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June 2017

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06MAY17: Their Finest, Greenwich Picturehouse
WW2 comedy/drama/romance set in propaganda film industry.
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18MAY17: Tchaikovsky, excerpts from Swan Lake; Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto #2; Shosyakovich, Symphony #6, Cadogan Hall. Moscow Philharmonic cond. Yuri Simonov; Freddy Klempf, piano
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19MAY17: Here She Comes, By Jove, Gallery on the Corner
A feminist take on Bacchae in the form of an epic poemRead more... )

20MAY17: Snatched, Greenwich Picturehouse
"Putting the 'fun' back into 'non-refundable'." Oh, if only ... Read more... )

23MAY17: Full Circle, Theatre N16
Clytemnestra, Queen of the Damned, is in hell: so are Phaedra, Medea and Helen. Read more... )

28MAY17: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge, Odeon, Greenwich

28MAY17: Iron Maiden / Shinedown, O2, Greenwich
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31MAY17: KISS, O2, Greenwich
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04-DEC-16: Tchaikovsky - excerpts from Eugene Onegin, Swan Lake, Nutcracker: RFH
Veronika Dzhioeva, soprano, has a fantastic loud clear voice that was perfectly audible from the cheap seats behind the orchestra. Tommi Hakala, as Onegin, slid and flowed through the orchestra to face her. Jac van Steen, conducting, clearly really enjoyed the Swan Lake excerpts, which were joyous though a bit heavy on the brass/percussion. I loved the Swan Lake finale especially, and still find the Nutcracker rather tedious.

05-DEC-16: Arrival, Greenwich Picture House
A late contender for my Best Film of Year. Beautiful, understated, intelligent. I need to see this again, as it took me a while to get to grips with the non-sequentiality.

09-DEC-16: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Greenwich Picture House.
That is: yes, great CGI; Redmayne rather sweet; Twenties New York (though oddly monoracial) nicely filmed; er; that's it. Did not engage me.

11-DEC-16: Status Quo, O2
Hurrah for my lovely employers and their box at the O2! We knew nearly all the songs; were surprised by the energy and enthusiasm of the band, who played for nearly 2 hours; were, for a change, among the younger members of the audience. A good night out.

15-DEC-16: Rogue One, Barbican Cinema
Need to see this again as I was suffering from a surfeit of boozy Christmas lunch. Definitely wasn't in the right mood -- and some scenes were far too close to the news footage from Aleppo that I'd been watching that morning.

20-DEC-16: The Three Kings -- The Sixteen, Cadogan Hall
A varied selection of seasonal songs, from Palestrina and Handl (not Handel) to popular carols. I think I'd have been happier if they'd stuck to the older, more classical songs -- I enjoyed the Palestrina most, either because of the Latin (not listening to words helps me focus on music) or because of the harmonies. Also, could have done with knowing the year of composition of each piece, to build up a relative chronology.

The Sixteen were on excellent form: the phrase 'ceasing never' in 'We Three Kings' felt like a doom in and of itself. Warlock's 'Bethlehem Down' had, for me, a distinctly modern feel, with sprung rhythm and grace-notes in the bass line. And Anerio's Magnificat -- written in 1614, apparently, so my note 'earlier than Bach?' is accurate -- was a delight: echoes of the Coventry Carol and of Pergolesi.
Brief reviews this month, due to November. Click the links to see what other people thought, and more details about performances etc.

07-OCT-16: Don Giovanni, English National Opera
Utterly splendid production, which managed to introduce a twist! Several twists, actually, including Donna Anna being complicit in her own seduction: I'm not sure this entirely makes sense. Beautifully staged, too: a highlight was Masetto, perfectly silhouetted by stark light, tipping over one of the two figures on his wedding cake. Maybe a new translation of the libretto? I'd surely have remembered 'let my peasant eat my pheasant' ...

