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Sunday, 13 November 2016

Italian Movie - Habemus Papam (2011)

Habemus Papam (2011)

Director(s): Nanni Moretti

Countries: Italy & France

Main actor(s)/actress(es): Michel Piccoli, Nanni Moretti, Jerzy Stuhr & Margherita Buy

Genre: Comedy, Drama


The new election of a pope is always a stressful moment but nobody ever sees what is happening behind the scenes ... when the newly elected pope has a breakdown and cannot bear with the responsibilities of this position, all the cardinals try to help him the best they can.


Nominated for the Palme d'Or and winners of dozens of awards this had to be on my "to watch list". Moreover, the synopsis itself proved intriguing enough to explain why this movie had to be watched. A closer look at the election of the pope and the opportunity to see this from the inside would undeniably prove interesting. My conclusion would be to give it a shot as this resulted in an enjoyable movie with a few flaws but a very interesting point of view.

The end result is somewhere in the middle of what I expected and what I usually enjoy. The depiction of the newly elected pope by Michel Piccoli is outstanding and very genuine. The fragility and the tension are beautifully rendered on the screen and the overall pressure around the position of the pope is perfectly conveyed during the voting sessions in the Vatican. Finally, the enclosed and sometimes claustrophobic religious life these people choose is also justly rendered.

What I found a bit more problematic was the comedy aspect of this movie. Most of the scenes are very pleasant and do bring a lighter touch to the overall film: Nanni Moretti as a psychoanalyst, original cardinals, etc. However, I believed sometimes it turned into something rather ridiculous and grotesque which hindered the general quality of the movie and its overarching message on religion (for instance, the volleyball tournament lasts for ages and ages and is rather randomly presented).

un papa = a pope
una chiesa = a church
scappare = to escape
una elezione = an election
una religione = a religion

Thursday, 20 October 2016

French Movie - Le Tout Nouveau Testament (2015)

Le Tout Nouveau Testament (2015)

Director(s): Jaco Van Dormael

Countries: France, Belgium & Luxembourg

Main actor(s)/actress(es): Benoît Poelvoorde, Catherine Deneuve, Yolande Moreau, François Damiens & Pili Groyne

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy

Summary: We all know God (Benoît Peolvoorde) but did you know that he lives in Brussels? More precisely in a dirty old flat at the top of a condo with his wife (Yolande Moreau) and his daughter Ea (Pili Groyne) - his son JC was mischievous and left home. Ea is unhappy as she watches her dad torture people with unfair laws as well as being abusive towards herself and her mom. Her act of revenge is to send a text message to everyone with the date of their death. Following this she goes on an adventure to find her new apostles in a crazy and original journey.


Once more a critically acclaimed movie and it was even nominated at the Golden Globes in 2016! Jaco Van Dormael is undeniably a very gifted director and won different awards during his career, namely for Le huitième jour (1996). He also has a very personal and original style and manages to create a poetic and highly metaphorical atmosphere in his recent movies (e.g., Le Tout nouveau testament or also in Mr. Nobody in 2009). The trailer already shows the quirkiness and singularity of this movie and I was definitely not disappointed when I watched the whole thing.

Le tout nouveau testament was not exactly what I was expecting, which was mainly a quirky comedy. I believe it achieves much more than that in the sense that it does address some questions such as the role of men in society (patriarchy, e.g.), the reflection on existence (how to live your life, enjoying every single moment, etc.) and also more largely religion and how it can be perceived by some people. Everything is of course approached in a very funny way but also a visually appealing and original style. In other words, Jaco Van Dormael once again manages to make us travel to another world, and even another dimension.

I can definitely understand why some people were disappointed as the trailer tends to advertise some kind of fast-paced comedy while the final product might drag on sometimes and is not (supposed to be) funny all the way through. Moreover, the structure might sometimes be a bit clumsy and repetitions might discourage some viewers. However, I would advise everybody to hang in there and bear with the film because the overall result is outstanding and offers a memorable experience.


Un dieu = a god
Une déesse = a goddess 
Une loi = a law
La mort = the death
Un appart(ement) = a flat

Monday, 17 October 2016

French movie - Marguerite (2015)

Marguerite (2015)

Director(s): Xavier Giannoli

Countries: France, Czech Republic & Belgium

Main actor(s)/actress(es): Catherine Frot, Michel Fau, André Marcon

Genre: Drama

Summary: Marguerie Dumont (Catherine Frot) is a very wealthy woman who lives in Paris in the twenties. Her whole life revolves around music and opera. She organises charity events,  recitals, goes to see fabulous shows, collects pretty much anything related to the world of music but most importantly loves singing. There is only one problem ... she is absolutely terrible at it but nobody ever told her, and even worse, people praised her and her friends and family have protected her for all her life. However, this will prove very problematic when she decides to rent a concert venue to sing in front of hundreds of people.


I was very enthusiastic to watch this critically-acclaimed movie. For those of you who might not be familiar with this film, it received four Césars (French equivalent to the Oscars) as well as a Prix Lumières for best actress. Moreover, the hype around it was quite important as another movie came out featuring Hugh Grant and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins, 2016) around the same character. No need to say that my expectations were rather high and ... I was not disappointed at all.

When one first watches the trailer, Marguerite might appear as your typical French comedy but as the video goes on the dramatic tension and very moving protagonist destabilises all the audience's expectations. Mixing drama and comedy can be tricky and finding the right balance often proves more than dangerous but Xavier Giannoli is a very skilful and talented director. In a lengthy interview featured on the DVD he explains his choices in terms of cinematography, light, images, colours and camera lenses; which once more shows how multifaceted, complex and balanced this work is.

