Jean-François Somain once wrote, “Books do not speak about the world; they say the print of the world on your heart.” And I believe films do exactly the same. This winter season, the bad weather and the moroseness of life at the hospital all playing a part, I’ve had many more opportunities than usual to go to the cinema and see the latest French and international films released. My first five favourites of the beginning of this year comprise Paddington 2, Promise at Dawn, Murder on the Orient Express, Pitch Perfect 3, and L’école buissonnière (School of Life).
Promise at Dawn
From his childhood in Poland to his adolescence in Nice to his years as a student in Paris and his tough training as a pilot during World War II, this tragi-comedy tells the romantic story of Romain Gary, one of the most famous French novelists and sole writer to have won the Goncourt Prize for French literature twice.
☁ Promise at Dawn, the film adaptation of Romain Gary’s novel… a novel that had touched me when I first read it as a teenager. But given the events of the past few years that affected me, its adaption into moving images offered me a second reading and deeply moved me!
Promise at Dawn, directed by Eric Barbier, is a real and beautiful and tumultuous travel around the world, which follows successful French author Romain Gary, from his tough childhood in Poland and teenagehood in sunny Nice, to his great achievements as an aviator during the second world war, and his passes through Paris and London. Breathtaking landscapes come one after the other, and follow the dramatic rhythm of the voiceover narration of the main character – touching, real, and authentic! At the heart of Promise at Dawn, it is the story of an ambivalent mother-son relationship (and extensively parents-children maybe); on the one hand, there is a stifling, oppressive mother, who wants to shape her son to the dreamt vision she has and wishes to see come true. “There are three things that are worthy of a fight,” she tells him when he’s still just a child, “women, honour, and France.” And on the other hand, there is a loving mother, who sacrifices herself for her son and always pushes him to be the best and become a decent and respectable man.
“I had to become a French literature genius by writing an immortal masterpiece,” Romain recalls. The budding writer will spend his life giving meaning to his mother’s sacrifice and showing himself worthy of it, even if that will cost him his mental health.
Paddington, now happily settled with the Brown family and a popular member of the local community, picks up a series of odd jobs to buy the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, only for the gift to be stolen.
“Bears like Paddington are very rare. And a good thing too, if you ask me, or it would cost us a small fortune in marmalade.”
— Mrs. Bird, from ‘More about Paddington’ 🐻🍊🍞
☁ Paddington 2 is a very cute film, uncomplicated, as British as can be, and perfect for the Christmas season! … and it goes without saying it also brought me back to London for a little while, which made me feel a pang of nostalgia but also warmed up my heart at the same time like no other thing possibly could have.
Murder on the Orient Express
When a murder occurs on the train he’s travelling on, celebrated detective Hercule Poirot is recruited to solve the case.
☁ What a film! I haven’t been captivated by a two-hour film from beginning to end for years, without dark thoughts coming to spoil my moment! And it feels great to dive into a film and live it to the rhythm of its soundtrack and beautiful images that come one after the other, and with its characters. Murder on the Orient Express is a charleston from Istanbul to London, but it comes off in the middle of the dance and carries its audience away with an incredibly gripping intrigue, present and past, raised by a golden cast and breathtaking scenes, in colours and in black and white. A perfect winter film bringing the key Agatha Christie’s detective novel back to life!
Pitch Perfect 3
Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices.
☁ Pitch Perfect 3 is the last show of the Bellas that feels so good! It is the last reunion of the a Capella choir, still sometimes off the wall but always endearing with each member bringing their own personal touch and their own character! For an hour and a half, the riff-offs come one after the other, intertwining with the traditional lot of drama and sweet endings of American comedies. Faithful to the previous two films, Pitch Perfect 3 will make you cry and laugh out loud too, reminding you still that good friends – best friends – are the family you choose and the ones who also give you hope for the future when you find yourself and feel all alone.
L’école buissonnière (School of Life)
Paris, 1930. Paul has always known only one and the same horizon – the high walls of the orphanage in the working class Parisian suburbs. Left with a happy country lady , Célestine, and her husband, Borel, the tough gamekeeper of a vast property in the Sologne region, the city boy, recalcitrant and stubborn at first, steps into a mysterious and worrying world – that of a majestic and wild region. The immense forest, the foggy ponds, the moors and the fields, all of this belongs to Earl de la Fresnaye, a taciturn widowed man who lives a solitary life in his manor. The earl tolerates the poachers within the property but Borel relentlessly hunts them down and desperately attempts to catch the most cunning and difficult to find of them all, Totoche. At the heart of the enchanting Sologne region, by the poacher’s side, great lover of nature, Paul will learn about life but also about the forest and the secrets it hides. An even bigger secret weighs on the property, because Paul hasn’t come here by accident…
☁ L’école buissonnière is an appeasing film, narrating a beautiful and touching story, with even more endearing characters, and that makes you spend two hours in pure serenity.