15-OCT-16: The Libertine, Theatre Royal
I know this play quite well, having seen it performed live at least once (maybe this performance) as well as owning the DVD of the film starring Johnny Depp. There were a couple of innovations (or possibly things I misremembered) in the Theatre Royal version: I was especially taken by the theatre scene ('play within a play', ha) near the beginning, where it became obvious why Restoration actors relied so much on exaggerated gestures and poses: their audiences made such a racket, there was little chance of anyone hearing the actors declaiming their lines.
Sadly, Dominic Cooper didn't really work as Rochester, at least not for me. He lacked not only the charisma, but the requisite air of danger: and it never felt as though he actually enjoyed the company of his friends, or felt like one of a group. In this production, Billy Downs wasn't central enough, so Rochester's friendship with and abandonment of him lacked impact.
The Theatre Royal is a beautiful building, and this play still makes me laugh: but it could have been better.

21-OCT-16: Bach - Mass in B Minor, Milton Court
'Like being wrapped in a velvet devore shawl," I wrote, '(and slowly smothered?)' The slower movements were beautiful, if ... relaxing: but oh, baroque brass and kettle-drums! The Gloria and the Sanctus Spiritus both sparked exclamation marks in my notebook. The sheer attack on the Resurrexit was like electricity going through the room. And the gradual slowing at the end of the final movement worked very well.
Milton Hall, which is part of the Guildhall School for Music and Drama, is smaller than the Barbican's main concert hall and has great acoustics: I like it, and hope to see more concerts there.

22-OCT-16: Welcome to Night Vale, London Palladium
Not nearly as many women in the audience as the last show I attended. And it didn't seem, from my sparse notes, to appeal to me as much either. Some interesting lines, but the show's accomplishment was the slow build of Cecil's ghost story. Excellent opening act Eliza Rickman: I loved her cover of Let's Dance and recognised the chords before she started to sing.

25-OCT-16: Doctor Strange, Odeon Leicester Square
Not very far up my ranked list of MCU films: it's visually spectacular, but the character arcs don't make much sense, and Cumberbatch is an oddly uninteresting Strange. (Or perhaps Strange is uninteresting? Compare and contrast to the first Iron Man film for how to introduce a new, engaging character.) Some nice lines: 'What's this?' asks Strange in a Tibetan hideaway. 'My mantra?' 'The wi-fi password.' I liked Stan Lee's cameo, reading The Doors of Perception. Tilda Swinton: awesome as ever. The best bit was the first credits scene. Also, is that a new Marvel title sequence? Does not want.

Cultural April

May. 4th, 2016 09:44 pm
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
03-APR-16: Brahms, Beethoven, Elgar (Nikolai Lugansky - piano; Yuri Temirkanov - conductor) - RFH

Beethoven's Coriolan overture seemed a little slow, a little hesitant. Brahms Piano Concerto #1 was utterly glorious (as ever). I hear something new every time I hear a live performance. This time around I noted that this is piano as percussion: something you hit. And the piano had evolved massively since Beethoven's day ... also a scale in 3rd movement that may have been borrowed by Holst. From where we were sitting I couldn't see Lugansky's hands (was surprised how much I missed that) and occasionally the piano was drowned out by brass. But yes, glorious, and jubilant.

Second half was Elgar Enigma variations. Still not a fan, though I can see they are fun and clever. I wondered if the mystery 'hidden melody' might be 'Lilliburlero': if so, nobody else has ever noticed, so it seems unlikely.

11-APR-16: Harry, by Caitlin McEwan -- N16 Theatre, the Bedford, Balham

A play about being a fan (in this instance a fan of Harry Styles from One Direction) and the intense friendships that fandom can foster. Harry focusses on Caitlin and Sophie, who meet at university and share an obsession with Mr Styles. But Sophie moves on ...

It didn't seem to me to be a play about fandom -- there was no sense of a wider fannish community, no mention of Tumblr or fanfic or meetups, just the two of them stalking Harry Styles via Twitter. It's more about obsession and evolving / failing friendship than it is about the fannish experience. But is that just because I don't recognise my own experience?

Excellent acting from Poor Michelle, in the persons of Cailin McEwan and Sophie McQuillan: sharp and funny and well-observed.

