Category Archives: Film

*French Film Competition 2018 – Results!*

This was the eighth year of Oxford University’s highly popular French Film Competition, where secondary school pupils are invited to watch selected French films according to their age category (Years 7-11 or Years 12-13) and produce an alternative ending of their own devising. The 2018 film selection was Une vie de chat (Years 7-11) and Des Hommes et des Dieux (Years 12-13). As in previous years, the competition attracted a large number of entries: over 140, from more than 50 different schools.

The judges were greatly encouraged by both the strength and the diversity of this year’s field of applications. There was a notable increase in the number of video clips and storyboard submissions, and overall a great amount of creativity was on display; in both age categories, students channelled their energies into elaborate film scripts and imaginative essays. Many entrants showed commendable French language skills. Shortlisting was a difficult task, with fine margins separating the winners from many other pieces that showed impressive talent. The most successful entries managed to develop plot and character convincingly from the tone established in earlier scenes, picking up smoothly from the set starting-point, with compelling dialogue and plausibly innovative action, all within the specified limit of 1500 words.

In the Years 7-11 category, the joint winning entries were those of Priya Gurcha and Ethan Ross et al. Priya produced a dazzlingly illustrated storyboard that closely reflected the style of the original dessin animé, and caught the judges up in its alternative high-octane conclusion. Meanwhile Ethan and his team produced a very well sequenced, French-language film clip in which comic touches built to a gripping, poignant ending. The runner-up in this category was Sarah Shah with an imaginative and beautifully detailed screenplay, demonstrating convincing psychological development – complete with flashbacks – and a truly cinematic perspective. Highly commended by the judges are Auj Abbas and Daeun Shin. Commendations also go to Joshua Brookes, Kelly Chae, Ananya Ajit, Sofia Ispahani, Tyla Orton, Scarlet Somerville, and Bruno de Almeida Barreto .

In the older age category (Years 12-13) the winner is Florence Smith for her stunningly original ending to Des hommes et des Dieux. This well researched script reconsidered the legacy of the Tibhirine monks via a contemporary newsflash, allowing Florence to reflect on the viability of the monks’ Christian charity and respect for Muslims in France today. Runner-up is Peace Silly, who impressed the judges with her inventive re-imagining of the plot’s outcome, developed around the crux of the supply of medicines, and especially touching in its focus on the friendship between Frère Christophe and Rabbia. In this category, Max Thomas and Trinity Mae Dore-Thomas are highly commended, while commendations go to John John de Weert, Will Foxton, Maya Szaniecki, Georgia Brawne, Martin Christopherson, and Clementine Lussiana.

Some further notes from the judges on the overall field of entries for individual films follow below:

Une vie de chat: a contemporary classic by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, it received over a hundred submissions. At least twenty of these were worthy of consideration for a commendation, with the lower end of the age range (7-9) faring strongly. There was an abundance of entertaining entries that majored on a roof-top fight, shoot-out, car chase and/or tragic death of one of the ‘goodies’. Various entries swapped Notre-Dame for the Eiffel Tower when setting the final showdown between Nico and Costa. The zoo also crept back into several entries. More than one hit upon the idea that Nico might be Zoe’s father (one film clip even had him being magically transformed into the cat!). The most convincing entries were those that managed to engage all the major characters in a plausibly dynamic climax – without losing the quirkiness of the original.

Des Hommes et des Dieux: this is a demanding film that requires considerable background cultural knowledge (or research) in order to be best appreciated. Pleasingly, a number of entries showed exactly this, some quoting the Bible and Arabic phrases to evoke the mind-set of the French monks and the Algerians with whom they mix. We received a good number of entries in a high standard of French. A key challenge here for the students was to develop one or two unusual ideas without introducing implausible characterisation (particularly of Christian). Some entries were beautifully written, but ended up keeping close to the actual ending with the monks’ execution.

We hope you all enjoyed watching the films and working on your entries, and hope you will continue to pursue your interest in French cinema and culture!

— The Competition Judges

Look out – it’s our Virtual Book Club!

Last month, the Modern Languages Faculty at Oxford launched our virtual book club. For all you bookworms out there, this is a chance to engage more with literature beyond your school curriculum, and in languages other than English.

