Sunday, 30 November 2014
Director Christopher Nolan terms this an "experimental Movie" which employs "impressionistic sound" I saw this in an IMAX theatre and visually it is stunning - but it is the sound people will be talking about more, which is a pity. There is plenty of mumbling and dialogue obscured by music or other sound effects. Nolan spent six months editing the sound to get the desired effect - he says of particularly notable mumble that “Information is communicated in various different ways over the next few scenes. That’s the way I like to work; I don’t like to hang everything on one particular line.” Last week one cinema in Rochester, New York, posted a notice confirming that its equipment was in full working order in apparent response to complaints regarding Interstellar’s sound mix. “Christopher Nolan mixed the soundtrack with an emphasis on the music,” read posters at the Cinemark Tinseltown USA and Imax. “This is how it is intended to sound.”
Whether everyone will be happy paying £18+ for a three hour pressure sore inducing mumblethon, is a moot point - particularly when you get to the other main talking point - working out what the film is actually about! Its scope and ambition exceed its accessibility. Unlike Tree of Life which asked questions and left viewers the space to work out their own responses, Interstellar not only asks the questions but tries to give all the answers too. Does it work? Not entirely - no, the plot and dialogue are overly dependent on quantum physics. There are plenty of ethical and moral questions to explore in this film. Is survival of the species an end that justifies any means?
The overall exploration of metaphysical concepts in the film is worthy in the over-familiar dystopian future but for me the film is overly sentimental - especially around the relationship between the central character Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter Murph played as she ages by Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain and Ellen Burstyn! The theory of relativity comes into play - you need to be up on your Black Holes (quantum singularities), gravitational time dilation, Newton's laws of motion and tesseracts! A central theme is that love and gravity are dimensions that extend throughout the universe and can be conduits of communication from one time to another.
The visuals are impressive and there is plenty of great acting - especially Foy, Chastain and McConaughey. There are performances from Michael Caine, Matt Damon and Anne Hathaway but by the time you get to towards the 2 hour mark you forget why you are on this journey and the final 45 minutes are not the easiest to understand as so many unlikely things happen one after the other.
This is a film worth seeing - but take a cushion. I don't think it's worthy of all the hype but it does have many redeeming features. IMAX is spectacular but don't sit too close to the screen as you will get a crick in the neck and miss some of the action as it happens on a different part of the screen to the bit you are looking at! I'll give it 7/10
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Slow, slow dreary slow. This film really suffers from splitting a trilogy into four parts in a cynical attempt to make more money. This film tips the balance and Color Force and Lionsgate should be ashamed of milking a franchise to the point where there is not much story and very little entertainment. What took 2 hours could have been delivered in 30 minutes as a meaty finale to the beginning of a three-part trilogy. Poor.
With the Hunger Games dead, the action is limited to skirmishes between the Capital and Rebel Districts as momentum builds among the rebel factions. The narrative arc of this trilogy has been clearly established early on - the only question being how Snow is overthrown and to what personal cost to Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).
District 13 is led by the strong and icy President Coin (Julianne Moore) who is having a bad hair day. She is a good foil for those who surround her in leadership and Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers another great performance as Plutarch Heavensbee with an ever present smile on his lips and constant optimism. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy also gives a strong and likeable performance. It seems that all of those who surround Katniss understand her better than she understands herself. They also have a clear picture of what she needs to do and most of the film is spent in quiet corners where Katniss wrestles with her inner demons as existential angst threatens to bring paralysis.
For me, the strong point of the film is Jennifer Lawrence's performance. She really is growing into an actress who is destined to outshine even the likes of Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman - if she has not already done so. Lawrence manages to embody such contradictions of emotion as she at one and the same time combines in the same expression strength and vulnerability, childlikeness and maturity, irrational fear and heroic self-sacrifice. All requisite characteristics for a Saviour figure!
I am looking forward to part four of this trilogy and will go to see it - but unless you are the most committed of die-hard fans, wait for the disc on this one rather than going to the cinema. I'll give it 6/10.
Saturday, 22 November 2014
This is an excellent film. The acting is compelling - Cumberbatch dominates the screen and delivers a sensitive and nuanced performance to present the tortured genius who was Alan Turing. The supporting cast all provide solid support. The film is not without its difficulties, but these can be overlooked as it delivers so much so well.
