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Film review: in directed by Céline Sciamma

The Picturehouse chain, which is where I see these weird and wonderful films I keep reviewing, gives you a tear sheet when you go in.  It has stars from 1 to 5, and you have to make a little tear on the one you think matches your movie. I gave Wild Tales a 5 without hesitation.

The following day I went to the cinema again, to see Girlhood, a coming of age film about a girl called Marième, set in les banlieues, or suburbs, of Paris.

Not much happens.  There are fights.  There is sex.  There is domestic violence.  Dreams die.  I was indignant at the lack of narrative structure.  Where was the goal, the conflict, the disaster?  What motivation did these characters have, other than to effect minor temporary escapes from their otherwise hopeless lives?  And then it ended.

“I didn’t get it,” I said to my friend Kate.

Kate, who has watched many more films than I have, explained that the film was subverting existing genres.  She saw it from a point of view of sexuality: you wanted more to happen, but it didn’t, until the protagonist’s realisation right at the end of what she wanted her future to be. I saw it as being more about class, the eternal problem of how art, which has a tradition and structure essentially dominated by middle class values, depicts the lives of the less privileged.  Sometimes lives are hopeless and dreary; is it artificial to pretend that they are not?

Anyway, I understood it then, but that still only gave it an extra star for me, up one from 2 to 3.  The issue I have is that if I am watching a “drama” as opposed to an action or comedy type film, I want it to tell me something more complex than the basics.  So, for example, I know that some men are violent towards the women in their lives, I know that when people are stranded without an education, they can be abandoned in a system without hope, I know that people form gangs to try to belong.  The film didn’t really tell me much more about these issues.

I am glad I watched it though, and it is a bit weird giving films a star rating.  It might not be the best film I’ve ever watched, but it still shows important things as they are, beyond the stereotypes, which are not often aired.



  1. Although the film didn’t sound like your cup of tea I like the way that you’ve ended your post on such a positive note. I feel the same though, life’s too short to watch films that leave you feeling meh!

    • My friend chose it, it was nice to have an evening out, I wouldn’t have chosen it myself. Your new Avatar thing looks great!

  2. I suppose there’s a place for the genre called something like, “listen to me while I tell you what I think about….[subject].”

    But I’m not fond of it. I read books and watch films and listen to music to get something out of the experience. The “genre” you’re talking about feels adolescent to me, as in, “I’m so fascinating that everyone just has to care what I think and do and say!”

    It’s just my opinion, but I’m sticking to it. 🙂

    • Adolescent is a good description, a bit reminiscent of what it made me feel. Also, “under-ripe” or “under-developed”. On the other hand, maybe some people would call it subtle! Or subversive – I like to follow the rules in my writing, but I do see that people might make a choice to break them

      • When I was (very much) younger, I liked avant-garde art/film/literature. I think I did, in fact, see it as subtle or subversive (mostly subversive).

        So I’m thankful for 2 things:

        1) We both live in societies where people are free to express their subtle and subversive moods, opinions, interpretations.
        2) We’re free to like or dislike any book, film, or work of art, as we choose, and to express our opinions, and to engage in interesting conversations.

        And it’s always good when we know that opinions are, in fact, merely opinions.

      • It’s good to have you round, Tracy!
        One thing I do find hard is when people express very negative opinions about art. I wonder if it is more pronounced in the UK? Especially when people are very successful, people can be very quick to dismiss their work as worthless. I do like to try to understand and was glad to be given an opportunity with this film. Film and book groups are great!

  3. This sounds very French! You’ve never experienced the soporific effect until you’ve watched one of Marguerite Duras’s later films. And Mr Litlove used to take me in our dating days to the Ipswich Film Theatre which was this tiny place, rather like someone’s large living room, that showed all sorts of strange foreign films. I saw one called Kamikaze, which was about a psychopath living in an attic who had created a device that killed television continuity announcers through the airwaves (it’s true they are quite annoying). That was one I’d have given a one-star rating to! And another about a Spanish architect who was gay and trying to build a house in which both his mother and his lover could live. Anyway, in a nutshell, picturehouse arts cinemas do show all sorts of wierd and wonderful things, and if they’re not wonderful they tend to be… well you get the picture!

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