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last update 10.Jun.10
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4/5   L’Arnacoeur
dir Pascal Chaumeil
scr Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner, Yohan Gromb
prd Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky, Laurent Zeitoun, Yann Zenou
with Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, Francois Damiens, Helena Noguerra, Andrew Lincoln, Jacques Frantz, Amandine Dewasmes, Jean-Yves Lafesse, Jean-Marie Paris, Tarek Boudali, Philippe Lacheau
duris and paradis
release Fr 17.Mar.10,
UK 25.Jun.10
10/France 1h4

edinburgh film festival
Heartbreaker This delightful romantic comedy refuses to play by Hollywood rules. So even though it's as predictable as you'd expect, it keeps the characters grounded in reality. And their dialog is peppered with truly terrific lines.

Alex (Duris) is a charming rogue makes a living breaking up undesirable relationships. Working with his sister (Ferrier) and her husband (Damiens), he woos women away from unsuitable suitors. His next assignment is in Monaco, where he must pry the wealthy Juliette (Paradis) from her lovely, wealthy British fiance (Lincoln). Posing as her bodyguard, Alex succeeds in catching her eye, but will she fall for him in time to stop the wedding? And what if Alex falls for her?

The first thing you notice about this film is its sharp writing; it feels like it's been decades since we've seen a rom-com this sparkling. Snappy dialog and strong characters like this went missing in American cinema back in the 1960s, so leave it to France to show how it should be done. Sure, there's an unnecessary subplot involving a loan shark and his meathead goon (Paris), but the script cleverly refuses to let it take over the movie.

Like Alex himself, this film charms the socks off us. His choice in music (Wake Me Up Before You Go-go) and movies (Dirty Dancing) is irresistible, and the only question is why Juliette holds out as long as she does. Meanwhile, it's refreshing that Lincoln's character isn't turned into a villain (or even a nice guy with a dark secret). Instead the film lets the romance have its own weight, which is something Hollywood is always afraid to do.

Duris is simply fantastic in the role, which is unlike almost anything he's done before. Gone is his usual brooding, introspective moodiness; Alex is a sexy, funny optimist, and his joie de vivre is infectious. So is his chemistry with Paradis as a strong woman who refuses to fit into any movie stereotype. And fine comic relief is on hand from Ferrier and Damiens as well as Noguerra as Juliette's nymphomaniac pal. This is a lively, funny, sharply well-made rom-com that actually gets better as it goes along.

15 themes, language, innuendo, some violence
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The Horde
dir Yannick Dahan, Benjamin Rocher
prd Raphael Rocher
scr Arnaud Bordas, Yannick Dahan, Stephane Moissakis, Benjamin Rocher
with Claude Perron, Jean-Pierre Martins, Eriq Ebouaney, Aurelien Recoing, Doudou Masta, Antoine Oppenheim, Jo Prestia, Yves Pignot, Sebastien Peres, Laurent Demianoff, Stephane Orsolani, Ali Karamoko
release Fr 10.Feb.10,
UK Sep.10
09/France 1h30

the horde With a set-up that feels like a gritty cop thriller, this movie catches our interest with its energetic style. And even though things get entertainingly crazy, it's a bit of a let-down when the zombies turn up.

Aurore (Perron) is a cop who feels guilty over her affair with a colleague who was killed by a violent gang. So she vows to avenge his death with the help of her partner Jimenez (Recoing) and their colleagues (Martins and Oppenheim). But after a manic encounter with the villains (including Ebouaney, Masta and Prestia), the building is attacked by a mob of the carnivorous undead. So the cops must team up with the thugs and a talkative ex-soldier (Pignot) to survive.

The violence is fast and extremely furious, with hyper-carnage in virtually every scene. And yet the filmmakers keep their tongues firmly in cheek, while never abandoning the back-story. Even as Armageddon breaks loose, Aurore's mission is always present, building dramatic tension between the cops and the gangsters. Past relationships and old vendettas suddenly appear in the midst of each frenzied skirmish. And two brothers even pause to reminisce about how this reminds them of the situation back home in Nigeria.

These things make the film more interesting than it has any right to be, because it's essentially a mindless horror movie that delights in spattering buckets of blood on every wall in sight. The snarling, voracious zombie horde is utterly relentless, and yet sometimes they are dispatched not with a simple gunshot to the head, which seems to work just fine, but with astonishing viciousness due to a surge of emotion.

There's also no end of movie silliness, from big sacrificial moments (there are two) to petty bickering. On the other hand, there are some truly nasty moments, such as the scene in which a few of our gun-toting "heroes" discuss the horrific things they could do to a trapped female zombie. In other words, we never care what happens to any of these rather spiteful people, so the film isn't scary at all. But it's riotously loud and violent, and sometimes that's the kind of escape we need.

