The Fairy (2011)

This brilliantly bonkers French comedy has simple aspirations: it wants to make you laugh. And, with improvised physical comedy taking precedence, it mostly succeeds.

Dom (Dominique Abel) has his life turned topsy-turvy when a woman (Fiona Gordon) looks for a room at his hotel and reveals she’s a fairy.

Their ensuing adventure stick a finger up at logic as they get pregnant, bother the local authorities and perform hilariously low-budget dance routines.

Not all of the jokes land perfectly (a late telephone gag treads too much water), but The Fairy remains infectiously funny throughout. 3/5

Via Total Film

Tomboy (2011)

“You’re not like other boys,” notes 10-year-old Mikael’s potential new girlfriend in this featherlight drama. She’s not wrong – Mikael is actually a 10-year-old girl called Laure (Zoé Héran), who pretends she’s a boy when she moves with her family to a new neighbourhood. She’s not bad at it either, convincing as a football-loving lad who’s just as gung-ho and mischievous as her comrades. The charade can’t last forever, though, and things get complicated when Laure’s younger sister Jeanne (Malonn Lévana) gets wind of what her sibling’s been up to.

Proving that even the most issues-oriented films don’t have to get bogged down by their weighty ideas, director Céline Sciamma handles Tomboy with the same lightness of touch as her feature debut Water Lilies. The French director’s delicate fingerprints are all over her sophomore feature film – Sciamma keeps the focus tight on Laure right from Tomboy’s opening shot, exploring notions of gender and identity from a child’s-eye-view and effectively putting a fresh spin on cross-dressing comedies (this ain’t no White Chicks).

Thanks to Sciamma’s thoughtful approach, it’s almost impossible to refer to Tomboy without using the words ‘sweet’ and ‘sensitive’. While we’re at it, we might as well throw ‘funny’ into the mix as well. Laure comes up with a playdough solution when she’s invited to go swimming, while Lévana almost eclipses Héran as the scene-stealing little sister who prances around in a ballerina costume (while Laure practices spitting in the bathroom sink) and makes the kind of hilarious observations that only a child could (“Mummy doesn’t work because she’s fat and ‘pre-nant’”).

There’s tough stuff going on too – not least when Laure’s mother discovers what her daughter has been up to. In its naturalistic framing and captivating young leads, Tomboy is nothing short of enchanting. 4/5

Via Out In The City

The Princess Of Montpensier (2011)

Welcome to 16th century France, scene of bloody battles and even bloodier love affairs. As religious war tears the country apart, Marie de Mezières (Mélanie Thierry) sacrifices love for status as she’s forced into an affection-free marriage with Philippe de Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet). Her heart still beats for dashing cousin Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel), though, and it’s only a matter of time before she can resist him no more.

While its battle scenes wobble at times (look out for one spectacularly hilarious case of sword-under-arm death acting), Princess is saved by lush panoramas and a lively musical score that adds depth and scale where the budget clearly couldn’t. What’s most important, though, is the dramatic love triangle, which at times warps into a square – and then a pentagon – courtesy of dodgy prehistoric nuptial politics and a web of unrequited love.

Of which there is plenty. Replete with heaving bosoms and clandestine caresses, Princess delivers its breathless romanticism with a distinct French eloquence. It’s obviously striving for Dangerous Liaisons-style tragedy (Thierry even bears a striking resemblance to that film’s Michelle Pfeiffer), but Princess never quite gets there. That might be because the leads are all cast so young (in order to match the tender ages of the characters), which occasionally makes proceedings feel like am dram with posh frocks.

Not that the younglings aren’t up to the task. Leprince-Ringuet in particular cuts an impressive figure as the jealous husband who married for his love, but not hers. Meanwhile, Thierry is a beauty it’s easy to believe so many men are fighting over. The pair’s fussy fumbles do, however, hoist Lambert Wilson’s more intriguing story of questioning loyalty and battle-weary defiance into the background. All’s fair in love and war? Hardly, but it all makes for enjoyable entertainment all the same. 3/5

Via Out In The City