Oh crap. With everything that's been going on right now I completely forgot about this. This week, the theme of Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is French cinema, a topic I know fairly well. I won't claim to be an expert but I've seen my share of French movies, some good, some bad, some alright. This is a bit late, but at least it does mean it will actually be posted on Thursday for once.
Now, I've decided to do things a little bit different this time. I'm going to include a good French movie, a bad French film, and a hidden gem that isn't as good as the good French movie but still better than the bad one. Let's begin.
A Man Escaped (1956)
I've brought this one up a few times before, one of the better experiences of my film classes. There's no shortage of terrible films I've had to watch, but once in a while there ends up being a pleasant surprise here and there. Typically it's some movie I've never heard of or was afraid to watch that turned out to be pretty good. Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped was one of those films. It's an interesting little piece that relies heavily on building tension through sound and extremely limited narration by withholding any information outside the central character's range of knowledge. The result is a compelling story about a man who has to work with limited resources to systematically find a way out of a Nazi prison, with both him and the viewer constantly aware that the slightest mistake could mean the difference between success and failure.
By this point, I think I've have made it clear how I feel about this movie, but let's go over it again. Aside from being a painful experience to sit through, the plot makes no sense and is totally incoherent, the characters are dull and uninteresting, and there is nothing to keep me invested in this film. Literally not a single redeeming feature exists, and to top it all off it is an insult to the dignity of science fiction writers everywhere. Alphaville is ostensibly a dystopian story set in a future with interplanetary travel, but this has got to be the laziest, most pathetic vision that has ever been put on film. By "vision" I of course mean there isn't one at all. No future technology, no architectural changes or alien landscapes. It literally just plunks the characters into 1960's Paris and injects the word "galaxy" into random lines so that Jean-Luc Godard can point at it and shout "see, see, they're using space words. IT'S THE FUTURE!" I mean imagine if instead of creating a fascinating new world in Blade Runner Ridley Scott just filmed everything in 1970's Los Angeles and injected the word "nebula" into random lines of dialogue in a desperate attempt to convince people it was the future.
Queen to Play (2009)
This story of a middle-aged chambermaid who discovers an unexpected talent for the game of Chess might not be the greatest technical achievement in the history of French cinema, but it is a simple and emotional film that will keep you interested. It's kinda like one of those scrappy underdog sports films... but about Chess. It's a good movie for anyone who knows the rules of the game and has experience playing it, though it might be confusing to someone who isn't. Chess motifs are naturally rampant throughout and there are lots of tense scenes involving Chess games.