I’m really struggling with the review of this film. Firstly, because my expectations were high the moment I heard who’s in it and what’s it about and secondly, because it’s not bad and yet there’s something very important missing from it and I can’t quite decide what. And it’s been a day.

LISTEN UP PHILIP is a new film that show that Jason Schwarzman is a man everyone needs to be a friend of and that even when taken out of Wes Anderson’s world, he is continuing to be in a Wes Anderson film. Here, he plays a writer who is getting his second novel published and the many tragedies this event had been building uo to. Let’s take for example his relationship with Ashley, a successful photographer or his relationships with his exes. They’re quickly become disasterous but soon we are starting to ask a question: if anything was ever right in Philip’s world?

Philip is an interesting character. An over-intellectual anti-hero who won’t stop saying what other people don’t care to hear. And this is what makes LISTEN UP PHILIP a strong film. The dialogues. Most of them are amazingly written to the point where we’re laughing out loud every second line. It’s a great achievement to be able to entertain the audience solely with words and the words in LISTEN UP PHILIP never get old. At some point Philip meets another writer, his own hero, who’s as arogant as Philip himself. Together they make ahighly entertaining couple but also build the background for possibly one of the most important relationships in Philip’s life.

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But is there more to this? I’m not sure. LISTEN UP PHILIP very often feels like an unfinished Woody Allen’s script. The story is somewhere but at no point I could tell what the aim of it all was. Maybe there was no aim whatsoever and the film was a strict observation on someone’s life but this option seems to weaker it so I don’t believe in it. Or maybe I’m expecting something that LISTEN UP PHILIP has never intended to be? When at some point, the narrator who speaks in annoying metaphors and difficult words that could easily be subsituted with easier equivalents (a wonderful representation of Philip’s “high” mind) turns our attention to Ashley and for a surprising long time, we are no longer following the story of Philip. Or not directly. It’s confusing and breaks the intimacy the film has been trying to create so much through the close third narration and reoccuring close-ups.

And it drags for ages. The problem with a loose story is that it needs to be delivered in intense fragments, which LISTEN UP PHILIP does, but it does it for too long of a time. The film is two hours where it could easily be 90 minutes long and at the end, we become bored with it. Shame.

Overall, it’s an interesting, entertaining and well-written indie which Jason Schwarzman makes ten times better than it already is. But there’s something missing here. Something isn’t quite right. And that’s why I can’t love it as I thought I would.

by Amelie

I’ve seen GONE GIRL, but sunkened in London Film Festival films I have no time to review it. But so you know- it was wow. WOW. Go and see it

Go and see it instead of seeing MY FRIEND VICTORIA, a charming little French film that you’d probably forget about before it reaches the end. I have. I watched it in three segments because it had no impact on me whatsoever and every time I came back to it, my feelings hadn’t changed. And I really wanted it to be good. It had a potential.

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MY FRIEND VICTORIA is told through the perspective or rather through the extremely annoying narrative of the worst writer on Earth, her “step-sister”. I say it in brackets, because the relationship between them is legally a little more complex. Victoria’s auntie, her only carer dies when she is eight or ten and is picked by the auntie’s friend who brings her up along with the other girl, the notorious narrator. But this is not what the film is about or rather it’s not trying to be about that. It’s trying really hard to emphasise the importance of one night Victoria spends in a house of a wealthy rich family. Her schoolfriend’s parents invite her over for one night when her auntie, still alive, has to go to a hospital and Victoria is given her own room and her own bed and the house is bigger than she could ever imagine and food on the table is weird and exciting. And there’s also Thomas’ brother, whom Victoria find really attractive to the point of, staying in love with him forever, even twenty years later. But no matter how much the narrator, who for some reason knows everything Victoria has ever done or thought, emphasises how life-changing this one night was for Victoria, we cannot really feel it. Yes, Victoria goes back to look at the house from the outside a lot, and she demands her own room shortly after she moves in with another girl, but apart from it, is her craving purely materialistic? We never really understand.

