Sunday, May 29, 2011

I love French movies

This week I saw two French movies in the same day. I'm not a huge movie buff but the opportunity was irresistible. In the afternoon I saw Queen to Play [Joypuose, in French]. An ordinary maid at a hotel sees a couple playing chess, the scene suggests some romance her life lacks although she's happily married and has a teenage daughter. She learns to play chess, first electronically and then asking an ex-pat MD for whom she cleans house, to teach her. She becomes addicted to the game and has a true aptitude for it. The story's complications are of a quiet sort, the movie has great serenity as we watch chess games or see her bicycling to her jobs. Eventually she enters a local tournament and wins, the negatives her family have felt are forgotten as they share her success. This is not a dramatic story that would appeal to American film makers, there's not even a sex scene, not even the expected romance with the doctor. It's about a woman discovering a talent and expressing herself -- and being supported in that effort. The movie had many long quiet moments, the sort of scenes that get cut in American movies because nothing dramatic is happening. I loved it. And, oh, yes, Kevin Kline, is the doctor and speaks French.

In the evening Rachel and I went to see Of Gods and Men, which has won many accolades at festivals and deserves all of them. Based on the true story of eight Trappist monks in a long established monastery in Algiers in 1995 when Islamic fundamentalists were terrorizing small villages, especially where there were Christians. The monks must decide whether to flee -- as an official tells them to do -- or stay, as the villages ask them to do. They are all at least middle aged, some elderly. We see their soul searching, we see an interaction with the terrorists what averts disaster. And near the end, when they have chosen to stay knowing it may well mean death, we watch for about five minutes as they sit around a table after dinner drinking tiny glasses of wine and listening to music from Swan Lake -- the camera goes from face to face, a few times, as a variety of emotions cross each face. A beautiful scene, an acting tour de force, and utterly unforgettable. This movie also has long periods of quiet, repeated scenes of singing and prayer in chapel. The ending was painful but beautifully done.

These movies are not "entertainment" or "diversion". They are works of art that give the viewer insights into how other people think and feel and live. Seeing this kind of movie is an enriching as reading a good book. By the end of that day I was almost overwhelmed with scenes and feelings. It was hard to fall asleep and that was exactly as it should be.



june -- your reviews convinced me to reserve them with Netflix. Apparently they are new films with Netflix as they were marked SAVE. Just means I'll have to wait a bit. Thanks for the recommendations -- barbara

June Calender said...

I think you'll like them, different as they are.