Each month we will focus on a different language but will always provide the text in translation, as well as in the original language. At the start of the month, we will circulate the texts chosen, which will be poems or short prose extracts, by email. At the end of the month we will upload a video discussion of the text with some of our academics and undergraduates.

The first episode focussed on a passage from the Russian novel The Naked Year, by Boris Pilnyak. It is available below. To receive a copy of the text or to sign up for future episodes, email us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk with your name and school.

Language Competitions: French film and Spanish fiction!

We have just launched our annual competitions in French and Spanish. Details are below. If you have any questions please contact schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk. We look forward to reading your entries! Bonne chance! ¡mucha suerte!

Spanish Flash Fiction Competition

Did you know that the shortest story in Spanish is only seven words long? Here it is:
‘Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí’ (Augusto Monterroso, “El dinosaurio”).

Write a story in Spanish of not more than 100 words, and send it to schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk by noon on Friday 30th March 2018 with your name, age and year group, and the name and address of your school. A first prize of £100 will be awarded to the winning entry in each category (Years 7-11 and 12-13), with runner-up prizes of £25. The judges will be looking for creativity and imagination as well as good Spanish! The winning entries will be published on our website.

French Film Competition

The Department of French at Oxford University is looking for budding film enthusiasts in Years 7-11 and 12-13 to embrace the world of French cinema. To enter the competition, students in each age group are asked to re-write the ending of a film in no more than 1500 words. You can work in English or French. We won’t give extra credit to entries written in French – this is an exercise in creativity, rather than a language test! – but we do encourage you to give writing in French a go if you’re tempted, and we won’t penalize entries in French for any spelling or grammar mistakes.

The judges are looking for plausible yet imaginative new endings, picking up the story from the point specified (see below). There are no restrictions as to the form the entry might take: screen-play, play-script, prose, prose with illustrations. We’d also love to see filmed entries (e.g. on YouTube): feel free to experiment!

For the 2018 competition we have chosen the following films for each age bracket:

  • Years 7-11: Une vie de chat (2010, dir. Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol)
  • Years 12-13: Des Hommes et des dieux (2010, dir. Xavier Beauvois)

A first prize of £100 will be awarded to the winning student in each age group, with runner-up prizes of £25.

Your re-writing must pick up where the film leaves off, from the following points:

  • Une vie de chat: from 49:20, when Nico says: ‘Allez, accroche-toi bien Zoë’.
  • Des Hommes et des dieux: from 1:38:50, where Christian says ‘J’ai longtemps repensé à ce moment-là…’

Here are the trailers, to give you a taster:

 

DO’S AND DON’TS!

  • DO keep to the word limit (1500 words)! Going over will lead to disqualification.
  • DO use your imagination, and present your re-writing in any format you like – essay, screenplay, short film, storyboard, etc…. There is nothing stopping you from watching the ‘real’ ending and then modifying it as you see fit. Indeed, you might find this helpful. We’re looking for creative, entertaining and inventive new endings, which address as fully and plausibly as possible the strands of the story that are left unresolved at the end-points we’ve specified above.
  • DO send in (through your teacher) individually named submissions. If you work in a group, the entry must still be sent under one name only: this is just to ensure as much as possible parity and fairness between entries, and to avoid any distinction between smaller and larger groups. There is a limit of 10 entries per school per age group.
  • DO make sure you give your teacher enough time to approve and forward your submission!
  • DON’T worry about which language you write in – and if you write in French (which we encourage, if you would like to), remember we do not penalise grammatical errors or spelling mistakes.
  • DON’T forget to include a filled-in cover-sheet, signed by your teacher. Without this, your entry will not be judged.
  • DON’T worry if you’re at the lower end of your age-range (especially Years 7 and 8). We particularly encourage entries from younger students, and we’ll take your age into account when judging your entry.

Where can I or my school/college get hold of the films?

The DVDs are readily and affordably available via Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk or http://www.amazon.fr). The films may also be available through legal streaming services (e.g. Amazon Prime, Google Play, or Blinkbox).

How do I send in my entry?

