Saturday, May 30, 2015



From IMDB:


Paul is a sweet man-child, raised - and smothered - by his two eccentric aunts in Paris since the death of his parents when he was a toddler. Now thirty-three, he still does not speak. (He does express himself through colorful suits that would challenge any Wes Anderson character in nerd chic.) Paul's aunts have only one dream for him: to win piano competitions. Although Paul practices dutifully, he remains unfulfilled until he submits to the interventions of his upstairs neighbor. Suitably named after the novelist, Madame Proust offers Paul a concoction that unlocks repressed memories from his childhood and awakens the most delightful of fantasies. Written by Jiilo_Kim

Ratings: 7.0/10 from 1,315 users
Reviews: 5 user | 29 critic


Paul, a thirty something pianist, forms a bond with his eccentric neighbour who helps him unlock long buried memories, and the key to making his life his own.

Rating: Unrated Genre: Drama, Comedy Directed By: Sylvain ChometWritten By: Sylvain ChometRuntime: 1 hr. 46 min.

Average Rating: 6/10 | Reviews Counted: 14
Fresh: 11 | Rotten: 3

WANT TO SEE 76% want to see
Average Rating: 3.3/5 | User Ratings: 115

The opening scene is pretty interesting. Campy and retro. Very colorful. ©Pathé

The part that isn't part of the movie review...

So this month is my birthday month and one of the perks of having a birthday these days is that when you're a member of such and such website or cinema or a loyalty card or a restaurant you actually get freebies or discounts. I being a fan of going to the cinemas have registered myself to two of the largest cinema chains in Malaysia which are TGV Cinemas and GSC Cinemas. Both, once you sign up with them, in the case of TGV you need to become a member of their MovieClub,will give you once your birthday comes around two free tickets to watch any movie of your choice to be used during your birthday month. They're free for normal cinema seats but if you want to sit on their couple seats or watch a 3D movie or anything like that all you need to do is top up the difference. The other difference is is that with TGV they'll send you an email to remind you that you have a couple of free movie tickets and all you need to do is head on over to the ticket counter and give them your membership card while with GSC they may or may not remind you with an email and even when you do remember that you have a couple of free tickets coming to you you have to make the effort to head on over to their website, dig through a couple of links, print out a form, fill it in and bring it with you when you pick the movie you want and don't forget to bring your ID card with you. A little tedious and a tad disingenuous of them if you ask me. It's like they'd rather not give you those free passes.

Anyway, the pair from TGV I used to watch Mad Max: Fury Road which I wrote a review about and you can read here. The pair from GSC Cinemas I used to watch the movie which I am reviewing here. Why a French Film? Well, throughout this month GSC Cinemas is hosting the French Film Festival, so I thought why not. That's the one really good thing about GSC Cinemas. Throughout the year and periodically they'll host an international film festival. Few other cinemas will do this if at all. TGV rarely does this. In fact, I can't remember when they did it last other than that one time they did one in conjunction with Astro for their Italian film week which I went to and also reviewed which you can read here

This round of GSC's French Film Festival has a line up of 16 films. I went through most of them checking on their IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes pages and any other sites to see how they fared ratings wise and among all of them Attila Marcel had the highest ratings. So that's why I picked it. I am not wasting my free tickets on an average rated or crappy, badly rated film. Anyway, that's enough of things unrelated to the movie and my review of it.

Guillaume Gouix the man who plays Paul has mastered the look of someone who is bored of life's routine. I wonder if I have that same expression some days. ©Pathé

It seemed like a quirky comedy, and it is. Sort of...

So, Attila Marcel. This movie came out last year and it's a story about Paul a man-child who doesn't speak. He's been raised by his two aunts since he was two after the deaths of his parents. The film opens with us seeing the world from the point of view of Paul as an infant. We looking at Paul's dad as he walks down the sidewalk and as he walks an assortment of people from punks to rockabilly dudes to hippies greet him. He stops in front of a movie poster and we hear Paul attempt his first words. We also see Paul's mother. As his mother is encouraging him to say his first words, his father doesn't seem at all interested even when his first words are Papa. When Paul does say it do his father turns to him and then screams right at his face. Then he wakes up from his nightmare. 

Paul gets up, showers, dresses and then we meet his two aunts. Then we follow them to the neighborhood bakery where Paul picks up a bag of chouqettes and continue on to their dance studio where the two aunts are dance instructors while Paul is their chouqette eating pianist who plays the accompanying music while classes run.. At the end of classes all three head home but Paul instead of heading up to their apartment goes to the park to sit and have a sandwich. At the park Paul sits at a bench overlooking a huge tree. While he sits he hears ukulele music coming from behind the tree. He leans over a little to see who it is and spots an older woman playing the ukulele sitting at a bench and at her feet a huge black dog. 

