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French films review - May 2019

A critical eye on the latest ciné releases. This month: The red collar, and The Mystery of Henri Pick

The Red Collar, Jean Becker; 83 mins

The highly-regarded source material for this post-First World War drama is the Prix Goncourt-winning novella by Jean-Christophe Rufin (a founder of Médecins Sans Frontières), and the film adaptation is true to the book’s poetic feel and its themes of ideology and conviction, pride and loyalty. It is based on a true story.

The titular red collar (Le Collier Rouge in French) is worn by a constantly barking dog who sits outside a disused army barracks where his owner is being held prisoner (Morlac, played by Nicolas Duvauchelle) for an undisclosed crime.

The year is 1919, the summer is hot, and the air hangs heavy in the otherwise silent streets. The annoyed guard (François Cluzet) watching over the prisoner tries to quieten the dog by lobbing stones but keeps missing, and even considers firing off a round, but thinks it improper during peace time.

Slowly we discover the soldier’s wartime activities, driven by political passion, and the film’s drama comes from the dissection of the effects of these actions rather than the events themselves.

An interrogating officer arrives and it becomes clear that much resentment remains between the classes over the War’s horrors. As for the dog, it emerges as the true image of fidelity...

Also out: 

The Mystery of Henri Pick

A splendid manuscript by Breton chef Henri Pick is discovered. But the chef died two years earlier, and there is talk of a sham. So Pick’s daughter and a literary critic investigate... Fun mystery-comedy.

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