We’d like all your school’s entries to be submitted via your teacher please. Ask your teacher to attach your entries to an email, along with a cover sheet, which you can download here, and send it to french.essay@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk by noon on 31st March 2018. NB, to avoid missing the deadline, we suggest that you aim to give your teacher your entry and completed cover sheet by 24th March at the latest.

Good luck!

Entre les murs (The Class): What does the teacher call his students?

posted by Simon Kemp

(This is the fifth post in an occasional series asking and answering a key question about the books and films on the A-level French syllabus. You can find the others by clicking the ‘A-level texts’ tag at the end of this post.)

Entre les murs (The Class) is a 2008 film about a class of teenagers in an inner-city Paris school and their teacher, M. Marin. It stars François Bégaudeau as the teacher, who also wrote the screenplay, adapted from a novel he wrote inspired by his own teaching experiences.

If you don’t know the film, here’s a subtitled version of the trailer:

The turning point in the film, and one of the most dramatic moments in the story, centres on a single word. Since the start of the film, M. Marin has had a teasing, sometimes slightly mocking attitude towards the students, which has been met with a healthy disrespect coming back at him. On this day, though, he pushes things too far and openly insults two of his students. A line has been crossed, the class is in uproar, and there will be serious consequences for teacher and pupils alike.

To set the scene: Esmerelda and Louise are the class representatives, who, as part of their role, get to sit in on teachers’ meetings. The previous day they attended such a meeting and annoyed M. Marin with their whispering and giggling. Today in class he discovers that they have passed on sensitive information from the meeting to their classmates, including some negative remarks he made about one of them. As the mood in the class turns mutinous and M. Marin gets increasingly flustered, he starts to criticise the two girls for how they behaved during the meeting, and the following exchange occurs:

Louise : Mais nous, on a fait juste notre rôle, hein, rien de plus !

Esmerelda : On dit ce qui s’est passé au conseil de classe.

M. Marin : Ouais, bien sûr, ouais. Je n’avais pas cette impression-là, moi. Quand je vous ai vues ricaner là, un moment pendant le conseil, moi j’ai eu un peu mal, ouais ? Ça m’a fait un peu mal pour vous.

Esmerelda : Ah, bon ?

M. Marin : Et j’ai trouvé que c’était ni le lieu ni le moment de le faire. Et que c’était pas très sérieux pour tout dire, d’accord ?

Esmerelda : Ouais, ben, ça dérangeait personne en tout cas.

M. Marin : Ah, mais si ! Si, si. Ah, non, non, non, non, non. Moi, ça me dérangeait, et je crois en plus pouvoir dire que ça dérangeait des autres aussi.

Esmerelda : Non, non, non. Ça dérangeait que vous.

M. Marin : Si, si. Moi, je suis désolé, mais rire comme ça en plein conseil de classe, c’est ce que j’appelle une attitude de pétasses.

Louise : Quoi ?

Esmerelda : Eh, mais vous pétez un câble ou quoi ?

What did he just call them? Here’s how the English subtitles translate the dialogue:

We’re just doing our job. / Yeah.

We say what happens at the staff meeting.

Yes, of course.

I didn’t get that feeling

When I saw you two giggling, I felt bad.

I felt bad for you.

Really? / It was not the time or the place to giggle.

That’s not responsible.

Well, it didn’t bother anyone.

Yes, it did.

It bothered me and the others as well. / No way.

To giggle during a meeting like that is behaving like a slut.

What?

Are you out of your mind?

The English insult in the subtitles certainly works in the film. It would believably trigger the student outrage against the teacher and the disciplinary proceedings that follow. But is it right?

When they come to talk about the insult later on, the student and the teacher have very different ideas about what the word means:

 

Esmerelda : Déjà, pour moi, pétasse, ça veut dire prostituée.

M. Marin : Une pétasse, c’est une fille pas maligne qui ricane bêtement.

 

And dictionaries also disagree. The Petit Robert defines pétasse as :

prostituée  [employé le plus souvent comme injure]

while Le Dictionnaire de la Zone, which specializes in up-to-the-minute slang usage, says it means :

 femme d´allure vulgaire, provocante, aguichante

which, while maybe not as innocent as M. Marin’s own definition of the word, is closer to his version of it than it is to Esmerelda’s.

