Staying in - Northern Style {DVDs}

Friday, 24 May 2013

I an back in France, it is Mother's Day on Sunday so we are spending some of the bank holiday weekend here. Here is Northern France - near Lille, where I come from. As the sun has decided not to come out and play, I thought you may want your own slice of the North in a DVD box - and start put that heating on.

Here are three films for you... 

La vie est un long fleuve tranquille or 'Life is a long quiet river' (Etienne Chatiliez, 1988)

Life is a Long Quiet River is the satirically philosophical title for this French domestic comedy. In Northern France, a castoff mistress spitefully switches a pair of newborn babies at the maternity ward managed by her (ex) doctor lover. As a result, the daughter of a family of tramps and thieves is raised in a comfy bourgeois household, while the lowlife family ends up with the middle-class family's offspring. Twelve years after the fact, the discarded mistress confesses to her misdeed. The mistress' ex-lover, doctor Daniel Gelin, tries to set things right, with hilariously disastrous consequences. 

A must-see... Although it was released 25 years ago (has it been that long???) it is still very funny, and yes I did think about it when I was at the maternity ward! Etienne Chatiliez has done many more films that I love: Tatie Danielle, Le bonheur est dans le pré, Tanguy ... 

Germinal (Claude Berry, 1993) 

This is a bit more serious film... but as some of the scenes were filmed in my town it had to be fetaured... The film is closely based on the 19th-century novel by Emile Zola, re-creating, as does the novel, the gut-wrenching poverty and the intense day-by-day struggles of striking French coal-miners in 1884 at the Voreux mines of France. The film centers upon the bitter toils of Maheu and his family -- consisting of his iron-willed wife and their daughter Catherine, who also works in the mines. When a new miner, Etienne Lantier, comes to Voreux to seek work, he is befriended by Maheu, who takes him on his mining crew and allows him to stay at his home. Etienne is also an organiser for a new miner's union and, as conditions in the Voreux mines worsen, Etienne convinces Maheu to organise a miner's strike. Meanwhile, Etienne is attracted to Catherine, and Catherine to him, but she doesn't act upon her feelings, taking up, instead, with Chaval a local. As conditions in the mines become more desperate and unsafe, and the owners propose to cut wages, Maheu at last stages a massive strike of the miners. When that happens, the owners send in armed soldiers to defend the mines. 

The novel is by Zola, there is Depardieu, there are strikes.. Yes this is French, beware it is looooonnng (nearly 3 hours) and it is not exactly cheerful. Otherwise amazing filming, and saves you reading the book (although I had to, as probably every single French person). 

Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis or 'Welcome to the Sticks' (Dany Boon, 2008)

A man born and raised on France's Southern coast is sent to the North. Philippe Abrams manages the post office in a picturesque small town in the South of France, Salon de Provence. Philippe's wife Julie is depressed, and he thinks one way to lift her spirits would be to relocate to the more glamorous surroundings of the Cote d'Azur. However, Philippe's attempts to finagle a transfer (by pretending that he is handicapped) fail, and when the ruse is discovered, he ends up being punished with a forced relocation to Bergues, a village in Northern France that lies stuck between Belgium and the English Channel. In this area, the locals speak a language known as Picard - an amalgam of French, Flemish and Latin - and Philippe essentially perceives the region as the "Siberia of France." With misery in his heart, he dons extreme winter clothing and trudges off to his new post, saying goodbye to Julie and their son, who opt to stay behind. To make matters worse, not long after arriving in Bergues, Philippe nearly runs over a man while driving home drunk -- who turns out to be one of his new colleagues at the post office, But Philippe eventually finds to his surprise that he enjoys life in Bergues, and begins to love the community and its people. 

I found it hilarious personally, although I am sure the translators had a hell of a job to make sense of it in English. It is a very uplifting film, really capturing how the South looks at the North of France. It also made me realise I may not speak only French, but a bit of Picard without knowing it...

Here is to an alternative DVD night in! Happy weekend everyone!  


  1. Thanks for the recommendations - I do love a French film. Have a lovely weekend with your mum :)

  2. The picture from the first film looks like something out of 'Shameless'!! Maybe our 'norths' aren't so different ;)

  3. I've seen the third one on DVD and loved it! A really "feel good" film and I thought it was very funny(as did the French people from the north I've discussed it with.)
    I've not seen the next one from the same team about the customs officers manning the border between France and Belgium yet - Have you?