I LOVE FRANCE!
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Last year, I read a very good French novel translated in English as The Elegance of the Hedgehog. In case you are not familiar yet with that book, I encourage you to click on this link to read my review of it.
The characters were so well developed that I even nominated the hedgehog herself, Renée the superintendent, or “concierge” as we call it in French (hmm, another case where French words are used in English with a different meaning) as my most favorite character of novels I read in 2010. See my yearly recap here if you wish.
And then I discovered a movie had been made out of the book. When I saw the trailer, I knew it had to be very good as well, and I could not wait to watch it.
The movie is now in the Chicagoland, and I was fortunate to watch it last week.
Here is the official synopsis:
Three neighbors who live in a middle-class apartment building in central Paris have an unexpected encounter: Paloma, a fearsomely intelligent and suicidal 11-year-old girl; Renee Michel, an unobtrusive, solitary and erudite superintendent; and the enigmatic Kakuro Ozu, a Japanese man who shakes up social conventions.
This sounds a bit flat, but it’s good not to give too much away.
This is so good! The movie captures really the essence of the book, the characters are as rich and whimsical.
There are even some little touches proper to the movie I believe, but that fit perfectly: for instance, at the very end of the movie, when Renée goes out to take care of the trash, she realizes when she lives her apartment that she had left the door to her library open. So she goes back to lock it, with a smile. This is a superb detail, I don’t remember this being in the book, but I may be wrong about that. It’s a great detail, because for the first time ever, Renée had not instinctively locked her own rich and private world to the outside, and her own personality and her façade are starting to become one and the same, a nice sign of her openness, fruit of her relationship with young Paloma and sweet Kakuro.
I thought it was a great movie on the deeper meaning of life, focused on how relationship can be the golden thread of our otherwise non-eventful daily lives.
I highly recommend it.
The subtitles are good for the most part, just a few things left out, but when you know subtitle translators can only work with a set number of characters per shot, this is terribly difficult to really do a perfect job.