So it does seem that M. Marin’s insult, while it’s definitely inappropriate language for the classroom, might genuinely mean different things to different people, especially if they’re people of different ages and backgrounds like M. Marin and Esmerelda. He thinks he’s accusing Esmerelda and Louise of behaving like dumb, giggling girls; they hear him calling them prostitutes.

Pity the poor translators who had to try to get these nuances across in the English subtitles. I think we can probably agree that they didn’t quite manage it, and I think we can also probably agree that we couldn’t have managed any better if it had been up to us to do it. Sometimes there simply is no word in English that will translate the full meaning of a French one, with all its connotations and ambiguities. Lucky for us, then, that we can deal with the French words directly, without having to rely on the subtitles!

French Film Competition – The Winners

 

posted by Simon Kemp

As promised last week, here are extracts from the winning entries in our French film competition.

First, here is part of Sophie Still’s reimagining of the ending of Jean de Florette. Our judges said her new end to the story ‘both captured the mood and character of the film and dramatically reworked the ending’.

Manon is standing, holding a furry, wriggling mass in her arms. Once again, she is standing in Ugolin’s garden and once again, he is nowhere to be found. She approaches another flowerbed of plants and vegetables, crouches and sets the rabbit down in the soil.

Manon: There you are, little rabbit.

The rabbit sniffs at a bean plant and begins to nibble on a lettuce leaf.

Manon: That’s right. Feel free to eat whatever you want!

Suddenly an out-of-breath Ugolin rushes into the garden.

Ugolin: (holding up the secateurs, shouting angrily) Looking for something? How dare you destroy my flowers! Do you know how much they were worth?

Manon jumps in surprise, revealing the rabbit which is munching happily on the vegetables. He screams.

My plants! That’s it you’ve had it now!

Ugolin lunges towards the flowerbed. Manon screams and backs away quickly but he grabs the rabbit instead and dangles it by its ears.

Manon: (shouting) No! Put him down! Don’t touch my rabbit!

Ugolin: (grinning manically) But little girl, he’s not your rabbit anymore. He has come into my garden and eaten my plants – that makes him a pest, which means I’m allowed to do this…

He drops the rabbit onto the ground in front of him and snatches up the shovel that was leaning against the wall of the house. He raises it above his head.

Manon: (screaming) No! No!

Ugolin brings down the shovel and crushes the rabbit. Manon bursts into tears and screams and screams. Before he can do anything else, she dives in, scoops up the rabbit’s broken body and runs as fast as she can down the hillside. Ugolin calls after her.

Ugolin: Come back in here again and you’ll be next!

******

Manon hands the rabbit to Jean, who examines it carefully.

Jean: Oh my! Poor creature. Did a fox do this?

She wipes a tear from her eye and sniffles but does not reply. Jean picks up his shovel and begins to dig.

Jean: We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of Monsieur –

Manon: (quietly) Pierre

Jean: Monsieur Pierre who lived a short but happy life. He loved lettuce leaves and we loved him. He will be missed.

He picks up the rabbit and is placing it carefully in its deep grave when he nearly drops it in surprise.

What is this? The bottom of this grave is full of mud! But if there is mud, that must mean that there is—

Manon: (bursts out) Water!

Secondly, here is an extract from Lidija Beric’s new ending for Paris nous appartient, which the judges described as a ‘brilliant and ingenious reworking’ which ‘perfectly captures the darkness and complexity of the original’.