I understand Turing's relatives gave the film their seal of approval. There will always be debates about details but in the end this picture gives us an insight into a special person who achieved extraordinary things at a critical time in world history. The visual and aural feel and sets of this film give a very authentic feel which is backed up by the dialogue and the very different way people behaved in the middle of the last century.
We know that this is a film retelling the story of how Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) cracked the cryptography of the German Enigma code machine in WWII. It could have been a simple linear storyline - like Mr Turner, but it isn't. Turing is a complex character. A mathematical genius who is on the Aspergers-Autism spectrum and who happens to be a homosexual. As I said a complex character - in many ways enigmatic himself! So, the film is edited in a very creative way that interweaves the past of Turing's childhood days at Sherborne School, with the 'now' (WWII) and then the future, early 1950's, as a Detective follows a hunch. This gives the story a lively feel and keeps things moving in a way that shows how Turing behaves in the 'now' based on his past character development and the consequences this leads to in the future.
Keira Knightley who plays Joan Clarke does so with great sensitivity. She offers Turing a way of seeing the world which might help him to make sense of others' social interaction and it's worth conjecturing what might have been had things gone differently. At school, Turing's friend Christopher - the only boy who has any time for him - tells him "Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.". This he later says to Clarke who towards the end of the film returns the compliment. This is the recurring theme of the film.
Such is the weight of Cumberbatch's performance that I would not be surprised to see him Oscar nominated for this - and it would be a worthy nomination. I commend this film to you and would encourage you to see it while you can. I'll give it 8/10.
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
This is a beautiful film - less a narrative, feels almost like a documentary. This biopic follows the last 25 years of the life of the celebrated and eccentric English painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). It is beautifully shot - the lighting is always significant and as Turner was masterful in depicting the fickle and ever-changing nature of light in his paintings, so Mike Leigh as Director allows the watery and pastel shades of the lighting palette to shape the mood and feel of each scene.
This film has a great cast but the starring performance is Timothy Spall in the lead role closely followed by Dorothy Atkinson playing his devoted and abused housekeeper Hannah Danby. Turner's eccentricities lead him to follow a peripatetic lifestyle - always popping off to the coast to sketch, study the light, visit a brothel, present a paper at the Royal Academy of Arts or indulge his alter-ego. Turner's dedication to research is to be commended - his constant desire to explore and understand changing light is what drives him.
This is a film about relationships, regrets, denial, genius and the formal art establishment doing its thing in a very English way. It isn't clear from the film whether Turner has divorced from his wife or is simply separated. Many of the relationships here are ambiguous. What is clear is that it a dead relationship but Turner seemingly has little or no feeling for his grown-up daughters - even when one of them dies. As well as keeping house, the Syphilitic, scabby and stooping Hannah Danby is also available for a passing grope of quick bonk (on reflection rape?) when it pleases Turner - no affection is demonstrated.
For me, this film is primarily about the inspiration Turner draws from his father and how his work changes following the death of his father and how he loses favour within the Academy and with his Royal patrons as a consequence. The film is also set against the evolution of sea-going vessels moving from sail to steam and the, unwelcome in Turner's eyes, unstoppable growth of the railways. A further transition that impacts Turner's sensibilities is the advent of photography which Turner fears will mean the end of painting as an art form.
Turner is a complex and at times unpredictable character. Spall speaks more in grunts than words - perhaps the product of a Mike Leigh Directed film, but he always manages to inflect great meaning into his grunting. His characterisation was for me utterly compelling and convincing. I'm not sure I would have wanted him as a friend or even a casual acquaintance, but I'm grateful for this film to help me better appreciate Turner's paintings. At 2:30 this is not a short film - but it is gripping and engaging. I'll give it 8/10.
Thursday, 6 November 2014
Steve McQueen has built a reputation for directing films that are bodily physical and that confront you with the issue at stake in a way that is unavoidable. This film is no exception. It's visceral depiction of slavery in Southern USA is at times painful to watch. This is a film of deep lows and soaring highs which for me is ultimately a film of hope. Hope for the memory of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) on whose true story the film is based and hope also that we can end the practises that see 21 million people in slavery around the world today.