18 themes, strong language, grisly violence
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The Illusionist
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE   L’Illusionniste
dir Sylvain Chomet
prd Bob Last
scr Jacques Tati, Sylvain Chomet
voices Jean-Claude Donda, Eilidh Rankin tatischeff
release UK 20.Aug.10,
US 24.Dec.10
10/UK Pathe 1h25

edinburgh film festival
the illusionist Less hilariously crowd-pleasing than THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE, Chomet's new animated film, originally written by French master Jacques Tati himself, is a masterful story full of sharp wit, bittersweet emotion and startling tenderness.

In 1959 Paris, Tatischeff is an ageing magician in a world that's being taken over by floppy-haired musicians. After losing his latest gig, he heads for London, where he briefly works in a raucous pub then travels on to an isolated village in the Scottish Highlands. Eventually he settles in to do his show in a small theatre in Edinburgh. But a young country girl follows him into the city, and supporting himself is difficult enough without needing to watch out for her.

Chomet invests the film with heavy echoes of Tati's Mon Oncle, from the main character's physicality to the way he never quite fits in wherever he goes. The animation is packed with telling details that are utterly charming, from Tatischeff's feisty rabbit, who won't stay in his hat, to the leathery lounge singers he has to share the bill with. When the heartthrob band Billy Boy and the Britoons appears to steal his thunder, it's impossible not to recognise that grinding fact of life: we're all replaceable. And yes, one crowd is actually more impressed with an electric light than with Taticheff's effortlessly masterful performance.

And it's not only the gags that keep us watching. Chomet painstakingly recreates his settings on screen, giving them a sense of heightened realism that takes the breath away. The panoramas of Edinburgh are simply gorgeous, as are the astonishingly accurate details, down to the names and designs of real pubs. And Chomet's affection for Scotland (he has an animation studio there) is also clear in his hilarious renditions of sheep, cows and kilts.

Alongside the resonant story, the film is also a sharp satire of show business, looking at the soul-destroying aspect of selling yourself for fame, the tedious realities of marketing and the temporary nature of success. With constant visual jokes but almost no dialog, the beautiful hand-drawn animation vividly recreates illusions and plays with our perceptions, but even more importantly it finds real heart in its characters, creating a funny, warm story about true generosity of spirit. And there's even a set of acrobatic triplets on hand to make us smile with recognition.

PG themes
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Villa Amalia
dir-scr Benoit Jacquot
prd Edouard Weil
with Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Xavier Beauvois, Maya Sansa, Clara Bindi, Viviana Aliberti, Michelle Marquais, Peter Arens, Ignazio Oliva, Jean-Pierre Gos, Jean-Michel Portal, Jean Coulon
huppert and beauvois release Fr 8.Apr.09,
UK 25.Jun.10
09/France 1h34

london film fest
villa amalia Insinuating and enigmatic filmmaking adds to the central mystery of this intensely personal odyssey, which gets under the skin even as it begins to feel a bit meandering and ill-defined. But of course, Huppert is magnificent.

Ann (Huppert) is rattled one evening by two events: she sees her partner Thomas (Beauvois) kissing another woman and she runs into Georges (Anglade), an old friend who knew her before she became a famous pianist. Suddenly she decides to leave her current life behind, dumping Thomas, selling her flat and hitting the road. And Georges is the only person she tells; to everyone else she has simply vanished. She ends up on an isolated Italian island, where her life is redefined by her new friends (Bindi and Sansa). But can she fully escape her past?

Huppert is terrific as always, subtly letting us see into the soul of this woman who decides to upend her entire life--job, home, boyfriend, everything, including her identity. From the start, Ann is playful and mysterious, preferring time on her own and calmly making huge decisions most people would have nervous breakdowns just considering. So watching her shed layers and eventually make herself disappear is thoroughly involving. As is watching her discover new joys she had never imagined.

The plot wanders from scene to scene without much momentum, but there are terrific moments along the way, mainly due to Jacquot's skilful direction, elegiac photography and clever editing. It also helps that settings from urban Paris to the remote island are vividly captured on screen, which adds to the appeal of escaping from the craziness of life.

As her journey continues, Ann's encounters with a variety of people add warmth, humour and more than a few surprises, such as an almost wordless romance and an awkward, difficult trip home. And while it seems like a film about escaping, it's actually perhaps an exploration of a woman who clears away life's clutter to find herself and gets lost in the process. Or maybe not. Whatever, the sensuous filmmaking holds us in its gaze even as it appears to drift aimlessly, rather like Ann herself.

12strong themes
21.Oct.09 lff
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