One of our top 10 London cinemas, Ciné Lumière at the French Institute, has been running 4 day film festival LA FÊTE DU CINÉMA (25 to 28 JUNE) with all tickets £5. Hats off for this pared-back approach. Cheap and refreshingly free of pompous programming, it’s a great way to return recent releases to the screen.
We caught up with two films, forming a peculiar DIY double bill. Here’s a quick write-up.
LA JEUNE FILLE SANS MAINS
(2016) d. Sébastien Laudenbach
A stunning animated fairy tale about one girl’s strength and the power of purity and love. Matteo Garrone’s acclaimed euro-fantasy TALE OF TALES may have won big the previous year, but this is a far more adult, engaging and moving affair. The animation – beautifully sketched, painted and layered, requiring actual effort to read each image – conveys a depth of emotion that was lacking from the box office behemoth.
Sébastien Laudenbach’s handcrafted take on a lesser-known Grimm tale is full of outstanding imagery, from the mellifluous ever-changing devil and his familiars to the lush landscapes and far-off battles. It is one of the most beautiful and commanding animations we have seen in years.
IN MOVING PICTURES
- The power of the girl’s courage as she plunges her stumps repeatedly into the soil, bloodily sewing the seeds of a new life.
(2016) d. Bertrand Bonello
NOCTURAMA smacks of one of those projects that sounded brave in pitch meetings but failed to resolve its many challenges on set. Put simply, it’s a tale of some pretty young Parisians who blow things up, hideout together in a department store and then get shot by the state.
We are kept cooly detached from the gang, never learning back stories or motives. Three acts bear different fruit. The preparation for violence is a frustrating edit of doors, corridors, mobile phones and meaningful looks. Following the mainly abstract atrocity, time in the department store is more arresting — reality bleeds, ghosts appear and our protagonists’ self-confidence starts to unravel. Having been branded ‘enemies of the state’, they are then taken out — one by pedantic one — as faceless security agents penetrate their lair.
NOCTURAMA has been compared to ELEPHANT¹ and DAWN OF THE DEAD². One glorious lip-synch aside, it’s nowhere near as good as either of them. Most irritating of all — and kicking sand in the face of our learnt in adolescence and now forgotten French — was the subtitler’s insistence on translating the 24hr timestamps… If you can’t get that 15H30 means 3.30pm, god help you with the rest of it.
IN MOVING PICTURES
- Bewigged, eye-linered and lip-glossed to the max, our tuxedo-clad terrorist descends an elegant flight of stairs, miming gloriously as Bassey blasts ‘My Way’.
Featured image: NOCTURAMA (2016).
¹ The unpredictability of Van Sant’s free roaming timeline builds a sickening sense of momentum, following victims as well as perpetrators, compelling us to care.
² Romero’s sojourn into department store mayhem so effectively skewers consumerism, it surely leaves few fresh perspectives?