« Pourquoi lui as-tu dit de venir? »
Nos yeux se sont rencontrés et je l’ai vu, j’ai vu ce mélange de haine et d’amour quand il m’a regardée.
‘Terry !’
Je n’ai daigné répondre. Nous avons attendu dans le silence comme les ombres calmes au milieu d’une tempête.
Les pas faibles d’Anne ont soudain pu être écoutés et Philip a craqué. Il a crié encore « Pourquoi ? Pourquoi lâche –»
« Il est nécessaire qu’elle vienne. » Ma voix était monotone.
Les coups frappés à la porte ont transpercé l’air comme des balles.
« Ta nécessité est arrivée. » Il a craché.
« Comment oses-tu? Je n’ai rien ! Je n’ai rien sans mon enfant ! C’est toi, tu as tous ce que tu veux-»
« Tais-toi! Elle est folle, ton enfant, elle sera bientôt sur le point de mourir! Quand oublieras-tu la passé et te concentreras-tu à l’avenir ? Paris est en danger des forces étrangères. Si nous restions là sans rien faire-»
« Je vous écoute ! Terry ! » a-t-Anne poussé des cris.
Je n’ai réagi qu’en baissant ma voix. « Pourquoi penses-tu que je l’ai dit à Anne ? »
« Pas encore, évidemment-»
« Je vais lui dire maintenant. »
« Et quoi, alors ? Ce que tu as dit à Juan ? »
« Qui sait quel rôle je vais jouer aujourd’hui ?» j’ai dit énigmatiquement.
J’ai ouvert la porte pendant que Philip a disparu aux ténèbres de la pièce voisine.
« Anne. Montrez-moi. »
Anne n’a pas du tout hésité à me donner la note de suicide.
Je lui ai mené dans le salon. C’était une interprétation maintenant. J’ai allumé la platine pour que la musique de Juan puisse m’accompagner avec l’air mystérieux.
Anne a deviné tout de suite.  « C’est l’enregistrement de Juan ? »
« Qui d’autre ? » J’ai dit du ton condescendant. « Et je sais ce que vous pensez. Que j’ai trahi Gérard parce que je ne le lui ai donné pas. Ma raison était simple. Je ne pouvais pas le laisser partir. Cela aurait signifié que j’avais oublié Juan. Ma connexion avec lui était si forte que je devais garder l’enregistrement. »
« C’était quoi, votre connexion ? Que l’aviez-vous tué ? » Anne a demandé.
« Les agents de la Falange l’a tué. »
« Ce n’était pas suicide ? Mais vous lui avez dit quelque chose. Quelque chose qui l’a affecté…»
« La même chose que je vais vous dire. Maintenant. Êtes-vous prête ? C’est une vérité de la  puissance incroyable. »
« Vous avez pour but de me détruire ? »
« Ca dépend. Voudriez-vous vous asseoir ? »
Comme si elle était dans un rêve, elle est tombée dans la chaise.

We’ll launch a new competition at the same time next year, and we look forward as always to the wildly creative contributions we receive.

French Film Competition (Now with added Spanish Flash Fiction Competition!)

gasoil

posted by Jenny Oliver and Jonathan Patterson

UPDATE: For details of the Oxford Spanish Department’s new ‘Flash Fiction’ competition, see below, after the French Film Competition.

The Department of French at Oxford University is looking for budding film enthusiasts in Years 7-11 and 12-13 to embrace the world of French cinema. To enter the competition, students in each age group are asked to re-write the ending of a film in no more than 1500 words.

You can work in English or French. No additional credit will be given for writing in French, but incorrect French grammatical expression will not be penalised: this is an exercise in creativity, rather than language!

The judges are looking for plausible yet imaginative new endings. There are no restrictions as to the form the entry might take: screen-play, play-script, prose, prose with illustrations. We’d also love to see filmed YouTube entries: feel free to experiment!

For 2017 we are inviting you to choose one film, either classic or contemporary, as per your age bracket:

Years 7-11:

Jean de Florette (1986, dir. Claude Berri) [PG]

OR

MicMacs à tire-larigot (2009, dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet) [12A]
Years 12-13:

Paris nous appartient (1961, dir. Jacques Rivette)  [12]

OR

Microbe et Gasoil (2015, dir. Michel Gondry) [15]

 

To help you choose, here are the trailers.

For Jean de Florette:

For MicMacs:

For Microbe et Gasoil:

And, instead of a trailer, a scene from Paris nous appartient:

 

A first prize of £100 will be awarded to the winning student in each age group, with runner-up prizes of £25.

For further details about entering the competition (including the points in each film where we’d like you to take up the story), see the FAQs below. Each essay should be accompanied by a cover sheet.

