Tag Archives: French


Cunning Linguist

Arrivée. That is how you would say it in French.

Except for the fact that one of these pod things lands in France that fact has absolutely no relevance to the film. It does, however, hold relevance to my experience and enjoyment of the film so hold on to your chapeaux as I parle au sujet des langues.

As you may have guessed; I’m learning french at the minute. I think that’s one of the reasons why I liked Arrival. It isn’t about alien invasions and star warring – it’s about language and how it affects the way we see the world.

There’s a point in the film where Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) says to Louise Banks (Amy Adams) “do you dream in their language”. As soon as I heard this I was all in because I’ve had two dreams in French.

If this has never happened to you then let me tell you: it’s really, REALLY fucking weird. I knew it was real french because I could understand it, but only parts of it, just like my waking self. Think about it; your subconscious is fully talking to you in a language that you don’t properly know. In a way it’s haunting and, in a way, that’s what this film tries to portray.

Imagine how hard and terrifying it must be to be forced to learn a language from scratch, especially with a backdrop of potential extinction level events. No Google translate. No bilingual guy at work to steal a few free lessons from.

Arrivals slow aesthetics and scenes of isolation echoes the feeling when you are trying to understand what you are seeing and hearing, at times switching realities without you realising.

Adams and Renner reflects the audience’s struggle for comprehension and, whilst it helps that they are both captivating in their roles, I wonder if this will be lost on those who have no interest in learning another language? Then again, perhaps I’m projecting too much of myself on the film?

In any case, lasers going pew pew because this is a deliberate film. It knows what and how it want’s to deliver it’s message. At points this works in its favour such as the moment that they all enter the pod because you are left in suspense but at others you wish it would pick up the pace just a little and get to the point.

Weirdly though the key concept to the film is only mentioned in passing, making it incredibly easy to miss. Maybe those who are more intelligent people got it instantly, maybe some knuckle-draggers were just thinking “show me da boobs ‘n’ explosion!”. For myself I was half way to the car before it finally clicked.

I didn’t need that long to identify my biggest dislike though. Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). The urgency at which he speaks to Banks seems to be completely independent of the journey that Banks and Donnelly are on. We see too little of the global crisis to understand his motivation so he comes across as a one dimensional a-hole.

Regardless of whether languages interest you the alien heptapod’s language should. It looks as modern and radical like graffiti yet combines meaning and inference into a single word similar to how German combines a million words into a single one such as “Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften”. Yes, that’s an actual, single, word.

Unfortunately Arrival isn’t as refreshing as the language it portrays but I found it deeply fascinating, if a little confusing, because of exactly that: language.


The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ If languages fascinate you
+ Cool graffiti looking circle language (technical term)
+ Deliberate and thoughtful

– At times, too slow
– Blink and you miss it reveal
– Forest Whitaker



Bastille Day

Briar, James Briar!

Hey, remember that time when the internet collectively got offended about something really simple? Oh yeah, you’re right, I really need to narrow that down.

Remember when Anthony Horowitz stated that Idris Elba was too street to play James Bond and everyone shouted racism without any context to the statement?

Well, we all know that Idris Elba oozes style and charm whilst being handsome enough to swell the loins of the frostiest of ice-queens but can he punch people really hard, run across rooftops or fire guns in mid-air?

Bastille Day proves that Elba can indeed repel peoples’ faces with his fists in a film that often feels like an audition reel for James Bond.

Perhaps it’s not meant to be? However, given the recent furore it’s hard not to come into Bastille Day without this pre-conception of Elba as the next 007.

If you can separate this notion you see that Sean Briar (Idris Elba) is actually quite different to Bond and is almost more like Ice Cube’s role as Captain Dickson in 21 Jump Street.

Briar is gruff, mood yet distinctly watchable. He is meant to be offset by the jovial pickpocket Michael Mason (Richard Madden) but Madden’s character is not allowed enough dialogue to adequately play the fool.

What this means is that it’s just not as fun as it should be. But then again…. perhaps it’s not intended to be a light-hearted crime thriller?

The story follows growing tensions in Paris between French nationals and religious/immigrant groups ahead of Bastille day. The tensions have been growing due to recent bomb attacks, scapegoating and police intervention, which all seems to hit a raw nerve given recent events in Paris.

What I wasn’t expecting was the suggestion that these events are being puppeteered by Frenchmen to suit their own agenda.

Suggesting that events of perceived terrorism might have been either orchestrated or sanctioned by those who are charged with protecting the public is a risky concept. It’s also one that needs a delicate hand to highlight the complexity of motivations and issues, otherwise it can come across as a crackpot conspiracy theories to many.

Unfortunately Bastille Day doesn’t pronounce the motivations of those involved in it’s complicated plot and therefore doesn’t feel like the important piece of cinema that maybe it should have been.

But then again; perhaps it was never meant to be? That’s the thing, I can’t quite place what the film is trying to be. Is it meant to show-reel for double-oh-Elba? Is it a whimsical crime thriller? Is it a serious examination of political manipulations of public sentiment?

I think the answer falls somewhere between all of that, leaving it as confusing as using ‘le’ and ‘la’ in French and much less revolutionary than the storming of Bastille in 1790.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Idris Elba
+ Decent fisticuffs
+ Interesting political undercurrents

– Madden’s character isn’t fun enough.
– Not sure what this film is meant to be
– Motivations not explored