Recently I watch many films in this holiday. Some are wasted. Some are surprisingly awesome. I notice two films that left me a long good impression. Accidentally, both are French. The first one is Elle S’Appelait Sarah a.k.a Her Name was Sarah a.k.a Sarah’s Key (Gilles Paquet-Brenner, 2010). The next is Untouchable a.k.a The Intouchables (Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, 2011). I’ll try to review and discuss both one by one.
1. Sarah’s Key: Inspirational!
I got this film (file:) about 2-3 years ago from my friend with the name “Sarah’s Key”. Not an interesting title I guess that makes me just watched it a couple weeks ago. Totally clueless what “Sarah’s key” about is. Treasure hunter, I guessed heheee. It didn’t take too long to figure out the film is about another Holocaust story. Since I have some terrific experience in watching this kind of films (The Pianist, Life is Beautiful, The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, In the Darkness, Schinder’s List) although not all are comfortable to watch, why don’t I try to go on another one? That’s what I thought. After finishing it, I finally found out how regret I was, why didn’t I see it earlier? Yeah, still, don’t judge a book by its cover. In this case, don’t judge a film by its title.
Based on the best-selling novel written by Tatiana De Rosnay, it tells us about a dark history in 1942 when French had authority to round up about 13.000 Jews. Starzynski’s family is poorly one of them. As they’re taken by some officers, a 10-years old Sarah (Mélusine Mayance) initiatively hides and locks her little brother in wardrobe/cupboard (their secret place) in home to keep him safe more and promises to come back soon. She brings the key very carefully with her life.
After Sarah and her parents arrested in Paris velodrome then sent to some miserable camp for unpredictable how long, she realizes that the decision of locking her brother could give some terrible enormous consequences which she’ll regret later. So, she starts her terrific struggles to escape and come back desperately to her house to set him free. Prepare for her incredible journey!
In modern day, meet Julia Harmond (Kristin Scott Thomas), a 40-years old journalist who has some assignment to write a story about that horror event for a magazine. Before that, she just places a new apartment which accidentally Starzynski’s family lived there. She figures out from the owner about the extraordinary story of that family, especially Sarah. Then she investigates what happened with Sarah and her family and reveal much the mystery of history which most is unaware about it.
I think the indirect connection between Julia and Sarah is the main story here. How Sarah’s story surprisingly can affect her in taking some big decisions in her complex life is the truly lesson here. Despite of the different tension between their part, it’s still kind of good interval, not an intrusion at all.
First time watching Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s film and his haunting direction is very superb. It makes me not to leave my sit during the film because of the deep curiosity. Serge Joncour and Paquet-Brenner arrange a remarkable script so sensitively between the past period and modern day that avoids us away from boredom. It’s very well told better than I expected. Some powerful scenes are incredibly touching which deserve to watch again and again, especially the heartbreaker last scene.
Kristin Scott Thomas’s performance is simply excellent. Bringing her passionate as a journalist who tries to reveal an untold history proves herself as a bilingual fine actress. Mélusine Mayance is another story. She is the real key of this film apparently. I guarantee her strong natural performance will hypnotize you from start to the end. Not many young actresses can do that since Saoirse Ronan in Joe Wright’s Atonement as I remember. The supporting actors like Niels Arestrup and Aidan Quinn leave good impressions too.
I like the score very much. First time I enjoy Max Richter’s and it gives a powerful soul to the film. It’s poignant, dramatic, and beautiful. I’ve already downloaded it completely soon after watching it ;D.
Looks like I have no complaint. The different title and subtitle sometimes disturbs but those don’t matter too much.
I’ll recommend this if you’re looking for a high quality drama and interested with that subject. A worthwhile film after all. It’s hard not to like it.
P.S: Special credit to an officer in the camp. At least someone still has a heart. If you see it, you’ll understand what I mean.
“And so I write this for you, My Sarah. With the hope that one day, when you’re old enough, this story that lives with me, will live with you as well. When a story is told, it is not forgotten. It becomes something else, a memory of who we were; the hope of what we can become.”
~ Julia Harmond
2. The Intouchables: Touching!
I saw it a week ago in HBO. Compared with the previous, this one is simpler and more entertaining but not losing the substantial message as well.
Based on a true story, it focuses on Philippe (François Cluzet) a 50-year old millionaire who turns to be a quadriplegic after getting a paragliding accident. With the help from his loyal secretary, Magalie (Audrey Fleurot), he tries to interview some candidates for position of his new care taker. While interview process is going on, suddenly a young rude selfish African gangster, Driss (Omar Sy), cuts the line after waiting long enough and brings a document from Social Security Department and asks Philippe to sign it in order to receive his unemployment benefit.
Considering Driss’ personality, Philippe offers him to be his new care taker at least for a month as a trial period. After that, Driss can decide what to do next. Driss accepts his challenge and moves to the mansion. Then some new wonderful experiences for both are officially begun.
Well done for the directors and the writers, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. They can create some an unique friendship connection that affects each other. The characters are well written. I like the way Philippe thinks that Driss would be the best choice for his care taker due to the lack of sympathy. I understand what Philippe feels. He is sick of everyone’s sympathy everytime. Driss could be a good breakthrough for Phillippe.
The chemistry between François Cluzet and Omar Sy are marvelously built despite of the difference of characters. It’ll make you fun, laugh, happy, and peace. The scene when Driss shaves François beard is one of my favorite and I totally laugh a lot. I must say that Cluzet’s mature performance is so much better. His calm and quiet expressions even sometimes show his worried about anything due to his condition. And it’s delivered brilliantly.
The cinematography is very elegant. It can capture many view of Paris beautifully. Now is my favorite part, the score. He is Ludovico Einaudi, the composer who makes the film more alive, peaceful, and beautiful. Just like the score of Sarah’s Key, I’ve already downloaded all and now I’m listening them while writing this reviews.
So, if you’re looking for some a high quality drama comedy but not a cheap melodrama or comedy, you had better watch this one. A rare example of simple film that creates rich of emotions. It’s simply touching and gives a lot of messages. Just like the tagline says: Sometimes you have to reach into someone else’s world to find out what’s missing in your own.
“My true disability is not having to be in a wheel chair. It’s having to be without her (wife).”
That’s all my reviews about two France films. So, which one is better? Nothing. All has its specialty itself. And I really enjoyed both.
Ironically, those are not a romance genre considering Paris is very famous as a romantic city. And unfortunately, none got an Academy Award nominee for best foreign film although I feel both really deserve it.
Actually I have some information that very nice to know. According to the news Sarah’s key was the most successful French movie in the Netherlands, due to the popularity of the book on which the film is based, until The Intouchables took the record. Well, I wish there were many French film in my country so I could write these review earlier.
If you’re an expert in French Cinema, please let me know if there are any recommendable good films just like both above. Thank you and have a nice day.