Essays and cover sheets should be submitted by email to french.essay@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk by noon on 31st March 2017.

 

And now, a message from the Oxford Spanish department:

Spanish Flash Fiction Competition: NEW!!

Did you know that the shortest story in Spanish is only seven words long? Here it is: ‘Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí’ (Augusto Monterroso, “El dinosaurio”).

Write a story in Spanish of not more than 100 words, and send it to schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk by noon on Friday 31st March 2017 with your name, age and year group, and the name and address of your school.

A first prize of £100 will be awarded to the winning entry in each category (Years 7-11 and 12-13), with runner-up prizes of £25. The judges will be looking for creativity and imagination as well as good Spanish! The winning entries will be published on our website.

 

 

 

FAQS:

  1. What counts as ‘the ending’ of the film?

We’d like you to start your re-writing from the following points:

Paris nous appartient: from 1:52:55, when Philip asks Terry, ‘Pourquoi lui as-tu dit de venir?’

Jean de Florette: from 1:38:34, where Ugolin confronts Jean and says: ‘Monsieur Jean, il faut que je vous parle franchement…’

Micmacs from 1:16:44, when the message is relayed: ‘On lance!’, ‘On lance!,’ ‘On lance!’

Microbe et Gasoil from 1:29:23, when Microbe says ‘C’est possible de changer l’aller-retour contre deux allers, s’il vous plaît?’

  1. Does ‘re-writing’ mean I have to change everything?

There is nothing stopping you from watching the ‘real’ ending and then modifying it as you see fit. Indeed, you might find this helpful. Please note, though, that we’re looking for creative, entertaining and inventive new endings, which address as fully and plausibly as possible the strands of the story that are left unresolved at the end-points we’ve specified above.

  1. What form should the essay take?

There is no particular expectation as to how you submit your entry — you might like, for example, to submit it in screenplay format (with descriptions of camera angle, voice-over, lighting etc.), or as a play (with speech-prefixes and dialogue) or in prose, as in a novel. You might even like to submit your ‘new’ ending via YouTube or other social media! If so, email us the link with your attached coversheet. The form should be the one you feel shows your creativity in the best light.

  1. Where can I or my school/college get hold of the films?

The DVDs are readily and affordably available via Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk or http://www.amazon.fr). 

  1. Is there a limit to the amount of entries any one school can make?

Yes. There is a limit of 15 entries per school per age group.

  1. Should I enter as an individual or can I enter as part of a group?

We would ask you to keep to individually-named submissions, please: this is just to ensure as much as possible parity and fairness between entries, and to avoid any distinction between smaller and larger groups.

 

Bookshelf Film Club: Persepolis

posted by Simon Kemp

Persepolis-Movie

France has a thriving culture of comic books and graphic novels, but there’s much more to it than the Tintin and Asterix books that are the best-known exports.

La Bande dessinée (or BD) is taken seriously over there, and it’s definitely not just for kids. Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi is the author of Persepolis, a graphic-novel memoir of a childhood shuttling between Iran and Europe, and the quite literal perils of being a rebellious teenager under Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

 

persepolis_srtip

Now a French citizen, in 2007 Satrapi teamed up with animator Vincent Paronnaud to produce a film version of the graphic novel, which won the jury prize in Cannes that year and was nominated for an Oscar.

It’s an extraordinary film, every frame hand-drawn, and often crisply beautiful or wittily surreal. (I like the sequence where Marjane catches her first European boyfriend cheating on her. The film quickly re-runs their relationship on-screen, only this time, the handsome, sophisticated young man we saw when Marjane was smitten has turned into a snaggle-toothed mummy’s-boy slob.)

Warning: some adult language in the clip below!

At the heart of this extraordinary film, though, is an entirely ordinary girl, who just wants the same as lots of people her age. She wants to listen to music, hang out with her friends, wear what she wants and study what she likes, meet boys, maybe fall in love. But whether she’s living under constant threat from the religious police in Iran, or as a lone foreigner in a cold, uncaring European city, living an ordinary life is a precarious activity, and you hold your breath as danger closes in on her.