The premise of the film is simple and in disclosing it I don't think I will take anything away from the viewing experience. Northup is a free man and a talented musician living in Saratoga, upstate New York with his wife and two children. They have a comfortable life and black people are an accepted part of the community. His family go away on a trip and Northup is offered the chance to make some quick money playing the violin in Washington DC. He accepts but the men who made the offer get him drunk and he wakes up in shackles. He is transported to Georgia and sold in the market as a plantation slave. He soon learns that protesting his innocence only brings trouble and to even mention that he can read and write will end up with him being lashed.
This film could have been so many other things but McQueen chooses to show that as well as gratuitous cruelty and abuse, there were momentary glimmers of kindness and consideration also. He portrays a wide range of characters from the profit driven Freeman (Paul Giamatti) to the conscience pricked plantation owner Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) to the slave who has become mistress of the house, to maniacal plantation owner Epps (Michael Fassbender) to demonstrate that this story cannot be painted with a simple palette of black and white but with an infinite number of shades of grey. A film about slavery made by a black Director is possibly the only the context in which the frequent use of the term 'Nigger' could be permissible. I lost count of the number of times the word is said. It helped to reinforce the view that those with the money, guns and whips really did see their slaves as no more than a possession to be owned - a sub-human animal no better than a baboon.
Christianity and the Bible feature prominently in this film. For the slave owners, they find justification for owning and mistreating slaves in the Bible's teaching. For the slaves themselves they find hope - hope of a different reality where there will be no slavery. Faith in God produces two very different outcomes.
It is worth noting that most of the plantation owners would have been from British decent and that the prosperity of Liverpool, Bristol and London as ports was dependent on the Golden Triangle of slavery. Having watched this, To Kill a Mockingbird and Brokeback Mountain within the last few days paints a picture for me that maybe shows that the 'Land of the Free' is only free for the few.
This is an outstanding film. The score is always supportive but never intrusive. The Direction, lighting and camera work are all top class. There is frequent and powerful use of silence and many visual interludes of National Geographic type views of trees, skies or swamps to provide respite from the constant beatings, rapes and killings. It is not pleasant viewing but it is compelling and Northup's story needs to be told - and we need to take note. Thank you Steve McQueen. I'll give it 9/10.
To tell a story through the eyes of child will always give a different perspective. This classic black and white film made in 1962 and based on Harper Lee's novel of the same name still delivers its punches with full force. Made at a time when the civil rights movements was gaining momentum in the USA it exposes the small town bigotry and racial prejudice of Alabama that characterises many of the Southern States.
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a widowed lawyer raising his two children Jem (Philip Alford) and Scout (Mary Badham) with the help of their housekeeper Calpurnia (Estelle Evans). Times are hard in the grips of the Depression and some of his clients pay for his services in kind. He is well respected and maintains good and proper relationships with everyone. His children call him by his first name and the family exude a liberality that pushes the children to ask questions about all manner of things and to present a maturity and knowledge above their years. It is not a straightforward family dynamic but there is something strangely attractive about it. It is however a home filled with love.
The film does have some flaws but these are largely inconsequential. On Rotten Tomatoes it holds a score of 94% among critics and 93% among viewers - I've not seen such high ratings - especially for a film that's been around for 50 years. IMDb gives it a gentler 84% - still a high figure. I am told by a reliable source the the book has never been out of print. It has sold over 150 million copies world wide and on Ebay a first edition is currently on offer for $4,600. It clearly has something to say.
Finch is asked to defend a local black labourer accused of raping a local white girl. Rape itself is a serious enough offence but for a white girl to be raped by a black man puts the crime within the scope of capital punishment. Finch does a good job as the court tries to maintain some semblance of order and justice. He demolishes the prosecution's arguments and discredits their witnesses. He goes on to show that the defendant could not have meted out the wounds alleged to have been inflicted. There is no medical evidence as a Doctor was never summoned. Finch implicates the girl's father who was given to outbursts of drunken rage. It is clear that there is no case for the accused to answer and it comes down to the words of a black man against those of white people. After two hours of deliberation the jury return a guilty verdict. Finch's children, unbeknown to him, are in the courtroom witnessing the whole trial - part of their education about the more unpleasant side of human nature.
