Populaire (Régis Roinsard, 2012)
Who would have thought a typewriting competition could be so entertaining? When it’s presented a certain way, that is. In Populaire, Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) is trained by her boss, Louis Echard (Romain Duris) to become a world class speed-typing champion. I’m not sure if such competitions were ever actually a thing because the whole notion of typing being a type of sport that has hordes of screaming fans seems a bit ludicrous. Surprisingly, it actually was pretty exciting! And the bitchy contestants, in particular, added good value.
Populaire is director Régis Roinsard’s first feature film (bar a documentary from 2005) and is pretty impressive for a first-timer. Set in the late 1950s, it incorporates vibrant colours, a beautiful and quirky score, plenty of cheese, big toothy smiles from the men, and innocent pouts from the women. The men, while charming in some respects, were somewhat sexist in their attitudes, which is probably unavoidable when you’re depicting the 1950s. But at least they were no Don Draper. Amongst the quirk and cuteness, there was one scene which jarred as it felt so out of place, however this is only a minor criticism. There were plenty of laughs to be had, particularly at the lead singer in a cornier than corn band.
Romain Duris is pretty damn adorable. He almost gives JEAN DUJARDIN a run for his money in the French charm department. Though I hadn’t heard of him prior to last year, he is appearing in more and more French films that are making their way to Australia, with Mood Indigo (Michel Gondry, 2013) last year, and Chinese Puzzle (Cédric Klapisch, 2013) coming out here next month. I can see why he’s an emerging leading man because ladies, he’s hot. In that French kind of way. Ooh la la! Déborah François suited the role of the young ingénue to perfection – she came incredibly close to being irritating but managed to be pretty loveable. And she’s only 26! (Which I consider practically a teenager because it’s younger than what I am… by a year). I’ve now had the pleasure of seeing Bérénice Bejo in three films, after her star turns in The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011) and The Past (Asghar Farhadi, 2013). She has a smaller role here (of Louis’ best friend’s wife, Marie) which normally might not have been so obviously good, but when you compare it to her other performances you realise her scope. She’s a star.
I could tell by the trailer that this was going to be my type of film, so if the trailer appeals to you (see below), you shouldn’t be disappointed. This is light-hearted fluff, it doesn’t make you think, and it’s all a bit ridiculous (and it was a bit longer than you would expect, clocking in at almost two hours), but above all, it is fun. Go have some.
Populaire is currently screening as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival at Palace Cinemas. For session times and the full programme, visit www.affrenchfilmfestival.org