The main protagonist, Marguerite Dumont, is exceptionally delightful and Catherine Frot's rendering of this deluded and yet deeply moving, naive and child-like socialite is spot on. Based both on Florence Foster Jenkins and Margaret Dumont, Marguerite is completely fascinated by the world of music and dedicated her whole life to it. Alongside a very lonely relationship with her husband and secluded life (or at least surrounded by people more interested in her money than herself), music has always been a getaway and a breath of fresh air. This is sublimely rendered on screen but also through the music which is carefully selected and perfectly accompanies as well as reflects what is going on in Marguerite's life.

To conclude, as well as a very funny movie, the topics of cruelty and lies are central to this work and the people watching will often be left with conflicting thoughts and feelings about the unfolding events. Whilst the secondary characters might not be all necessary or well thought-out (e.g. Hazel and Lucien Beaumont), Marguerite still has to be one the best movies of 2015 and in recent years. If you want an original, moving, heartwarming, carefully imagined movie, please do not waste another minute and watch Giannoli's latest work!


Une chanson = a song
Un spectacle = a show
Chanter = to sing
Une récompense = an award
Une scène = a stage

Thursday, 13 October 2016

French movie - Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au bon dieu? (2014)

Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au bon dieu? (2014)

Director(s): Philippe de Chauveron

Country: France

Main actor(s)/actress(es): Christian Clavier, Chantal Lauby, Ary Abittan, Frédérique Bel

Genre: Comedy


A very traditional and Catholic French couple (Clavier & Lauby) wishes the best for their daughters. Unfortunately, they all got married to foreigners of different backgrounds, origins and religions. Their last hope was their younger daughter ... but she fell in love with an African man. Spending Christmas together will prove to be eventful with all these clichés, stereotypes and arguments. Surprisingly enough for the Verneuil family, they might not be the only one who are racist and struggle with other communities...


A highly entertaining movie very effectively advertised through a hilarious trailer. However, the movie does seem to lose some of its power because of the overall clumsy structure and unfolding of events. Whilst the early situations of the movie are refreshing, sarcastic and rather original the rest might seem to rely too much on the strategies used in the opening scenes. Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au bon dieu has all the ingredients for a great movie but might fall into its own clichés and stereotypes.

I would nonetheless recommend anybody to watch this movie as it does address some interesting topics which are particularly relevant in our contemporary society and more specifically in a highly multicultural environment. Finally, this might just highlight some comments and ideas that are somewhat considered normal but can be perceived negatively by other communities. Definitely an enlightening movie which could have done with a bit more research and care into the scenario and the overall development of actions. 


Un dieu = a god
Noël = Christmas
Un mari; un époux = husband
Une femme; une épouse = a wife
Une fille = a daughter

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

French Movie - De retour chez ma mère (2016)

De retour chez ma mère (2016)

Director(s): Eric Lavaine

Country: France

Main Actor(s): Alexandra Lamy, Josiane Balasko, Mathilde Seigner & Jérôme Commandeur

Genre: Comedy


Stéphanie (Alexandra Lamy) is a single mother who just lost her job, her company and most of her money. The only solution is to go back to her mom  (Josiane Balasko). Compromising with this new lifestyle, new habits and moving back to her mom will definitely prove to be a bumpy ride! During a family meal there are plenty of arguments, secrets are revealed and tensions appear. 


This comedy proves refreshing and the actors are undeniably comfortable in these roles. Numerous plot twists make the movie particularly interesting and novative, to some respect. Whilst this might look like a lambda comedy, it undeniably questions some interesting topics such as family, friendship, the differences between generations and the passing of time. More than just the evolution of family or a long list of jokes one after the other, this work is heartwarming, entertaining and digs much deeper than expected.


Déménager = to move; to move house
Un job; un boulot; un travail; un métier = a job
Perdre =  to lose
Une maison = a house
Un repas = a meal

Welcome to my blog!

This blog is a place where I want to share information about movies, series, novels, comics, etc. These will be mainly French-speaking but might also come from or be about any corner of the world. As the Graduate Teaching Assistant in French at Bangor University (UK) I always encourage my students to actively engage with the culture they study or are interested in. Whilst this is a fundamental part of learning a language, I also think this can be positive for anybody. However, it might be quite tricky to keep up to date with what is released in other countries or with anything that is worth watching or reading. 

The aim of my articles is not to present the best items but to mirror a selection of what I experienced and think you might all appreciate. I also see this space as a platform to exchange opinions and reflect on these different works so please never hesitate to comment, give feedback or put forward any ideas you might have. I will provide (hopefully) once a week a presentation of one interesting work I personally selected and give you the basic information as well as a summary and a review or comment. Besides, I will also write once in a while a more in-depth analysis and presentation on one specific book or movie in order to open the debate or give you ideas on how to study films and literary works.


Who am I?

My name is Logan Labrune and I am a Belgian PhD candidate in French Studies and the French Teaching Assistant at Bangor University (UK). I graduated with high honours from the UCL (Belgium) and wrote my MA dissertation titled Post-Punk Monsters: a Study of Graphic Instability and the Uncanny in Grimly’s Frankenstein. My research focuses on graphic adaptations of classics. My PhD project involves comics studies as well as adaptations studies and investigates canonical texts such as Melville’s Moby Dick, Stoker’s Dracula; Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. I have presented my works at various international academic conferences such as the ACME Speakers series (Liège, Belgium) or the IGNCC (Manchester, UK), and will be presenting soon at the Comics Forum (Leeds, UK). I am also a peer-reviewer for the SANE Journal: Sequential Art Narrative in Education and Assistant Editor of Dovetail, an academic peer-reviewed journal based at Bangor university. I recently joined the FLAME Research group which focuses on Film, Language and Media in Education as well as the Filta Community.