Foreign Favourites: Stranger by the Lake

Time for another entry to the Foreign Favourites series thanks to the very awesome Wendell at Dell on Movies. You should definitely pop over. Wendell has a perceptive and detailed way of writing and has plenty of fantastic features and blogathons. Here is his take on the French thriller/drama Stranger by the Lake.


Directed by Alain Guiraudie.
2013. Not Rated, 97 minutes.
Pierre Deladonchamps
Patrick d’Assumcao
Christophe Pauo
Jerome Chappatte
Mathieu Vervisch
Gilbert Traina
Emmanuel Daumas

Quick Synopsis: (IMDB)

Summertime. A cruising spot for men, tucked away on the shores of a lake. Franck falls in love with Michel. An attractive, potent and lethally dangerous man. Franck knows this, but wants to live out his passion anyway.

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Foreign Favourites series: La Haine

Since This is Spinal Tap, the number 11 has always had a special significance, so it’s great that Zoe from The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger is such a cool blogger. She is very welcome to the Foreign Favourites series Her site is a great mixture of film and book reviews, conjunctive articles and quirky Top 10 lists guest posts. I really do recommend you head on over.

So Alex has been hosting this Foreign Favourites segment, and I keep meaning to get involved and life keeps getting in the way. But never fear, I am here now. First off, I have not seen a lot of foreign films – mostly because I don’t get many recommendations and such. I wanted to be a part of Alex’s feature, but Cara had already unceremoniously usurped the honours of The Hunt, so I had to start looking. Alex recommended this and I got onto it as soon as possible. There is a bit that can be said about the film, and I know that I cannot say more nor do it more justice than has been done over the years, but I will see what I can do.

la haine movie poster

“It’s about a society on its way down. And as it falls, it keeps telling itself: “So far so good… So far so good… So far so good.” It’s not how you fall that matters. It’s how you land.

The film follows three young men and their time spent in the French suburban “ghetto,” over a span of twenty-four hours. Vinz, a Jew, Saïd, an Arab, and Hubert, a black boxer, have grown up in these French suburbs where high levels of diversity coupled with the racist and oppressive police force have raised tensions to a critical breaking point. During the riots that took place a night before, a police officer lost his handgun in the ensuing madness, only to leave it for Vinz to find. Now, with a newfound means to gain the respect he deserves, Vinz vows to kill a cop if his friend Abdel dies in the hospital, due the beating he received while in police custody. (IMDB)

la haine friends

Who made you a preacher? You know what’s right and wrong?

I would score La Haine a 7/10. It was a good film, though I am not a fan of the French language, I was more concerned with seeing what would happen. La Haine is a slow film that progresses at a steady pace, and this feels like a flaw when you start but rapidly changes when you realise that the more the setting and pace is the way it is the more you feel as though you are experiencing the day with the three main characters, Vinz (Vincent Cassel), Hubert (Hubert Koundé) and Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui).

There is the issue of a cop having lost a gun in one of the riots, and it soon becomes evident that Vinz is in possession of it. Vincent Cassel was fantastic in this role, and it was nice to see him in his comfort zone and his native tongue. The way that the three deal with their friend being in hospital is very different. Hubert may live in the projects and all, but he will not let it define him, and he will not slip into the ways of poverty and the projects as most people staying there will. Vinz has decided that if their friend Abdel (Abdel Ahmed Ghili) dies, he will kill a cop. Saïd does not have much to say about this, though Hubert is rather strongly opinionated as to Vinz’s plan. For the duration of the movie you follow the three young men around on their day’s mission, watching them argue, have conversations, get a good look at life in the projects, and ultimately to the realisations that all three the men will make during the day. The day seems more active and action packed than usual, though the three are to embrace it. It seems that what you see on television is very simple to picture doing but not so much so when having to implement it, as is seen later with Vinz and a skinhead.

Overall, this movie felt terribly long because it was slow paced, but was not a bad watch and gives you a very good look at how life is lived in the projects, and how people perceive things differently. I thoroughly enjoyed how the movie was shot in black and white and the camera work, though there was other stuff that annoyed me (pointless conversations and aimless dawdling – though as I said this all ties in rather well with what is being depicted).