14-APR-16: 'The Italian Job' (Italian Baroque music) -- La Serenissima, Cadogan Hall

Quite a few pieces here that I wasn't familiar with, enlivened by brief introductions from Adrian Chandler. I learnt that Albinoni's famous Adagio is likely a 20th-century forgery, and observed that the proportions of a Baroque orchestra's string section are different to those of a modern syphony orchestra's. Especially liked Torelli's Sinfonia for Practically Everything [free translation] which confirmed my suspicion that Baroque brass is what really grabs my attention. Though Vivaldi's Concerta alla Rustica was also fab.

23-APR-16: Doctor Faustus (Marlowe, with modern interruptions from Colin Teevan), Duke of York's

I'm not sure I would have had the nerve to call this Doctor Faustus -- Marlowe's glorious text frames a comparatively trite and facile centre section, in which Faustus becomes a rock star or possibly a stage magician. There are some clever bits, and some interesting alterations (Wagner and Mephistopheles both female, as was Valdes; Faustus' book a Mac; pre-show soundtrack of songs about hell and the devil): but there is also gratuitous nudity, murder, rape and coprophagia.

Kit Harington was surprisingly good in the title role: Jenna Russell was outstanding as Mephistopheles (complete with a rendition of 'Bat out of Hell'). But I can't say that it was, on average, an enjoyable performance. As one of my companions pithed, "Less than the sum of its parts."

28-APR-16: Captain America: Civil War
no spoilers )
11-MAR - Norma (Bellini) -- English National Opera

Glorious music, sublime indifference to historical fact. Gaul, circa 50BC. Norma is a Druid priestess, who worships Inmirsul [a Saxon deity, here represented quite authentically by a large tree-trunk, albeit not in its erect state] and believes the Romans will be leaving soon. (True, give or take four centuries.) She is in love with a Roman proconsul, Pollione: but he has traded her in for a younger model, Analgesic Adalgisa -- also a priestess. When Pollione is recalled to Rome, guess who he plans to take with him? Norma is not happy. But she does a selfless brave thing.

Very much enjoyed, and thanks to A for taking our spare ticket and bringing us a bottle of wine for the box!

12-MAR - Hail Caesar!

This was immense fun, even for someone like me who has a poor memory for faces. Gosh, that was Christopher Lambert. And Dolph Lundgren. And ... and ... Gosh, Professor Marcuse. I have heard of him.

The plot is basically 'man has to choose between hard-but-fun job or cushy boring job'. George Clooney is brilliantly stupid; Alden Ehrenreich is hilarious as a star of Westerns thrust into a society drama; gosh, Channing Tatum can certainly dance (and what an interesting take).

Yes, it trivialises the anti-Communist witchhunts, and there's a bit of period-typical homophobia (part of it plot-related, e.g. the threatened outing of an actor; part of it not, e.g. the fact that the villain is a homosexual). But it celebrates the myth of the golden age of Hollywood, and has fun recreating thinly-disguised classics such as Ben Hur, On the Town, Shine on Harvest Moon and Million Dollar Mermaid.

13-MAR - Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution -- National Maritime Museum

Using Pepys as a starting point, this exhibition brought together a great many artifacts from the 17th century, and included some audiovisual items: a painting of the execution of Charles I, with areas highlighted as the narrative progressed; a theatrical section with readings from Shakespeare; an animation of the progress of the Great Fire. There wasn't as much about Pepys' own life as I'd have liked, and more about his marriage (happy) than any of his extracurricular affairs. This being the Maritime Museum, they got into their stride with his connections to the Navy. Gosh, a chain link such as would have been used in Pepys' time ... Very nicely done, though. I was accompanied by a friend who asked me about the history of the period: I recommended she read Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver -- and when we reached the gift shop at the end, there it was.

