Following in the footsteps of the Academy Award-winning 'The Artist', 'Populaire' pays loving tribute to the motion pictures from a bygone era. Whereas it was the silent movies of the 1920s in the case of the former, the latter sets its sights on the crowd-pleasing Hollywood comedies of the 1950s and 60s, a fact clearly evident right from its animated opening credits which look like something straight out of a Billy Wilder movie. Then, movies were much simpler and sweeter, and indeed one should similarly expect the same of 'Populaire'. A classic rom-com that pits the slightly naïve 21-year-old village girl Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois) with her dapper city boss Louis (Romain Duris) to whom she is secretary to, it follows a pretty straightforward trajectory built around the world of competitive speed typing, so if you're looking for any surprises in the storytelling, then you're likely to be disappointed. But what it lacks in novelty, it certainly makes for up in dollops of charm, so much so that we're willing to guarantee that you'll find much truth in its hyperbolic marketing tagline that proclaims it "the most enchanting romantic comedy since Amelie". There is something magical about the fit between actor and character here, a truly entrancing quality about how Francois plays Rose sweet, shy and klutzy and how Duris cuts a suave, dashing and debonair figure in Louis. Just as, if not more, importantly, is how Rose and Louis make an exceedingly appealing couple, be it in their prickly initial encounters or their subsequent intimate engagements. Francois and Duris share zingy chemistry in their scenes together, the lively manner in which they trade barbs and words of affection bound to keep a smile on your face. Their spirited repartee is also thanks to a witty and engaging script, which pays close and sharp attention to the evolving dynamic between its characters. Just as well-observed is the sport of competitive speed-typing, which plays a central role in the evolving relationship between Rose and Louis. Rather than give up on the otherwise dreamy and absent-minded Rose, Louis recognises her single uncanny gift of typing very quickly, prompting him to propose an unusual arrangement in which he trains her for competitions in exchange for keeping her job as his secretary. Needless to say, she improves swiftly under his tutelage, progressing from regionals to nationals and finally to internationals, the title of the film a reference to her newfound popularity as well as the name of the typewriter she does a celebrity endorsement for. We know – you're thinking how a bunch of mostly middle-aged women in thick-rimmed glasses hammering away at ancient typewriters can be anything exciting. Well, that's where you are absolutely wrong. There is pure thrill to be had in each one of these competitions, the combined effect of whirling dolly shots and some sharp editing combining to inject much excitement into the repetition of pounding keystrokes and slamming carriages. Never for once failing to amaze with the intensity and concentration required of participants in such competitions, it suitably jazzes up what one would assume a sedate activity, let alone a sport. The staging of these contests is but one illustration of how impressive the mise-en-scene of the movie, which is even more amazing for the fact that this is also director Regis Roinsard's feature filmmaking debut. Roinsard, who also co-wrote the script with Daniel Presley and Romain Compingt, combines detailed set and costume design by Sylvie Olive and Charlotte David with a classy score by Rob and Emmanuel d'Orlando and classic French oldies from the likes of Jacqueline Boyer, Jack Ary and Les Chausettes Noires, the effect of all these various elements making for a remarkably rich and authentic period portrait. Especially as modern-day films revel in greater shades of grey, it is refreshing to see a movie whose pleasures are so elemental and yet deeply enjoyable. "Populaire" harks back to the days of the Doris Day rom-coms – even as it also pays homage to other classic films of the same era, most notably Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" – offering a delightfully buoyant time brimming with wit, humour and passion. Excuse the pun – if you're looking for a movie to lift your spirits, this one strikes all the right keys.
Comedy / Romance / Sport
Comedy / Romance / Sport
1958. Rose is a terrible secretary but a demon typist. Her handsome boss resolves to turn her into the fastest girl in the world.
January 27, 2021