Petite maman (2021)

Another of my favourites of the year, I went to see this twice (the running time helped). The second viewing prompted a long discussion about when exactly it’s set, as it doesn’t appear to be the modern day but the markers of the time period are fairly oblique. The presence of a Walkman suggests to me maybe the early-90s at the latest, but I’m really not sure. Anyway, it’s a U-rated film about children that is still suffused with melancholy.


I’d just finished watching a 10-hour film when I went to see this, so was particularly appreciative of the virtues of concision. This film feels exactly as long as it needs to be. It tells a story that’s about grief and loss, sadness and familial disconnection, but from the point of a view of a child, and formally it sort of matches its narrative structure to that of a child’s game. with all the inventiveness and non sequiturs you might expect, as young Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) finds a very similar looking and similarly aged playmate called Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) in the forest near her recently-deceased grandmother’s home, with whom she starts to form a friendship. Sciamma has done films about childhood before (the excellent Tomboy) and I particularly appreciate her clear distinction between the two lead actors (sisters in real life, I can only assume from their names) marking them out with different clothes and a hairband for Marion. The film’s conceit becomes clear as it goes on, and yet it still preserves that mystery about really knowing someone else, even the connection one has with one’s own mother.

Petite maman (2021) posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Céline Sciamma; Cinematographer Claire Mathon; Starring Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Stéphane Varupenne, Nina Meurisse; Length 72 minutes.
Seen at Penthouse, Wellington, Friday 26 November and at the Light House, Wellington, Monday 20 December 2021.

LFF 2019 Day Eight: Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Maternal (both 2019)

My eighth day of the festival should have been filled with more films, but I ended up not going to the third. Perhaps you could say the long hours were getting to me (I did feel my eyelids getting heavy briefly during Portrait), but actually something else came up. However, the two I did see both presented fascinating films about women’s lives, neither of which featured men at all (or almost never), though of course patriarchal control was never too far from the surface.

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May 2015 Film Viewing Round-Up

Herewith some brief thoughts about films I saw in May which I didn’t review in full. Find reviews for the following below the cut:

Aru Kyohaku (Intimidation) (1960, Japan)
Aventurera (1950, Mexico)
Belle Époque (1992, Spain)
The Expendables (2010, USA)
Hanna (2011, UK/USA/Germany)
Hit So Hard (2011, USA)
John Wick (2014, USA)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, Australia/USA)
Plemya (The Tribe) (2014, Ukraine/Netherlands)
Tomboy (2011, France)

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Bande de filles (Girlhood, 2014)

Like 1995’s La Haine, it’s not always clear how much this story of poverty-stricken banlieue (suburban) life can be called ‘authentic’, in so far as it represents a stylised filmic depiction of a group of fictional characters rather than a documentary exactly (and certainly that was the main objection of the friend with whom I went to see this film). But for me, such issues seem to be beside the point, for the key is the representation of a specifically female perspective on such an existence. Yet in putting this across, it also largely avoids cinematic cliché — there are threats from the men who lurk around the central character Marieme’s housing project, certainly, but Marieme’s main interaction is with her fellow girls, and the way that they both nurture and compete is central to her development (and is a key theme to the film). Newcomer Karidja Touré as Marieme sometimes struggles to fully convince in her character’s move from shy wallflower to queen bee of her clique under the assumed name of Vic (for “Victoire”) to eventual drug mule via a number of makeovers and some schoolyard scrapping, but the filmmaking has vigour and style. At times there are extended musical sequences (including a long one as the titular ‘band of girls’ sings along to Rihanna in a Paris hotel room, shot more as music video), but these serve to underline the importance of music to community identity. It’s a film ultimately about being part of a group and the dangers of trying to live outside of one, and at depicting that it does very well.

Girlhood film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Céline Sciamma; Cinematographer Crystel Fournier; Starring Karidja Touré; Length 112 minutes.
Seen at Ciné Lumière, London, Saturday 18 October 2014.