18-MAR - Scriabin, late Poemes (James Kreiling) Peckham Asylum

Well, I went to this concert suspecting that I didn't like late Scriabin, and I came away confirmed in my belief. I could perceive glimmers of structure and sequence, but I didn't understand the music at all. By way of contrast, Kreiling finished with an earlier piece, and I felt I had more of a handle on that. So: still unappreciative of late-period Scriabin, but it was a very impressive performance by a gifted musician. Also, the venue was astounding: lots of peeling and faded paint, stained-glass windows, tealights and bare bulbs, broken masonry. Photo here.
03-FEB - Nightwatchers, Tower of London.
Immersive theatre/experience: we put on headphones, switched on the provided mobile phones, and followed directions around the Tower of London and through a history of espionage, terrorism and dissent. I ended up doing this twice with different friends! An excellent opportunity to soak up the Tower's atmosphere after dark; no interaction with strangers required; some interesting, though occasionally heavy-handed, parallels between C16 Catholics and C21 Islamists.

08-FEB - Dixit Dominus (Handel) -- The Sixteen, Cadogan Hall
Thrilling music beautifully performed. I'm still tending Haydn-wards but this was lovely.

10-FEB - Deadpool, Leicester Square
Fun, hyperviolent, fourth-wall-destroying, surprisingly feminist (or, rather, less mysogynist than a lot of superhero movies). It absolutely does tie into the MCU: look at where the climactic battle takes place ...

13-FEB - St Matthew Passion (J S Bach) St Albans Cathedral
A dramatised performance in the round, with James Gilchrist as the Evangelist: I was initially a little dubious, but the minimalist staging and glorious sound worked very well together. Side note: not sure why St Albans feels so far away. But it does.

20-FEB - Common Property -- Jerwood Space, London
Art about copyright, reuse, mashups and fanworks. Could have done with more explanatory info in the gallery itself, rather than in the official programme. Some interesting ideas and some impenetrable executions. Thought-provoking.

27-FEB - Historical Fictions Research Network Conference, ARU, Cambridge
The first HFRN conference (to which I probably shouldn't have gone, given werk overload and February fatigue). Some really interesting items-- highlights for me included papers on Naomi Mitchison, Doctor Who, creative anachronism in genre painting; Debbie Challis on working with the ENO on Akhenaten; Greer Gilman interviewed by Nick Lowe.
Gosh, I used to blog daily. How...?

Beethoven - Symphony #9 -- Warsaw Philharmonic, Cadogan Hall, 20-May-15
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'Alternative Worlds' - Elizabeth Knox and Janine Matthewson -- Kings College London, 31-May-15

"Fiction is the great god of the world of feeling ... the lies that we tell to tell the truth truer."

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Waiting for Godot, Barbican Theatre, 9-Jun-15
Mostly booked this because of the two leads: Richard Roxburgh as Estragon, Hugo Weaving as Vladimir. [Why yes, it is in my calendar as 'Waiting for Elrond and Dracula'.] Read more... )

Jurassic World, Odeon Greenwich, 12-Jun-15

No, this is not a feminist movie in the slightest. A strong, intelligent female is shunned and isolated, and when she escapes from her situation she is hunted down like an animalRead more... )

Oresteia, Almeida Theatre, 15-Jun-15

"Forewarned is forearmed, not forestalled."

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Beethoven - Fidelio Overture / Piano Concerto #3 / Symphony #5, Dresden Philharmonic (conductor: Sanderling) & Freddy Kempf, Cadogan Hall, 18-Jun-15

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Beethoven - Prometheus Overture / Piano Concerto #5, Dresden Philharmonic (conductor: Sanderling) & Freddy Kempf, Cadogan Hall, 22-Jun-15

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To Kill a Mockingbird, Barbican Theatre, 11-Jul-15

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Ant-Man, Cineworld West India Quay, 17-Jul-15

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1. The Indian Queen -- Purcell (sort of), ENO, 28 Feb 2015

Purcell's half-an-opera has been wrenched by Peter Sellars from the Dryden play it accompanies, reimagined, reenvisaged and really not my thing. I love Purcell for his triumphant choral pieces and wit: I found neither here. The leads were excellent; the art was interesting; the music wasn't offensive, if not as lively as I'd hoped. But the parts didn't fit together, and I was often at a loss as to what the heck was going on. (Especially after a bathroom break, when -- prevented from returning to Our Box -- I had to sit at the back where I couldn't see the surtitles.) The Indian Queen is a mashup of Mayan creation myth, colonial oppression narrative, romance (some of the novel excerpts read aloud were quite ... explicit: I do not wish to hear the word 'thrust' in this context), pastede-on-yay bits of poetry, non-linear sequence.