There’s no political or social thought to examine in My Friend Victoria. Yes, we see an example of racism from a random passer-by, but it happens once and doesn’t seem related to the general situation of families shown. Yes, there’s a talk about liberalism/socialism but it’s also very vague. And the story itself isn’t interesting enough for us to be drawn to it, to care about its ending and the characters. Because of the narrator, not much is shown and the film pick a very lazy technique of telling everything that happens instead. So we see very briefly Victoria’s “step-mother”‘s death but we don’t see her grief. It is merely mentioned by the narrator that Victoria was shuttered by grief, but how can we believe it if we never see it? Same goes for Victoria’s childbirth dilemmas. She gets pregnant with Thomas but they break up and she doesn’t care to share the information with him. But why? The narrator gives us some suggestions but we never hear it from Victoria herself. And the question remains throughout- how the hell does the narrator know so much? Especially when at some point she says that she ‘never knew what Victoria was thinking exactly’. How much more is there to know?!

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MY FRIEND VICTORIA is a very mediocre film which has a great potential to discuss social and political situation of minorities in France or even Europe, but decides not to spend any time analysing the topic. The story is bland and boring and the characters’ motifs and decisions aren’t driven by anything, and so we feel no emphathy for them. And the worst choice is the narrative. MY FRIEND VICTORIA would work much much better if the narrator was removed. It made the film lazy and direction almost pointless.

Set in a five-story guesthouse in the middle of a Parisian working class neighbourhood, LE JOUR SE LÈVE opens on the top floor of the building with shouts and a gunshot. A door opens and the body of a man tumbles down the stairs. As the police start to besiege the building and a crowd gathers, the killer, François (Jean Gabin; La Grande Illusion, Le Quai des Brumes), flees the crime scene and locks himself in his room. After unsuccessfully failing to shoot their way into his room the police climb on top of the roof, and François, starts to recall previous events… His love for Françoise (Jacqueline Laurent; Le vie del peccato, Dawn Over France), the beautiful florist, and her love for Valentin (Jules Berry; The Crime of M Lange, Parade en 7 nuits), the attractive dog trainer. Also starring the renowned Arletty (Hotel du Nord, Thunder Over Paris) as Clara, Valentin’s assistant and suggested lover.

Le Jour Se Leve (Daybreak) sets the bar high. It starts off with a bold statement. A man committed a murder and now remembers why he’s done it. We are already on the edge of our seats. One by one, police and different neighbours give their statement offering us a more detail view on the killer, before we even see him for the first time. The neighbours are your typical nosy neighbours, they have plenty to say but none of it really means much. ‘He said Good Morning to me. He even stroke the cat’, says one of them.

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We meet Francois in his room, refusing to leave and patiently avoiding police which very shortly take a radical decision of shooting the apartment from all angles. Francois, romantically, sits on his chair and offers us the very first flashback in the history of French cinema. Le Jour Se Leve is a gamechanger and it doesn’t hold anything back.

The flashback reveal a wonderfully romantic story seen through dimmed and highly aesthetic shots. We learn that Francois’ crime was the crime of passion and we also understand that there is something really bitter in the story, a feeling of inevitable fate dooming the lovers. Francois doesn’t come from the same, glamourous environment as Francoise, who surrounds herself with magicians and artists. A physical worker, Francois grows gloomy unable to impress Francoise and soon she meets Valentin, the attractive dog trainer who steals the girl’s heart.

Le Jour Se Leve is a fatalistic and bitter drama with moments of dark humour straight from film noir genre. It is beautifully shot, compelling story which keeps us entertained throughout. It is also an important film in the development of European cinema and even amongst the best, it stands out. The directorial decisions are powerful and strong and it keeps surprising us not only through the usage of story, but through revolutionary for the times, editing and brilliant cinematography. Made in 1939 Le Jour Se Leve hasn’t lost any of its energy and thrill and it a real treat to watch.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of its first release, LE JOUR SE LÈVE will be re-released in a never-before-seen restored version by STUDIOCANAL and ICO in cinemas on 3rd October, and is available on EST on 20th October and BLU-RAY and DVD on 27th October.

by Amelie