I won't go into the ending of the story just in case you haven't seen it - there is more that happens. I hadn't seen this film for many years yet it came to me as fresh as ever. Narrated in the first person by an adult Scout recalling the episodes of the time, it has a charm that films today simply don't have. At one point Scout, who had a propensity for fighting at school says "Atticus had promised me he would wear me out if he ever heard of me fightin' any more. I was far too old and too big for such childish things, and the sooner I learned to hold in, the better off everybody would be. I soon forgot... Cecil Jacobs 'made' me forget." The film features a young Robert Duvall whose character is both haunted and haunting - a sign of things to come!
This remains a great film in its own right but also for the story it tells and particularly when the time at which if was first told is taken into consideration. It offers many things to reflect on - the loving yet unsentimental family dynamics of the Finch family, neighbourliness, prejudice and a justice system that delivers injustice. I'm going to give it 9/10.
All I can say is that the output of studios in 1984 was at a low ebb for this film to have won 8 Oscars, 4 Golden Globes and 4 BAFTAS. That doesn't mean that this is a bad film - far from it, but to have single-handedly cornered the gong market suggests something wasn't quite right in Hollywood.
This biopic of the genius Mozart (Tom Hulse) is told from the viewpoint of his closest rival in Vienna, the Court Composer Antonio Salieri (F Murray Abraham) who in 'confession' to a priest tells Mozart's story and his own place in Mozart's death. The film is a series of Salieri's retelling of the story, but most of it is in flashback.
If you like gaudy over-the-top baroque and rococo settings, opera - oh and lots of big hair, then this film is for you. At nearly 3 hours long it takes a long time to tell the story - too long. If you are not into opera then there are perhaps too many bits of extended opera in the film - it could easily have lost 30 minutes without losing anything of the story.
It is clear that Mozart was a gifted genius who in today's world would have beed diagnosed as being somewhere on the Aspergers spectrum. That Salieri should feel threatened by a once-in-a-millenium genius is a mystery that the film wraps up in pious vanity. The scheming and lengths to which he and others at Court went, are astounding.
The film is exquisitely filmed using all of the medieval charm of many locations in the Czech Republic in which it was shot. The music from the Academy of St Martin's in the Fields is top notch. The acting performances are excellent - especially Tom Hulse in the title role who does nothing to endear Wolfie to anyone except his long-suffering wife Constanz (Elizabeth Berridge).
Mozart fans will love this film. Sadly I am not one - but nonetheless I can see that it is an excellent film which is perhaps worthy of its numerous awards. There are many moral and ethical issues the film invites exploration of. One for a rainy day by the fire. I'll give it 7/10.
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Set in a remote, bleak and austere village on the windswept coast of Jutland (Denmark) in the 1870-80s, this is a film about the cult of the personality, dogma, community, outsiders, gift, generosity, redemption and transformation. The village community is governed by the domineering and dogmatic Pastor who has fashioned a hyper-Lutheran cult which would leave Luther himself spinning in his grave. In the name of God and piety any expression of self must be immediately stamped out as a mortal sin that must be confessed. This is a community that lives under the burden of guilt - their fallenness and their separation from God through sin. They sing dirge-like hymns that retell gospel stories and which paint a picture of the New Jerusalem - a place where they will be freed from their burden and restored in relationship with God.
They are so caught up in 'doing the right thing' such as acts of charity, protecting themselves from outsiders who cannot be trusted and who might lead them astray and also in being unrealistically nice to one another all the time, that they fail to see that the basis of their community is flawed and a deceit. The dogmatic Pastor instills such certainty in his flock that there is no room left for faith. Faith is the opposite of certainty.
The Pastor's two daughters are described as his right and left hands and so are pressured into being an extension of the Pastor himself - they are subsumed within him and his godly calling. Both have an opportunity to leave and marry - one with a junior officer from the Hussars and the other with a world renowned French opera singer but their father subverts the opportunities and so they remain dutifully at his side.
When the Pastor eventually dies the community carries on as before with the two sisters leading the devotions and rehearsing their father's teachings. The flock still nod in veneration to his portrait on entering the house as they live their lives focussed on the past and begin to grow older together.