Back home that evening it turns out that it's Paul's 33rd birthday and also that he's entering an upcoming piano recital to contest the young soloist of the year award. Also at his party are his aunts and their friends. It would seem that Paul doesn't have any friends his own age. The next day is pretty much the same, a nightmare wakes him up, he showers, goes to the dance studio, sits at the park bench. The next day though as he heads down the stairs from their apartment to head for the bakery  he spots one his aunts friends, the blind piano tuner Coelho making his way up the steps while hitting the rails with his walking stick. As Paul sidesteps to avoid a confrontation Coelho stops when he hits a rail that doesn't sound like the others. As he tunes it Paul watches. Done he continues up but when he stopped to tune the rail the envelop he put on the steps lets slip a vinyl record. Paul picks it up and follows Coelho up intending to return it. 

So this is the first time that Paul tries Mdm Proust's tea. The way he zones out is pretty funny. ©Pathé

As he follows Coelho he notices that Coelho goes through a door that he hadn't noticed before. A door that seems to be in between floors. He opens it and goes in. Inside he finds the same big black dog he saw sitting at the foot of the old lady in a dimly lit waiting room that seems incomplete. He walks through and enters a living room full of plants and Coelho sitting at a table. Coelho calls out thinking it's the owner of the home a Madame Proust but Paul reaches out and returns the vinyl to him. Then he meets Mdm Proust who gives him the once over and then tells him to sit before offering a cup of herbal tea. She also asks him if he can keep her home a secret. She brings him a cup of herbal tea with a side of madeleine. The madeleine is to soften the bitterness of the tea. Paul drinks and immediately becomes comatose. Mdm, Proust and Coelho drag him out into the hallway, stand him there and put sunglasses on him. Hours later Paul wakens and immediately continues on his mission to get his chouquettes, except that it's evening and the bakery is closed. At home during dinner he has hallucinations of cutting his dinner with an asparagus and while brushing his teeth of doing it with an asparagus. The herbal tea Proust gave him was made with asparagus and has the effect of not only odd asparagus related hallucinations but also making his pee stink of it and of wiping his memory of his visit to her home. 

The next day, all is back to normal and routine but while Paul and his aunts are at the studio Proust is sneaking into their apartment. While Paul was comatose she took his keys. In their apartment Proust goes through Paul's room and finds his keepsakes and pictures of his mother. She takes the music box from his baby mobile and leaves him a note. When Paul finds it he immediately heads for Proust's apartment. The note says, she knows where to find his mother. When Paul visits Proust to find out more she gives him another cup of herbal tea but this time the tea is meant to help him remember but to help him remember Proust uses the music box from his baby mobile to help trigger his forgotten  memory. So we go on a trip to Paul's infancy where again we see it from Paul's point of view and see his parents, aunts and uncle sing a song about what each want them to be. When he awakens from this memory trip he seems satisfied. Proust tells him to come back next week. 

This is one of Paul's trip down memory lane. It seems like normal except when they start singing instead of talking. Also there are adults dressed in really bad frog costumes. ©Pathé

The next week Paul brings another music box and this time his memory trip takes him to the beach and another sing and dance routine where his mother is courted by a somewhat sleazy looking character who offers her and infant Paul a chance to star in a commercial. When he awakens he satisfied. But this time before leaving and to hide his whereabouts from his aunts, Proust gives him a bag of vegetables to use as an alibi when they ask. 

At the next memory trip we revisit Paul when he was a toddler. The memory being triggered by music from a children's TV show. Again the memory is in the form of a song and dance but this time his memory brings back images of his mother being abused. When he wakens he is crying. 

His aunts seeing an obvious change in him and being concerned about him and his sudden interest in vegetables take him for a weekend away at the seaside among friends. There he meets with the daughter of his aunts friend who is Chinese and plays the Erhu. The first question he has for him is if he's still a virgin. 

When you're a friendless man-child raised by spinster aunts you get treated like a child. ©Pathé

Back home things return to normal somewhat except that Michelle the girl from the seaside visits him at the park and both he and Proust discover that the tree in the park has been marked for removal due to disease. That same day Proust receives a letter in the mail. She heads to a doctor who visits her for her herbal teas and the discussion is a depressing one. In not so many words we learn that she's dying and that whatever she has at the moment she fought before but this time she doesn't want to go through it all again. The news of the tree and her impending death infuriates Proust somewhat and she immediately camps herself beneath the tree and holds one person sit-in protest against it's removal. But it doesn't last long when she's carted away by the police and the tree is cut down. She disappears after this but before disappearing she leaves Paul a box of her herbal tea mix and some madeleines. 

Paul hasn't visited her since his memory trip where his memories were of his father beating his mother but a note she left him in the care box changes his mind about going on another memory trip. This time his memory trip takes him to a wrestling arena where his mother and father are in the ring. In there, they fight and dance and kiss and at the end they are embracing. He awakens feeling relieved. He knows now that his memory of her abuse was just a single event in their relationship and one where his mind has exaggerated. Paul is overjoyed at this memory. He immediately heads to Proust's apartment but no one answers. Days later he drops by her apartment again but this time to deliver an invitation to come to his recital. 

