French Film Festival – The Book Of Solutions

French Film Festival - The Book Of Solutions

The Book of Solutions is a quirky, sometimes funny, sometimes confusing comedy-drama from writer-director Michel Gondry, who is best known outside of France for directing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The story centres on Marc, a paranoid filmmaker with a narcissistic personality and an incredibly creative but highly distractible mind, which borders on the pathological. To prevent the studio from shutting his film down, he and his crew steal the footage and retreat to Marc’s aunt’s house in the country to finish it.

Marc spends most of his time there, avoiding watching his film whilst restlessly pursuing whatever idea takes hold of his mind at the moment. These pursuits range from being elected mayor of the rural town to filming an ant for three days to creating a soundtrack for his film by gracelessly conducting the orchestra himself with a series of bizarre body and hand gestures. The orchestra scene was a particular favourite, and I enjoyed the idea that someone clueless could make something special happen through their unwavering belief in themselves.

Marc’s pompous narration throughout is also very funny, with a favourite line coming after his triumphant booking of Sting (who works on his soundtrack): ‘Some victories are so spectacular they don’t need a voiceover’.

Over the course of the movie, his increasingly erratic mood and behaviour begin to alienate his crew, worry his elderly aunt, and lead to him being unable to tell facts from fiction in real life. His strangely obsessive thoughts result in him writing ‘The Book of Solutions’, which is supposed to provide the answers to any conflict from the local to the global. All of the ideas in the book are based on his own highly skewed (and often contradictory) perception of the world as he tries to finish his film while his mind simultaneously unravels.

Although Marc’s childlike ability to lose himself in whatever captures his attention at the moment is a beautiful illustration of the power of being totally present, I personally found the film lacked a satisfying story. Like Marc, the film jumps from one thing to the next without any real connectivity or explanation, although it’s an enjoyable journey nonetheless.

Perhaps this lack of a traditional storyline can be chalked up to the fact that it is, after all, a French film and the French have a far more existential relationship with story and filmmaking than Hollywood does. Or perhaps it’s because the film represents a confusing window into the internal struggle of an unsound but sometimes brilliant mind.

Regardless, it’s as darkly humorous and provocative as one might expect a French film to be and is certainly worth watching, even if you’re new to French cinema.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

Spread the word on your favourite platform!

French Film Festival: The Edge Of The Blade

The Edge of the Blade

Ooh la la—it’s time for the 35th Annual French Film Festival. This year’s festival runs from 5 March to early to mid-April, depending on where you live. So, stock up on your favourite French treats, French Fries, Croissants, Baguettes and Escargot, and get into the spirit of this film festival. I was lucky to start the festival with a French Musketeer-flavoured film, “The Edge of the Blade.”

Set in Paris in 1887, The Edge of the Blade (French: Une affaire d’honneur) explores a world where duels have been officially outlawed but continue to be a regular practice as the only possible way to defend one’s honour.

Clement Lacaze, a fencing expert, desperately tries to prevent his nephew from engaging in an uneven duel with more experienced Colonel Berchere. Meanwhile, Marie-Rose Astie de Valsayre, a feminist fighting for women’s equality, challenges the notion that honour is solely a male affair. The movie effectively portrays various forms of duels, making it a highly conceivable experience.

The Edge of the Blade is Vincent Perez’s fourth feature, and he acts as both director and actor in his latest flick. Perez plays the film’s antagonist, Colonel Berchere, who defends his honour by duelling the main antagonist, Clement Lacaze (played by Roschdy Zem), and his nephew, Adrien Lacaze (played by Noham Edje). Doria Tiller appears as real-life feminist Marie-Rose Astie de Valsayre. Although interesting, seeing her life story depicted in her own movie would be additionally pleasing.

The Edge of the Blade

The Edge of the Blade is a fascinating look into a part of history that is uncommon today. It delves into the craze of duels and themes of honour and justice. The film also displays a backdrop of impending war and societal changes. Fight scenes are skillfully choreographed, and the production design adds to the film’s historical authenticity.

The Edge of the Blade captures the tension of a bygone era, where honour, pride, and equality intersect. Vincent Perez’s direction and acting contribute to a film that balances action, drama, and historical context. If you appreciate period pieces and enjoy a touch of swashbuckling adventure, this film is worth exploring.