Then one night in a middle of a storm a French refugee, Babette (Stéphane Audran) escaping the civil war turns up and asks the sisters if she can keep house for them. They refuse saying they have no money to pay her and when Babette produces a letter of commendation from the aforementioned opera singer and Babette offers to work for no wages as cook, they relent and take her in. However, she is an outsider and so they remain suspicious of her and her motivation.
After 14 years of faithful service where the best food ever has been served to the local poor and destitute and with the coffers of the sisters inexplicably growing, the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Pastor approaches and the sisters resolve to mark the occasion with the flock. In Paris, the opera singer has been buying Babette an annual lottery ticket and it transpires that she has won the prize of FFr 10,000. Babette asks the sisters if she can cook for them a proper French dinner to celebrate the Pastor's anniversary and reluctantly they agree. (I would have thought that they would have looked on a lottery ticket as a form of gambling and therefore any proceeds from it tainted.)
The local Lady of the Manor is a faithful follower of The Pastor also and it so happens that her Grandson - the same Hussar but now a General is visiting and so he is invited as guest of honour. Babette procures the necessary ingredients for the multi-course banquet. The villagers are at first reluctant to indulge their carnal passion and resolve to eat and drink without tasting - no mention will be made of the food.
The house is transformed by the ornate and aesthetically pleasing table setting with fine crystal glasses and porcelain. The guests arrive and duly tuck into their exotic dishes course by course. The General who has travelled widely is repeatedly reminded of previous meals in a top Parisien restaurant - the Cafe Anglais. As the meal progresses and glasses of wine consumed, so the table conversation becomes more affable and the folk begin to forgive one another for their transgressions - some committed decades before. They even begin asking God's blessing on one another. The Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways. It turns out that Babette was the Head Chef at the Cafe Anglais and she has reproduced a banquet that foreshadows the heavenly banquet of which they often sing and which begins to transform the community. Babette spends all of winnings on the one meal - she who gives what she cannot to keep to gain what she cannot lose is no fool.
As he leaves, The General tells the sister that he thinks of her daily and that she will always occupy a special place in his heart. Babette and her helpers in the kitchen are left with mountains of washing up and some rather tasty left-overs. The community, transformed by this act of sacrificial generosity venture outside and instead of shuffling off to their dour homes hold hands and dance around the well enjoying the stars and sings songs. The sisters are frightened that Babette will leave to return to Paris but with her family killed in the uprising there is no reason for her to do so. Babette resolves to stay which pleases the sisters.
So, the Hussar, the opera singer and the chef - all outsiders attempted to make an impact on the community. The opera singer and Hussar only managing to do so decades after their failed initial attempts. Babette the chef can be seen as a type of Christ figure bringing healing, transformation and the ability to enjoy life in God's service.
Sacrificial love has an immense power to transform - it is God's grace in action and as such would have stood at the centre of a Lutheran view of the world. It's a pity the Pastor didn't see the world through Babette's eyes. Which of them was the more authentic Lutheran?
I have seen this film many times and most often in church where it has been abused to underpin some piece of dogma that is seemingly in need of being buttressed. For me the the film is almost always used eisegetically - that is reading meaning into it rather than exegetically reading meaning out of it. Perhaps you feel I am guilty of the same. Fair enough, but I acknowledge I am offering a way to read the film and not the way. I'll give it 8/10.
Tuesday, 4 November 2014
For a change there are PLOT SPOILERS in this reflection.
With its sweeping vistas and brooding skies at one point I thought this was a film about the weather. I was wrong, this is a film about love and relationships. It is a film that avoids cliches as it portrays the messiness of life and that people, their emotions and their love don't always fit into net little boxes.
Set in the grandeur of Wyoming and beginning in 1963, this film is about a great many things. When homosexuality was illegal and the punishments punitive, two cowboys hired for the summer to take a flock of sheep up into the high pasture discover and attraction for one another. What they did on Brokeback Mountain is one thing. What they did in town was another.
The pace is (at times painfully) slow as the relationship between Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis (Heath Ledger) builds and develops. The season is cut short by a snow storm moving in and the two part company. While Jack remains philosophical as he drives off into the next chapter, Ennis is really cut up at their parting and emotes strongly.
Jack returns the following spring in the hope of being rehired and hooking up again with Ennis - but Ennis doesn't show - he's moved on. Marriage and children ensue for both of them and life looks okay with Jack marrying into money in Texas and Ennis and his working wife just about holding things together in small town Wyoming. Okay that is, until Jack sends Ennis a post card suggesting they spend a few days at Brokeback Mountain 'fishing'.
