Thursday 12 March 2015

Review: Suite Francaise

World of Blackout Film Review

Suite Francaise Poster

Suite Française
Cert: 15 / 107 mins / Dir. Saul DIbb / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

Not really my usual fare, not least because the film's trailer failed to convince me, but Michelle Williams and Kristin Scott Thomas are always worth a punt, so it was off to the indie-arthouse cinema for a Sunday morning preview (yes, the same cinema that had all the monumentally rude people in it last time). As luck would have it, war films set in the 1940s attract a much better class of punter than those set in the 2000s, apparently.

And so, Suite Française sees the inhabitants of Paris being evacuated to the countryside following German bombing raids in 1940. As a sleepy rural town adjusts to its influx of new neighbours, they have to band together to face a greater challenge: the occupation of France by the Nazi forces, and a platoon of soldiers compulsorily stationed in their homes. Tensions rise further as some members of the community seem to be less reluctant than others to give the Germans a cold-welcome…

The good? Suite Française is a fantastic film about loyalty, regret, trust and pride. The dynamic between the townsfolk and their occupying-guests is clinically honest, showing people at their best and worst on both sides*1. Human nature is timeless, it would appear. I'm not sure if it's not a little British for a film set in France, though. That the cast speak largely with Home Counties accents doesn't impact the flow of the film at all (it's not 'Allo Allo, after all), but there's an edge of bitterness and quiet restraint that more usually appears in portrayals of stately homes in England. But like I said, human nature and all that.

The bad? I wasn't sold on the love-story, if I'm being honest (and neither was Mrs Blackout, and she has a far greater reservoir of wartime romantic literature/cinema references to draw upon than I do). It's not so much that I found the course of events unbelievable between Lucille (Michelle Williams), a reluctant landowner whose philandering husband has been drafted to the front-lines, and Bruno (Matthias Schoenaerts), a visiting Nazi officer who writes symphonies in his spare time and doesn't really like all that Being A Nazi stuff, despite Still Being A Nazi. And it's not that their respective portrayals are at fault, either. I just didn't buy the chemistry between them. Or, more to the point, I found the sociological story far more interesting than the romantic one.

Not quite destined for all-time-greatness, Suite Française is still a compelling watch and worth a Sunday afternoon viewing. But if that viewing is at home in about three months time, you probably won't lose too much in the transition…

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Probably not unless you know it's your thing before you go in.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
Rental, I reckon.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Not the absolute best, but never less than inherently watchable…

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not at all.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There bloody isn't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Michelle Williams starred in 2010's Shutter Island, as did Max Von Sydow, who's due to appear in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 It's worth keeping in mind that while Suite Française isn't a true story, it was written during the war by someone on the receiving end of the hardships, so it's very difficult to pass off as mere fiction on a tonal level.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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