Don’t go at a snail’s pace—check out The Edge of the Blade at this year’s Alliance Francaise French Film Festival before time runs out in April. Films and film session details are on the official French Film Festival website.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

Spread the word on your favourite platform!

The Circle – The World Through Children’s Eyes

The Italian Film Festival is 23 years young and kicking off in your town. And it’s not just films with a dramatic flair but several documentaries will feature this year, including Il Cerchio – The Circle.

Directed by Sophie Chiarello, The Circle chronicles the journey of Italian primary school students over a five-year period, capturing their unique outlook on the world. The Circle is the winner of best documentary at the 2023 David di Donatello and screening at this year’s Italian Film Festival.

Over five years, students share their thoughts and feelings on a range of topics during circle time. From parents’ separation to Santa Claus, Sophie has given these children a safe space where they are listened to without judgement. As an audience, we get to watch these opinions develop as we watch the children grow.

Through The Circle, Sophie has reminded us that children know much more than we often think. She shows that through a supportive environment, we can gain some unique perspectives from children. It was surprising at times to hear a variety of subjects tackled with maturity. As an audience, we are privileged in a way to learn what is going on inside the minds of children.

The discussion of Christmas clearly indicated the end-of-year holidays and each year flows as you watch the children grow into a new school year. As the children grew, the topics became more advanced, which kept interest as it was insightful to hear a child’s thoughts on a particular topic. The visuals of the playground, while these topics were being discussed, were another reminder that these were young children. They may have had this sense of maturity in their thoughts and feelings, but they also enjoyed playing with their friends.

Something that really stood out about this documentary and school was how supportive they all were of each other. Even if they disagreed with one another, they still gave each other a chance to express their feelings. We also watched the children as they dealt with the impact of COVID on the Italian community and how it completely changed the way we did things beforehand.

For a chance to see the world through primary school children, The Circle is a documentary to watch. The Circle can be seen at this year’s Italian Film Festival from 19th Sept to 25th Oct, although check the dates for regional variations. Check out the movie session times in your local area on the Italian Film Festival website. Ciao Bella!

This review also appears on It’s On The House.

Burning Hearts – Italian Film Festival

The Italian Film Festival is in its 23rd year after its founding at the turn of the millennium in 2000.  Since then, the festival has grown in popularity to become the most significant public celebration of Italian cinema outside Italy.

A feature of this year’s festival is a special presentation of New Italian Cinema’s – Burning Hearts – which takes place in the picturesque region of Puglia. This gripping crime tale reignited an age-old feud between two rival families as a forbidden love story unfolds. Burning Hearts is directed by Pippo Mezzapesa and was the Best Cinematography winner at the 2023 Nastro d’Argento Awards.

Based on a non-fiction book by Carlo Bonini and Giuliano Foschino, Burning Hearts is inspired by the true story of Rosa Di Flore. Mafia rival clans, the Malatesta and the Camporeale, have a history of bloody feuds. After a fragile truce, Andrea, Michele Malatesta’s son, falls in love with Marilena, the wife of fugitive Santo Camporeale. The affair becomes public, leading to a murder that will renew war between the rival clans. Andrea, driven by vengeance, returns home determined to eliminate the Camporeales.

Singer Elodie makes her acting debut in Burning Hearts as one-half of the forbidden lovers, Marilena Camporeale. As an acting debut, Elodie gave us a very solid performance. Francesco Patane played Andrea Malatesta and gave us a convincing performance of a loving son turned cold-blooded killer set on vengeance. Another stand-out performance was that of Lidia Vitale, who played matriarch of the Malatesta clan, Teresa.

The style choice from Pippo Mezzapesa was apparent throughout the film and reminiscent of the Film noir style. The black and white tones add to the story’s crime element and make action scenes more intense. This choice adds depth to the characters’ expressions. However, strangely, there were a few instances during the movie when the sound or music seemed out of sync with the story being told.

Andrea Malatesta’s character arc in the film serves as a cautionary tale about the corrupting influence of power and the potential consequences it can bring. I did not read the book before watching this film, so I cannot comment on any differences between the book and the film. If you are a fan of crime dramas or Italian cinema, then this is one to watch at the 2023 Italian Film Festival.

The Italian Film Festival runs from the 19th Sep to the 25 Oct, although check the dates for regional variations. Check out the movie session times in your local area on the Italian Film Festival website. Ciao!

This review also appears on It’s On The House.