Guardian review here
article from New York Times about Madrid reception here
Mary Beard liked it more than I did

2. Jupiter Ascending (3D), Odeon, 01 March 2015

In contrast this was immense fun. Yes, pure space opera, with waaaaay too many chase / fight scenes and Sean Bean being quite hammy. And it's rather ... disjointed, or possibly just overambitiously trying to shove too many genres / moods into 2 hours. But it has an interesting female protagonist with agency (she even makes the first move in the inevitable romantic liaison); an excellent soundtrack that I liked much more than most Marvel soundtracks; some splendid scenes ('worth the price of admission,' said my companion early on, as Jupiter's moons -- the planet's, not Jupiter Jones' -- whirled across the screen); some delightfully dastardly villains; plenty of daft not-actually-science; a genetically-modified soldier who's effectively a werewolf; and several outstanding performances, including Eddie Redmayne and Maria Doyle Kennedy.

Oh, and it has Terry Gilliam in it.

Guardian review: 'absolute nonsense'. Yes, and your point is ...? That review does end with the marvellous line 'delivered with a “petite-mort” look on his face that suggests he is being fellated by eternity itself.'
Gosh, this paid-employment lark (plus an ev0l commute) doesn't leave me much time to be Me ... but job is good and so will money be. And being back in London (kinda sorta) is Fab.

Electra [Old Vic, 28-Oct-14]Read more... )

Beethoven Coriolan overture, Liszt Piano Concerto #2, Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique [conductor Tugan Sokhiev, piano Khatia Buniatishvili: Royal Festival Hall, 30-Oct-14]Read more... )

Necropolis [Waterloo Station, 31-Oct-14]Read more... )

Interstellar [Curzon Victoria, 07-Nov-14]Read more... )
I was fascinated by the idea of Angelina Jolie as archetypal fairytale villain: I didn't expect such a delightful, witty, feminist story.spoilers )

Suspect I'd have got more out of the film if I'd been familiar with the original Sleeping Beauty film: but I didn't feel I was missing anything essential. Maleficent is a beautiful film, Jolie is a thoroughly compelling presence, and the story is an enthralling remix of the traditional fairy tale, with a happy ending that doesn't require a handsome prince.
I enjoyed X-Men: First Class immensely (not least because of the McAvoy / Fassbender on-screen chemistry); Days of Future Past didn’t work quite as well for me, slightly spoilery review )
Locke on IMDB

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) abandons his job to drive from Manchester (I think) to London for 'family reasons'. En route, in his shiny BMW, he makes and receives a number of phone calls. The end.

For a film with no action, that's effectively a monologue, there was a lot of tension. Tom Hardy (complete with Welsh accent) carried it off admirably.

discussion of character(isation) )

Morals of this story:
1. Do not get in a car with Ivan Locke. You will not feel safe. A certain amount of the tension, for me, was derived from his repeated lapses of attention. I do not think he was in a fit state to drive.
2. Do not go to Croydon. Bad things happen in Croydon.
(oh, and 3. Do not go to this film expecting a thriller. You will be disappointed.)
I expected to like this film. I didn't expect to like it as much as I did.

Non-spoilery reasons why I loved it:
- twistiness, including the twisty way the trailers were edited. The gritty smoke-and-mirrors flavour reminded me of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
- ultra-competent women (yep, plural) who aren't anyone's love interest.
- character development.
- divergence from comics canon.
- little details (mostly references to other parts of Marvel Cinematic Universe).
- grand scale.
- no raccoons

There are some excellent performances, too. And two post-credits trailers, one of which is OMGWTF. (Also, the end credits are a work of art in their own right.)

And it's an excellent movie choice if you have Plague a severe cough, as there are -- spoiler! -- plenty of loud bits.
Somewhere in contemporary Eastern Europe, a young woman adds a hotel key to those already adorning the memorial of a famous writer.

