s a bit Noiry, with the flashbacks, the past the main character cannot escape, the general bleakness and the occasional voiceover narration.

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The trigger happy gangsters complete the picture (we loved them, although their casualness and easy conversation with their victims made them even scarier than your normal movie thugs)

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It’s often sad, dark and depressing, but there are some fantastic laugh-out-loud moments which help alleviate the whole affair somewhat. We’ve been missing the noirs a bit lately (there were so many of them for a while there!), so we really enjoyed this one. Worth watching for fans of French New Wave, Film Noir, thrillers, dramas, and Truffaut in general.

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Or fans of pianos. Or, indeed, people who hate piano players with a fiery vengeance.

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What we learned: Even super polite and likable kidnappers can be ruthless killers.

Next time: Spartacus (1960)