Over the next 20 years these liaison's continue and.... suspicions grow. Jack makes a visit to Mexico for casual sex and confesses this to Ennis some time later - news he doesn't take well. Relationships become strained and messier. Jack was always running the greater risk in the more conservative Texas.
I guess each one of us has a Brokeback Mountain, a place where we become truly alive and feel totally ourselves. Whilst the narrative arc is about relationships, regret and fulfilment the way in which Director Ang Lee treats the subject matter and allows the actors to act is masterful. It is not only the two leads who turn in start performances but just about the whole cast. Heath Ledger is a huge talent who is already so sorely missed.
This is based on a short story by Annie Proulx - a short story that manages to deliver a long film at 134 minutes. It's a film that invites the viewer to reflect on the relationships which shape each one of us. A lot of the film falls within the 'mumblecore' domain - it would have been better to have watched it with subtitles. But I'll give it 8/10.
This French film from young Director Céline Sciamma explores sex/gender identity at the crucial 'coming-of-age' time of life for Laure played with great depth and deftness by Zoé Héran. This film is not so much about the plot but the way in which the storyline develops and is explored so I hope you won't mind if I share a little of it.
Laure and her sister Jeanne (Malonn Lévana) move with their parents to a new apartment in the suburbs. Mum (Sophie Cattani) is heavily pregnant and needs to spend most her time resting. Dad (Mathieu Demy) works hard to provide for the family. The parents appear to invest a lot of time in their children and they seem to be very stable, loving and happy together. Jeanne (6) has flowing curls and exudes femininity. She enjoys cuddling her soft toys, pretending to be a ballerina, drawing and being with her sister. Laure visually presents a more asexual character. She is lanky and very thin with breasts showing on the first flush of the awakening of puberty, her hair comparatively short and she lives in a T shirt and shorts. She cuts a very boy-like figure.
When she finally plucks up courage to meet the local kids, ten year-old Laure decides to introduce herself as Mickäel and pass herself off a a boy. S/he is accepted by the group and as relationships develop so the complexities of the deceit have to deepen in order to maintain credibility. All this is okay except when Lisa (Jeanne Disson) who is 13 takes a liking to Mickäel and kisses him. As Lisa looks for ways to develop the relationship there are many awkward pauses. Lisa appears to enjoy the kissing much more than Mickäel. With the summer holidays nearing their end and the new school year approaching fast, how will Mickäel maintain the deception that s/he has managed to keep from her parents.
To be honest I am struggling to relate to this film as the story is so far from my own experience - but I readily acknowledge it is a story that will resonate with many. It provides a neutral and steady platform for questions of sex/gender identity to be explored as puberty kicks in. For that Sciamma must be commended. The stereotypical scenario would have been that Laure lives within a dysfunctional family with poor relational modelling from her parents but this could not be further from the truth. She has security, love and the encouragement to be herself.
It would seem therefore that the driver for her experimentation comes from within herself. There is very little in this film that could be construed as exploring themes of sexuality - it has U Certification after all. For me there was not enough of a suggestion to push the character into trans-gender or lesbian areas - but then that might have been because of the immaturity of her years. However, most of Laure's experiment centres on boy-like behaviour which places it in the realm of gender identity. With puberty beginning to kick in, who knows what kind of hormone soup was flowing through her veins driving her to think, feel and act the way she did. What she was seeking was an authentic expression of her 'self'.
This a good film through which to explore these issues and open them up for a discussion. The acting, when children are the main characters is simply wonderful - particularly Jeanne. I watched this as the opening film in a week long course with about 20 other people. I though I would write my reflection before the group deconstructs and reflects. I'll let you know what insights they provide. I'll give it 7/10.
On this occasion not much additional wisdom from the collective. Consensus agreed with my reading of the film in that it was more about exploration of self than a boy being locked in a girl's body - although someone reported that online trans-gender communities see it differently!
We were told this is a big big film in France - particularly with families who use it to open up discussion on these themes with children. It is also used by many French Primary Schools for the same reason. Interesting.
Next up, Brokeback Mountain and this evening Babette's Feast.