Cut to 1985, when the famous writer (played by Tom Wilkinson) is filming an interview about his work.

Cut to 1968, when the famous writer (now rather younger and played by Jude Law) arrives at a run-down hotel somewhere in the Soviet Bloc. He meets an elderly man (F. Murray Abraham) who, it turns out, is the owner of the hotel. They have dinner, and the proprietor tells the writer about his youth as a lobby boy --Read more... )
When I saw the trailer for this, I wondered how anyone could have filmed Mark Helprin's beautiful, vague novel Winter's Tale. The answer is: badly. Or, as Caro put it, 'travesty'.

Colin Farrell is surprisingly good as Peter Lake; the setting (New York and its surrounds, 1916 and 2014) is lovely; the music did not offend me (and Beverly Penn's rendition of Brahms was fab). ... There, that's the positive stuff over with.

Some of the problems [spoilery, but really: read this instead of seeing the film]:Read more... )
I am very happy to report that we did not actually pay to see A New York Winter's Tale, due to free vouchers from some offer or other. Still, that's hours of my life I will never get back.
A vampire film with Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton? There was never any doubt that I was going to see this -- and I wasn't disappointed. It is a beautiful film, full of circles and light and gorgeous ruin. more, maybe spoilery )
On first seeing the trailer, I decided that this film would be nightmare fuel and overly harrowing. I was right. I spent most of the film clutching the hand of my companion and occasionally shaking. (The notion of endlessly falling in emptiness has distressed me since early childhood. No idea why.)

But ... )
1. This Means War (2012), Cineworld, 14.02.12.
Disclaimer: I saw this film because Tom Hardy is in it. And he is very good, easily Best in Show: it's fascinating to see him pull off rom-com as capably as his other recent roles. Also, he clearly had immense fun filming it.

At one point in this film, Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) accuses FDR (Chris Pine) of having "the emotional intelligence of a 15-year-old boy". Noooo! It's the film she's talking about! And seriously, if you view This Means War as a rom-com targetting 15-year-old males, it's a pretty good film: no tedious character development, no backstory, a love interest who wears short skirts and is game for a day's paintballing, a voyeur mentality and some deep-grained sexism.

Though, come to think of it, it might actually pass the Bechdel test.

Anyway, I confess to enjoying it a great deal on a superficial and non-analytic level. Explosions! Tom Hardy! Car chases! Tom Hardy! Action sequences! Tom ...

2. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (2010), DVD, 18.02.12
There's a steampunk vibe to this movie, though very little in the way of alternate technologies or brass / steam / glass devices. No airships, either. But there is a pterodactyl, a mummy or two and a freak tennis accident.

Paris, 1911: Adele Blanc-Sec is young, but already famed and feted as an archaeologist. Sent by her publishers to Peru to investigate I-forget-what, we first meet her in a desert with the other sort of pyramids: never especially biddable, Adele has a mission of her own that involves robbing a tomb. Cue swashbuckling antics worthy of Indiana Jones. But the fun really starts when she returns to Paris, where a pterodactyl is terrorising the population and driving the police quite mad.

This was immensely good fun, very funny, and nicely constructed. It gets extra points for managing a happy ending that doesn't involve Adele undergoing any personality transplant.

3. L'Atalante (1934), Arts Picturehouse, 19.02.12
This is the France my father grew up in, and he may well have seen this film as a boy. It may even have been an influence: after all, he grew up to be a moderately solitary man who loved messing around in boats, acquiring things that needed fixing, and adopting stray cats. (It's not the protagonist of the film, Jean, who displays these traits: it's the considerably more likeable Pere Jules.)

My father also married my mother and took her away on his boat*, just as Jean, skipper of the barge L'Atalante, weds Juliette and whisks her away from the village where she's lived all her life. She's mad keen to go to Paris, but Jean is fiercely protective (and extremely jealous) and pretty much forbids her to have any fun after she's the target of aggressive flirting from a charming pedlar. Cue heartbreak, and Pere Jules to the rescue.

Charming, and evocative: also a fascinating window into pre-war French cinematography.

* (Not actually in that order.)