Populaire (UK - BD RB)
Marcus speed types his way through this review to impress his boss....
1950s France and a clumsy 21-year-old, Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) escapes her small town life when she discovers she has a natural skill for typing. Travelling to Lisieux in Normandy Rose obtains a secretarial job with charismatic insurance man Louis Echard (Romain Duris) and everything seems to be going well. Though Rose fails miserably at being a secretary, Louis is impressed by her natural abilities at the keyboard, and he appoints himself her trainer for a speed typing competition.
Populaire is a small slice of charm in a world full of largely typical romantic comedies. Sure there’s a formula here and the story isn't going to take anyone by surprise but this French production has a couple of lead actors that are both enjoyable to be around and a little deeper than the usual odd couples that are obviously going to fall in love that fill our romances.
Déborah François is adorable from the get go. Her character is wide eyed, brave and cute all at the same time and as is usually the case with these things the first step in liking the film is having a central role like this that is easy to fall in love with. Romain Duris begins by playing Louis as the fairly typical cold businessmen who is secretly warming to this new girl in his life, however he adds a fair few layers to the cliché and makes Louis equally as likeable as Rose. He’s obviously got a history that has broken him somewhat, he’s missed out on love in the past and feels set adrift from happiness and the more you find out about him the more you want him to be with Rose.
Now of course this is all very typical but the French origins here makes this light, fun, sports/romantic comedy feel a little more genuine. There’s a sense of romance that’s celebrated rather than just used for chuckles, there’s a sense of family and friendship and small unresolved elements that subtly come together to form the feel good factor. The pacing is a little odd, with the film feeling like it’s about to wrap up with about forty more minutes left to go but that last forty minutes lets the sports element of this romantic tale breath a little on its own before the double whammy of sports drama and romance come to a head in the film’s delightful climax.
Set in the fifties Populaire has a fresh and clean look to it with everything popping in all the ways you’d expect from modern HD presentations. The opening animated credits are strikingly bold in colour and sharpness and moving into the film itself edges are nice and crisp, and colour continue to pop off of the screen especially against the grey period setting.
Rose's pale complexion shows off her freckles and her dark eyes well within the naturally lit film and speaking of naturally lit, despite the films celebration of classic 50/60s romantic comedies it doesn't fall into the glossy Doris Day type affairs that the cover art implies it will. Instead it aims for a bit of grey and brown realism to its colour palette and it somehow grounds the movie and keeps it away from being to romantic fantasy. Of course, the clean fresh and bright 50s style presented in gorgeous 1080p HD still holds an air of fantasy but Populaire manages to retain a fine balance with its approach to the period.
The fun and light score fills the track up and offers up an inoffensive but lively audio mix. The film's score has drive but a classic 50s romantic comedy type jaunt rather than a modern sprint. Dialogue is strong and central, sound effects such as Rose's super fast typing on her typewriter are used well and sound perfectly realistic and naturally placed.
The build in tension as the speed typing competition picks up is handled well with some nice balance between score, dialogue and furious key tapping. Crowd elements boost the track that little bit further and while this is never an audio mix that will rock your house, it’s one that gets everything right an compliments the film well.
The extras are all short featurettes and are all made in the same style focusing on elements of the film. 'To Begin With' (02:42 HD), 'The Love Story' (01:58 HD), 'The 50s' (03:01 HD), 'A Romantic and Sports Comedy' (02:41 HD) and 'Typist Rule' (02:58 HD) all feature writers, directors and cast and are short and sweet nuggets of information about the project.
Populaire was a refreshingly cute Saturday afternoon affair that I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to see if it were not for this review disc arriving at my door. It’s full of the typical twists and turns that come with the genre but the likeable two lead actors make this a very enjoyable ride through the usual clichés and bring a little vulnerability to their growing relationship, which is always a pleasure to watch in a romantic comedy. The disc looks gorgeous, has a solid audio mix and even though the extras are thin, they are a nice glimpse behind the scenes.
Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 23rd September 1995
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD MasterAudio 5.1 French, Dolby Stereo 2.0 French
Subtitles: English, English for the Hearing Imparied
Easter Egg: No
Director: Régis Roinsard
Cast: Déborah François, Romain Duris, Bérénice Bejo, Shaun Benson, Mélanie Bernier
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance and Sport
Length: 111 minutes
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