Reviewed in brief: 'Populaire,' 'Battle of the Year,' 'Informant,' 'The Patience Stone'

  • Updated: September 19, 2013 - 3:43 PM
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Brandon Darby in “Informant.”

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POPULAIRE
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for a scene of sexuality.
Theater: Edina.

 

“Populaire” is a frothy little French period piece with a taste of gender-role history tucked into its boy-meets-secretary romance.

It’s 1958, and shy, pretty and naive Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois) longs to dig into “the latest fashion” — becoming a secretary. She teaches herself to type. Then she takes the bus to the big city.

Louis Echard (Romain Duris) is an insurance agent in need of a secretary, a dashing, dismissive fellow with a hint of “cad” about him. He doesn’t think much of her klutziness, but he sees in Rose a champion speed-typist, a woman who can win glory for herself and maybe her competitive boss. She gets the job.

Typing competitions take over the picture, slowing things down. The leads are charming, the supporting players (Berenice Bejo plays Echard’s old flame; Shaun Benson is that old flame’s go-getter/wisecracking American husband) are stellar.

“Populaire” is never less than cute.

ROGER MOORE, McClatchy News Service

 

BATTLE OF THE YEAR
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: PG-13 for language and some rude behavior

 

The formulaic "Battle of the Year" touches on how the rest of the world has embraced B-boy culture, but how they’re no longer perceived as cutting edge or “cool” in the United States.

That worries the Sean Combs-like impresario, Dante (Laz Alonso), who seeks to put American B-boys back on top. He hires an old dance buddy, W.B. (for "Wonder Bread"), now a grieving, alcoholic ex-basketball coach (Josh Holloway of “Lost”). W.B. has to get himself up to speed on the current state of dance, then recruit and coach a “dream team” to take on the rest of the world, which has passed America by and long dominated the annual B-boy Olympics known as “BOTY,” the Battle of the Year.

That team consists of assorted arrogant, chip-on-their-shoulder show-offs, because that’s what it takes to succeed at this. Actual star dancers such as Do Knock and Flipz are mixed in with others, including singer/tabloid darling Chris Brown. Josh Peck, once of TV’s “Drake & Josh,” has a small supporting role but is given top billing.

The movie does hit this genre right in the bull’s-eye. But then, the beauty of “Step Up” and all its tired imitators is that the audience they’re shooting for has no idea that there have been 20 or 30 movies exactly like this one that came before it.

ROGER MOORE, McClatchy News Service

INFORMANT
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Not rated. • Theater: St. Anthony Main.

 

Jeremy Piven-looking Brandon Darby is an ever-present if somewhat slippery narrator of his own dramatic political about-face. He went from way-left community organizer in post-Katrina New Orleans to an informant who helped the FBI build a case against two young protesters at the 2008 GOP convention in St. Paul, both of whom went to prison for making (but not using) Molotov cocktails.

Anyone interested in movement politics in the 21st century will get plenty to ponder in this well-made doumentary.

CLAUDE PECK

 

THE PATIENCE STONE
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: R for sexual content, some violence and language.
Theater: Lagoon.

 

An unnamed woman (Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani) lives in a small house behind a walled courtyard, where she has two young daughters and a husband. He is lying comatose, a bullet in his neck, a tube with serum going into his mouth. The man (Hamidrez Javdan — not exactly a fun part) is much older. She was 17 when she married him — or married a photograph of him. He was away.

And now, in this quietly fierce condemnation of fundamentalist Muslim society’s treatment of women, she begins to speak truths she dared not utter when he was awake. “The Patience Stone,” adapted from the Atiq Rahimi novel and directed by the author — aided by Thierry Arbogast’s remarkable cinematography — finds the woman telling her husband about the men who fathered her daughters, because he was impotent. She talks of her longings, her rage. After weeks of these confessions, something stirs, breaks free. She meets a soldier (Massi Mrowat), and they make love.

Although the country goes unnamed in this powerful, parable-like film, it is clearly Afghanistan, torn by war, and dominated by men, by mullahs.

What comes across more than anything — in Farahani’s character, in the wisdom and wild humor displayed by her aunt (Hassina Burgan) — is the resilience of women. Beneath the hijabs and the burqas that conceal them, a spirit burns fast and strong.

Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

  • related content

  • Romaine Duris, left, and Deborah Francois in “Populaire.”

  • The B-Boy culture is at the center of “Battle of the Year.”

  • Golshifteh Farahani in “The Patience Stone.”

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