The film’s available in the French original version with subtitles, or in a dubbed version featuring Sean Penn and other Hollywood voices. Naturally, get the original, if only to experience the full horror of Marjane’s enthusiastic off-key franglais rendition of the Rocky theme-song, Eye of the Tiger.

French Film Competition 2016!

Bande_de_filles_photo-Estelle-Hanania-©-Lilies-Filmsposted by Kate Rees

As in recent years, the Oxford University Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages is organising a French Film Competition, run with the help and generosity of Routes into Languages (South).

The competition has been a successful and entertaining way of getting young people interested in France and French culture, and has attracted hundreds of entries over the last few years. The challenge is to re-write the ending of a film in no more than 1500 words. It is open to all students of secondary-school age, from years 7-13. We’re also very keen to encourage filmed entries via Youtube submissions, so please feel free to re-imagine the endings of the chosen films in as creative a way as you can.

This year we have chosen two films directed by Céline Sciamma, an up and coming French director. Pupils in years 7-11 are invited to re-write the ending of Tomboy (2011), which sees a young girl moving to a new Parisian neighbourhood and exploring her own identity.

 

Those in years 12-13 are encouraged to look at Sciamma’s most recent film, Bande de filles (2014), which depicts the life of a group of young black girls coming of age in the suburbs of Paris. Raising issues of gender, race and class, this is also a film about friendship and conflict.

 

We very much enjoy judging the competition and are always impressed by the imagination and wit of the submissions. Entries should be submitted by email to french.essay@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk by noon on 31st March 2016.

A first prize of £100 will be awarded to the winning student in each category, with runner-up prizes of £25. For further details about entering the competition (including the points in each film where we’d like you to take up the story), please see the questions below, and go to http://www.mod-langs.ox.ac.uk/film_comp to find the link to the cover sheet for your entry.

We’re looking forward to reading your work!

  1. What counts as ‘the ending’ of the film?

We’d like you to start your re-writing from the following points:
Tomboy: from 1:06:03, when Laure’s mother says “Lève-toi tu dois t’habiller”

Bande de filles: from 1:16:59, when Marieme/Vic says ‘J’ai un plan’ to her friends.

 

  1. Does ‘re-writing’ mean I have to change everything?

There is nothing stopping you from watching the ‘real’ ending and then modifying it as you see fit. Indeed, you might find this helpful. Please note, though, that we’re looking for creative, entertaining and inventive new endings, which address as fully and plausibly as possible the strands of the story that are left unresolved at the end-points we’ve specified above.

 

  1. What form should the essay take?

There is no particular expectation as to how you submit your entry – you might like, for example, to submit it in screenplay format (with descriptions of camera angle, voice-over, lighting etc.), or as a play (with speech-prefixes and dialogue) or in prose, as in a novel. You might even like to submit your ‘new’ ending via YouTube or other social media..! If so, email us the link with your attached coversheet. The form should be the one you feel shows your creativity in the best light.

 

  1. Where can I or my school/college get hold of the films?

The DVDs are readily and affordably available via Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk or http://www.amazon.fr).

 

  1. Is there a limit to the amount of entries any one school can make?

Yes. There is a limit of 15 entries per school per age group.

 

  1. Should I enter as an individual or can I enter as part of a group?

We would ask you to keep to individually-named submissions, please: this is just to ensure as much as possible parity and fairness between entries, and to avoid any distinction between smaller and larger groups.

Bookshelf Film Club Halloween Special: Les Diaboliques

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posted by Simon Kemp

This time last year we suggested a chilling little ghost story, Guy de Maupassant’s Le Horla, to curl up with for Halloween. This year, it’s the turn of the film club.

Les Diaboliques is a classic French chiller from 1955, based on a tale by the same French crime-writing duo who wrote Hitchcock’s Vertigo, another unsettling splice of the murder mystery and the ghost story. Apparently, Hitchcock missed out on getting the film rights to the story by a matter of hours, as the French director Henri-Georges Clouzot snapped them up as soon as they became available.

