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french film festival

Review: Secretariat and Gainsbourg (plus French Film Festival preview)

By Cinema, Reviews

OK, so here’s how this is sup­posed to work. I watch a whole lot of films, give you a hope­fully spoiler-free run­down of what they’re about, offer you my impres­sions and then – based on what you’ve read of me in the past – you can decide wheth­er to drop some fold­ing on a night at the pic­tures, wait for a DVD to come out or (if you are a stu­dent with no mor­als) down­load some­thing to not watch later.

Now, my taste just so hap­pens to be impec­cable so you could do a lot worse than fol­low my every recom­mend­a­tion but this week I totally sur­prised myself and I’d be fas­cin­ated to see if many of you respond in quite the same way.

Secretariat posterSecretariat was a race­horse – a very suc­cess­ful race­horse. In 1973 it was the first horse for 25 years to win the Triple Crown (the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont) and is widely acknow­ledged to be the finest Thoroughbred that ever lived. I know next to noth­ing about racing – and could care even less – and yet I watched Randall Wallace’s biop­ic of the horse with tears in my eyes from start to fin­ish. I haven’t been milked like that since The Pursuit of Happyness back in 2007 and frankly Secretariat had no right to do that to me. I mean, it’s all been seen before and it’s cer­tainly not as if you don’t already know what’s going to hap­pen. And yet… and yet… I adored it.

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Review: Precious, Edge of Darkness, Land of the Long White Cloud, Shifty & The French Kissers

By Cinema, Reviews

Precious posterAfter watch­ing so many films that are so sim­il­ar in con­tent and con­struc­tion that they are hard to tell apart, it is a real pleas­ure to come across some­thing that con­tains no famil­i­ar faces, has a dir­ect­or whose name is unknown (to me at least) and takes an approach to storytelling that con­sist­ently sur­prises and delights – even if the story itself is about as dark as it gets.

Lee Daniels’ Precious, I’m pleased to gaboure­port, is far more than just nov­elty, rising con­fid­ently (cine­mat­ic­ally) above its kitchen-sink found­a­tions to soar high above almost every drama I saw last year. Set in Harlem in the mid 1980s, it presents us with the unprom­ising fig­ure of Clareece Precious Jones (new­comer Gabourey Sidibe). She is 16 years old and over­weight, abused at home and ignored at school, dream­ing of some­thing bet­ter but not hope­ful of a way out. Her fath­er has just made her preg­nant for the second time and when the school finds out she is giv­en the option of wel­fare (which sus­tains her grot­esquely awful moth­er) or a spe­cial school for those with poten­tial gifts – she has some tal­ent for maths.

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