Thanks again to Zoe for her fine review on such a provocative film. I liked it more than you did but it is always worth hearing the viewpoint of others, especially when so well thought-out and considered.

Film Quizzes: French Part 2

With the Besançon-born Lumière brothers so prominent in the early days of filmmaking, it is no surprise just one quiz wasn’t going to be enough for our Gallic counterparts. Over the decades, and especially recently, there have been some great ones. How will you do in Part 2 of the French films quiz? If you missed it, here is Part 1.

Film Quizzes - France Part 2 Film 1 (1960s)

Film Quizzes - France Part 2 Film 2 (1990s)

Film Quizzes - France Part 2 Film 3 (2000+)

Film Quizzes - France Part 2 Film 4 (2000+)

Film Quiz - France Part 2 Film 5 (2000+)

Film Quizzes - France Part 2 Film 6 (2000+)

Answers below

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Foreign Favourites Series: Le Dîner de Cons – Dinner of Fools / The Dinner Game (1998)

There have been eight entries to my Foreign Favourites series,  and I’ve been delighted with the standard shown and the range of films covered both geographically and thematically. My thanks to Caragale, FilmnerdblogFilm GrimoireJ James, Movierob, Oh! That Film Blog, Theflimculb and Where the Wild Things Are. If you haven’t read them, I really do recommend reading both their impressive reviews and their site overall. 

A little later than intended, here is my review for French film Le Dîner de Cons. Please feel free as always to offer your thoughts.

 Le Dîner de Cons – Dinner for Fools / The Dinner Game (1998)

Le Dîner de Cons film poster

Many of us have a party trick. We can perform magic, mimic a celebrity or flex our bodies certain ways. But what if the party was a trick in itself? Something this delightful French comedy explores with a wonderful mix of hilarity, character development and social insight.

Adapted and directed from his own play of the same name, Francis Veber’s script tells the story of a group of wealthy businessmen who each have to bring along the biggest fool they could find to their weekly dinner party. These guests are never told the true reason for their invite but instead are unwittingly providing the entertainment. The person who invites the biggest fool is later voted the winner for finding the “Champion idiot”.

So when successful publisher Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) hears of François Pignon (Jacques Villeret), the dull but ridiculously enthusiastic miniature matchstick maker of famous landmarks, he is thrilled. And as Pignon is an employee of the Finance Ministry, there is a sense of ironic pleasure for the tax-dodging Brochant.

Le Dîner de Cons scene

But things start to go awry when Brochant hurts his back playing golf at his country club and struggles to even stand up. Despite this, he still clings to the hope of going, as he is convinced success is all but assured. His beautiful wife Christine (Alexandra Vandernoot) is unsympathetic to his discomfort as she knows the purpose of the dinner. From his patronising attitude towards the simple-minded Pignon, the injured Brochant is now left fully dependent on him, subtly creating a power shift. It is one Brochant struggles to stop as he is trying to keep his wife happy, placate his mistress, trying to hide his valuables from Pignon and resolve issues with an old friend. In the midst of a flailing romantic triangle, will Brochant be able to maintain his secrets from the increasingly suspicious Pignon as it all threatens to end in disaster?

There is so much glory in English theatre, it is easy to forget just what creative treasures there are outside of the traditional works. This gem of a French film is a case in point. A wonderfully unique premise that is filled with farcical comedy as well as brilliantly sharp lines. Throw in two characters well outside of their comfort zone trying to best adapt to the situation, supported by a distinctive set of supporting characters who shed light on the character’s behaviour, and you have a riotous ensemble of comic brilliance. At the 1999 César Awards, the French national film awards, Le Dîner de Cons won three awards from six nominations. Though disappointingly losing out for its script, it did win for Best Film, and for its two main stars, Lhermitte and Villeret.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a film adapted from a play, the directing is more functional than unspectacular, but it is one of the funniest films you will ever see. Brilliant from start to finish, the events unfurl with energy and verve, and you really do care about the characters. This short, 80-minute film is guaranteed to make you laugh whatever mood you are in. Though you might end up suspicious the next time you’re invited to a dinner party…

Overall: A for awesome