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A Parisian romance

Film writer Karin Johnstone shares her pick of upcoming movies at the Errol Flynn cinema…

Over Easter I went on a short break to Marseille. In my head, it was a romantic fishing port where I’d be sitting by the harbour, sipping rosé and nibbling from my seafood platter – whilst kicking away cute kittens. ‘Nah’ a friend told me on return ‘don’t you know it’s one of THE most crime ridden cities in France’. Halfway through my holiday armed Army guys stalked the streets. The previous night they had arrested two terrorists with ‘mother of Satan’ bombs (extremely dangerous bombs) and shed loads of weapons. The following day was a bit calmer with Marine Le Pen’s National Front conference being hosted there. Having survived the street gangs it was with great delight that I came home to restore my equilibrium by browsing through the new Eroll Flynn filmhouse programme. Not only are three of my top ten ever films showing but by sheer synchronicity they are French films.

‘Amélie’ is a French comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It stars Audrey Tautou playing Amélie a cute young woman, curious and childlike. One day on hearing of the death of Princess Di on TV the shocked Amélie drops something which leads her to find a small tin box hidden in the skirting board. The box contains the cherished treasures of a little boy – playing cards, toy cars, penknife, etc. Amélie vows to return the box to its owner.

Although it’s the late 90’s a timeless Paris is shown through a warm greeny-orange glow. Quirky characters are set in French cafés and markets. Add to that the accordion music and haunting piano melodies by Yann Tiersen and you a have delightful film. If you do go and see Amélie, the opening ten minutes are the most touching vignettes of cinema you are ever likely to see.

For the romantically challenged amongst you let’s go monochrome with François Truffaut’s 1959 celluloid masterpiece ‘400 Blows’. For film aficionados, you’ll already know that Truffaut was a founding father of the French New Wave. Imagine Parisian cafés, short haired men and women wearing skinny jeans, puffing on a Gitanes, bemoaning the state of rubbishy Hollywood movies. After the aforementioned philosophising Truffaut wrote articles slagging off American movies (Hitchcock excepted), grabbed a new lightweight film camera and got out on to the streets of Paris to shoot his film. The plot of ‘400 Blows’ loosely based on Truffaut’s own childhood follows Antoine, a streetwise young boy who decides to leave home to avoid arguing parents and cruel teachers. At the time the film drew attention to some of the social problems that France faced. The film is tender and uplifting with many poignant moments and is still relevant today.

The last in the French tribute is Krzysztof Kieślowski’s ‘Three Colours’ trilogy. Three Colours Blue, Red and White, colours of the French flag. All of the films are a lesson in how to tell a visual story through gorgeous cinematography and common sense directing. Blue is worth seeing for the great Juliette Binoche but my favourite and most light hearted of the three films is the comedy ‘Three Colours: White’. This film exposes the idea of liberté and égalité. It starts in a court room with Polish immigrant, Karol, being divorced by his French wife because he is impotent. He walks out of the court room stripped of everything including his dignity. It’s a story of resilience and revenge served cold.

For non-Francophiles, how about Ridley Scott’s Sci-Fi thriller ‘Alien Covenant’? It’s the prequel to ‘Alien’ so has all the anticipated iconography – alien’s bursting out of human bodies and stow away alien on spaceship. The story follows a group of ‘couples’ off to colonise another planet. The main Ripley type girl with a gun is played by Katherine Waterston. Michael Fassbender, as always, gives watertight performances of not just one but two different robots. Scott never fails to produce cinematically lush movies with more than enough terrifying thrills. At that thrilling point dear filmgoers, I’ll bid you au revoir. To the filmmakers of the town I urge you to continue, Truffaut inspired, with the Northampton New Wave.

Amélie – Sunday 21st May
400 Blows – Sunday 28th May
Three Colours Blue – 4th June
Three Colours White – 11th June
Three Colours Red – 18th June
Alien Covenant – 2nd to 8th June

I'm the editor and owner of The NeneQuirer.

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