After the seaside weekend Paul gets a girlfriend whether he likes it or not. Most of us who look for a seaside romance never get this lucky or unlucky. ©Pathé

At his recital everyone is there but Proust and as Paul takes his turn at the piano he begins to hallucinate. As he plays he begins to see the characters from his favorite childhood TV show on stage playing the music with him. As he sees them his playing becomes more excited and animated. At the end of it everyone in the hall is stunned silent then slowly one by one beginning with the judges they stand and give Paul a standing ovation. Paul wins the title of young soloist of the year. 

The next day as he sits and waits for his aunts return with champagne to celebrate his success at the recital Paul takes a chance at one final memory trip. This time triggered by a song that gave his father his wrestling nom de plume. Again we are treated to a song and dance but this time it is to a scene of a loving and happy couple. But this time it doesn't end so well for Paul. This time his memory trip takes him to the very moment where his life changed. When he stopped talking. The moment where he witnesses his parents death. Back then his parents lived under his aunts apartment and they had contracted a friend to help them expand and renovate their apartment. In removing a few walls he also affected the strength of the structure. While his parents were dancing the ceiling above them gave way to the weight of the piano that was above, the same piano that he's been playing all his life. When he awakes he is visibly shaken and finds himself in a room full of people come to celebrate his success but he's only interested in examining the piano and the floor below it. When he realizes that his memory isn't a lie he looks to his aunts who themselves realize that Paul now remembers everything. But the people don't seem to notice and instead cry out for him to give them a tune on the piano. Paul raises his hands but as he slams it down on the keys the lid slams down on his fingers. The next day at the doctor they find out that the damage to his finger is enough to prevent him from playing the piano ever again. 

Another flashback scene but now mum and dad are dance-wrestling if there's such a thing. ©Pathé

The next day he tries again to visit Proust at her apartment but discovers instead the building manager. He tells Paul that Proust has passed on. Paul heads out into the countryside to find Proust's grave. There he leaves her ukulele but as he is about to leave it rains and the rain drops hit the ukulele's strings and plays a tune. Paul sees it as a sign and takes it with him as he leaves. 

Back home Paul's life has changed. He no longer plays the piano of course and neither does his aunts teach dance. Instead Paul has taken over the studio and teaches the same dance students to play the ukulele. Paul is also married to Michelle and has a child of his own.

The film ends with Paul and his family at the Grand Canyon the place that was on the movie poster that we see his father stand in front of in the opening scene. We also see it from the point of view of Paul's daughter who herself is about to say her first words and when she does we also hear Paul's first words after being silent for 31 odd years.

The end. 

This is Paul heading for his piano recital. He's got his bag of chouquettes and his aunts by his side. Also a bus full of musicians. ©Pathé

It was an odd sort of movie even for a French one.

Yup, it was. It was quirky and had a few funny moments. It was odd to have the memory trips done in a dreamy, technicolor song and dance routine. And the pacing and flow of the movie although not bad was a little unusual for me. I guess it's because of the scenes of the memory trips. 

The performances by the actors though were on the other hand beautiful especially by the lead Guillaume Gouix, who without saying a word is able to express a wide range of emotions with just his facial expressions and body language. The other being the performance given by Anne Le Ny who plays Mdm Proust. Her performance was perfect as the new age odd ball. 

The music as well plays a pretty big part in the movie playing up the mood of each scene and of course adding to the quirky nature of it. Without it I think the movie would be quite different. 

After he finds out how his parents die and he damages his fingers he turns the piano into a garden. Which I thought was sort of cool. ©Pathé

But the thing is even with all that I've said up there this movie left me feeling a little mixed. I get the message. Memories are a fickle thing. What we remember isn't what happened. It's selective and exaggerated and far from perfect. What we think we know and remember isn't what happened. We'd be lucky if we had a Mdm Proust and her teas to help us remember. It isn't that that has me feeling a little mixed. I'm feeling mixed much like the reviews for this film are mixed. On the one hand there are beautiful moments and brilliant acting and on the other hand there are scenes that just doesn't seem to sit well with the rest and I'm talking about the memory trips. They just don't sit well with the rest of it for me. I understand them and the metaphors that they try to convey but, I don't know it just doesn't seem to sit well with the rest. It's a little too quirky or maybe odd is the word for it. 

All in all though it was enjoyable and entertaining just not satisfying. I guess I was sort of expecting something along the lines of Amélie (2001) which was quirky, funny, sweet and ultimately a satisfying movie at the end of it. This though didn't have that same feeling. Something was missing and it was a little too quirky to the point that it was odd but not in a good way. So to sum it up I'd give it a 3 out of 5. Have a look at the trailer and see for yourself. The movie has been out a year so if you're interested in it look up the DVD at your favorite store or website or wherever it is that you get your movies. 


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