Full Review: LES GARDIENNES (France/Switzerland 2017) ****

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The Guardians Poster
Trailer

Women are left behind to work a family farm during the Great War.

Director:

Xavier Beauvois

Writers:

Xavier Beauvois (screenplay), Marie-Julie Maille (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

 

(Spoiler Alert: Last paragraph in bold italics.  Skip this last paragraph though reading it will not spoil the film’s impact.)

Director Xavier Beauvois (director of DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX, 2010 last seen as an actor playing Vincent in Clare Denis’ LET THE SUNSHINE IN) returns with a World War 1 historical drama about women looking after the farms when the men are send out to fight during the great war.  It stars Nathalie Baye in a dramatic but controlled performance as Hortense, a strong willed woman and matriarch of the Pardier family who manages the family farm.   The film is based on the novel by Ernest Pérochon and written by Xavier Beauvois, Marie-Julie Maille and Frédérique Moreau.                     

Beauvois’ film like his previous film moves at a leisurely pace with an authentic period atmosphere of rural France.  The film plays out like the waiting of the war to end.  The farm chores like ploughing the land, harvesting the crops, milking and driving the cows help in the creation of rural farm life.

The story is told from the points of view of both Hortense and Francine (Iris Bry), the new female farmhand (known eventually as the best farmhand in the region) that Hortense hires to help in the harvest who she eventually keeps on. 

The film is a handsomely mounted period piece of World War I told during the period from 1916 the war’s start to 1919 the year after it ended.   It is a story that needs ti be told – of

the devastation of war as examined from many angles

the absence of men

– the change of characters of the fighting men when they return from war (I do not recognize him: says one of the women of hr husband)

the hardship of those fighting and also of those not fighting in the war

shortage of the essentials like food  (as the camera pans a field of corpses in the film’s first image)   

as well as modernization had on a typical farm family in France. 

The women of the Pardier farm, under the deft hand of the family’s matriarch, Hortense must grapple with the workload while the men, including two sons, are off at the front.  Her husband, daughter and grand-daughter remain with her.  Romance and trouble brews when Francine and the grand-daughter fall in love with the same man, Georges (Cyril Descours).  Director Beauvois also shows the erotic sex scene is necessary to show the passion between the two lovers.

Beauvois use of close ups and editing especially the switching of the camera shots of the different faces (Hortense, Georges, the Americans, Francine) is masterfully demonstrated in the film’s best segment after harvesting.

The film is also quick to point out that there are equal casualties on both sides.  Clovis (Olivier Rabourdin) returning from furlough to the farm points out that Germans are like the French at war – ordinary men.  One nightmare segment has Georges screaming in the middle of the night when he dreams of killing an enemy with a knife, only to pull of the dead man’s h]gas mask to find himself looking at his own image.

The film also benefits from Michel Legrand’s grand musical score. 

LES GARDIENNES proves (like CASABLANCA and LES PARAPLUIES DE CHERBOURG) that not living happily ever after with ones true love can also make an unforgettable love story.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsdDm-mcczQ

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Film Review: LET THE SUNSHINE IN (Un beau soleil intérieur)(France 2017) ***

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Let the Sunshine In Poster
Trailer

Isabelle, Parisian artist, divorced mother, is looking for love, true love at last.

Director:

Claire Denis

Writers:

Christine Angot (screenplay), Claire Denis (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

 

LET THE SUNSHINE IN has been touted by critics as Claire Denis in lighter form.  From the film’s opening scene with Juliette Binoche having sex with an older man taking too long to reach orgasm, lighter form might still be very serious to the average moviegoer.  Denis’ films as the director herself, is not always say to take, the director recently giving her interviewer for THE GUARDIAN a hard time at all the questions asked, but her films are often more rewarding and a challenge than the typical Hollywood kitsch.  LET THE SUNSHINE IN is not a comedy but a drama.  It follows its heroine, Isabelle (Juliette Binoche), a middle aged divorced painter living in Paris, as she looks for love.

Isabelle’s love encounters, each lasting some months or so.  The first is the banker (Xavier Beauvois), next, a good-looking actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle), then, a fellow artist (Alex Descas) and lastly her ex (Laurent Grevill).  The film can be divided into 4 separate segments bound by one theme followed by a conclusion.

For each of the segments and lovers, Isabelle exhibits the same personality – that of a head strong, intelligent woman wanting to find true love and a relationship but just meeting the wrong men.  The common trait is her frustration often leading to anger when she is unable to get what she wants.  She ends up ditching the lover and moving on to the next one.  It is interesting to note that she always starts off on a wrong footing.  The first one, she tries is a married man, another she picks up at a club, and another one her ex, whom she had, had before.

Denis allows her audience to see what is wrong with each man and emphasizes their faults.  The banker is seen to be the worst, abusing a waiter at the bar where they have a drink.  “Put the water there,” he insists to the waiter.  “I need hot water.”  He also has the gall to tell Isabelle that his wife is extraordinary but she only charming.  It takes great pleasure later to see Isabelle tell him off and slam the door in his face.

The film has a unexpected ending in the form of a segment involving Isabelle and a fortune teller played by no less than Gerard Depardieu.  Depardieu delivers a speech on Isabelle’s love lives even going down to specifics on whether a particular lover might or might not work out.  This ending looks like a cop-out with a too all written out conclusion dished out to the audience, which goes against the flow of the rest of the film.

Denis’ film is a very intriguing watch as Denis makes very emotional wrenching films often dealing with characters unable to get out of the rut their themselves have gotten themselves in as in CHOCOLAT, her first and one of there best films.  LET THE SUNSHINE IN is aided by an extraordinary and charming performance by her star Juliette Binoche.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ps_Sau7xqQY

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TIFF 2017 Movie Review: LES GARDIENNES (THE GUARDIANS) (France/Switzerland 2017) ****

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

The Guardians Poster
Women are left behind to work a family farm during the Great War.

Director:

Xavier Beauvois

Stars:

Nathalie BayeIris BryLaura Smet
 
LES GUARDIENNES (THE GUARDIANS) is director Xavier Beauvois’ (LE PETIT LIEUTENANT) handsomely mounted period piece of World War II told during the period of 4 years from 1916, the start to end.

It is a story that needs to be told – of what effects the war as well as modernization had on a typical farm family in France.

The women of the Pardier farm, under the deft hand of the family’s matriarch (Nathalie Baye in arguably her best role), must grapple with the workload while the men, including two sons, are off at the front. Her husband, daughter and , grand-daughter remain with her. She seeks the aid of an outsider, a strong 25-year old orphan, Francine (Laura Smet) who turns out to be an excellent worker.

When Francine and on of the sons fall in love, the trouble starts. Beauvois’ film is almost perfect in he creation of the war atmosphere and of rural France. The harvesting and planting seasons are beautifully captured on film.

The film also does not gear towards the typical Hollywood ending but a realistic credible one instead.

Trailer: (unavailable)

the guardians