In the film, the frail Christina is the owner of a shabby French boarding school. Her brute of a husband is the headmaster, who is openly having an affair with another teacher at the school, Nicole. The two women are not enemies, however. Michel treats them both so badly that they end up forming a bond together, and that friendship leads to a plan to improve both their lives by getting rid of Michel for good…

Lured away far from the school, Michel is sedated by the two women and then drowned in a bath-tub. They then drive the body back to the school and dump it in the murky, leaf-covered swimming pool, with the intention of claiming an accident when the body finally bobs to the surface.

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Then they wait.

No body surfaces.

The pool is drained.

No body is found.

It’s then that things get seriously strange.

One of the schoolboys says he’s seen Michel on the school grounds.

A school photo is taken, and a pale shape can be seen in the window behind the assembled children, a shape that looks like a face. Like Michel’s face.

Nicole and Christina start to think that the persistent questions of the police may be the least of their problems…

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Les Diaboliques is a creepy classic that always features in lists of the best scary movies ever made. It’s ideal for a dark and lonely night around Halloween. Just make sure you avoid the American remake with Sharon Stone which is, ahem, diabolical.

One other thing — the film has one of the best and most famous final sequences in French movie history. Make sure you don’t accidentally find out what’s coming before you see it. And once you’ve seen it, please obey the command at the end of the film, and don’t spoil the ending for others:

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Bookshelf Film Club: French TV with English Subtitles

Marie Dompnier as Sandra Winckler

posted by Simon Kemp

It wasn’t Scandi-noir that brought foreign-language drama to British TV and helped the Great British Public finally overcome their subtitle-phobia. When the BBC first showed the all-conquering Danish drama The Killing in 2011, they screened it in the Saturday evening BBC 4 slot that was already home to cult French police drama, Spiral, which was arguably the real ground-breaker in bringing foreign TV to UK audiences. Where they started, others followed, and now, along with five seasons of Spiral, there have been at least three other French dramas fitted up with English subtitles and broadcast over here.

What’s more, they’ve all been successful enough to get released as DVD and Blu-ray box-sets, as well as being available on various streaming services. If you can cope with French TV without subtitles, then there’s obviously masses of material out there to choose from. (The long-running sit-com,  Fais pas ci, fais pas ça, or the sweeping saga of German Occupation, Un village français, are two that are worth a look). But if English subtitles are what you need, then Spiral, BraquoThe Returned and Witnesses are here for your enjoyment.

The four series all tend to specialize in the gritty and/or terrifying. They’re all most definitely post-watershed, and not for the faint-hearted, as you can tell from the trailers below.

Spiral (the French title is Engrenages, which means cogs or gears, but also has the sense of being caught in a trap or a vicious circle) follows a single case through each season, as Laure Berthaud and her team hunt murderers, terrorists and organized criminals, while unscrupulous lawyers and judges play power games above their heads. The first five seasons are available on DVD, and Season Six is currently in production.

 

Braquo is another police drama with murky moral boundaries and some shocking violence. Four police officers will stop at nothing to clear the name of their colleague, hounded to suicide by false accusations. Three seasons of it were shown on Sky.

 

Probably the biggest TV phenomenon, though, was The Returned (Les Revenants), the supremely spooky supernatural drama shown by Channel 4 last year. In an isolated Alpine town, loved ones start returning to their families. They’re in good shape, ravenously hungry, and feeling more or less fine, if suffering from a bit of memory trouble. The only problem is, they’re  dead. Even the trailer is terrifying — watch it if you dare!

 

And most recently, there has been Witnesses (Les Témoins), another detective drama, but with more of the otherworldly creepiness of The Returned than the gritty urban feel of Spiral and Braquo. Someone is grave-robbing in the little Normandy town of Le Tréport,  and breaking into new-build show-homes to arrange the bodies in grisly parodies of family life. There’s also an escaped killer on the run from a nearby prison, and it all has something to do with the detective who caught him, whose photo is left at one of the show-homes. It was a hit on British TV last month, is due out on DVD in October.

We’ll talk about each of them in more detail in future posts. In the meantime, with French TV drama in something of a golden age, there’s no better time to get stuck in.

PS. And now there’s another one! Resistance, a TF1 drama about teenagers involved in the French Resistance during the Second World War Occupation by Nazi Germany, is currently showing on More 4, and available online here.