The Independent London Newspaper



Cinema: Also On Release This Week - Mademoiselle Chambon and Soul Surfer

Published: 22 September, 2011

Mademoiselle Chambon
Directed by Stephanie Brize
Certificate: 15

Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars

In one corner, we have the horny-handed builder Jean.

In the other, the delicate, violin playing fingers of an intellectual Parisian school teacher, Mademoiselle Chambon, come to the sticks to take on a temporary teaching role.

This clash of these two opposing forces creates a lust-eyed adventure that ably considers the morals of infidelity, the struggle between physical desire and love, and what makes one person attractive to another.

The underplayed silences and the sensuality of the main characters is super, and tells the story so cleverly and gently you can’t help but feel your guts tighten and your head swim as the story tips from one situation to the next.

One telling moment is when Chambon plays Elgar on the violin at the 80th birthday party of Jean’s father: the story told by the look on the face of Jean’s wife is so natural, painful, and telling, it’s worth a thousand words.

There is a lot unsaid: it seems Chambon’s nomadic existence, going from one school to another, is due to some hidden pain. Jean, a devoted father who finds great solace in his work building homes, is awakened slowly by the cultural delights offered by the teacher, namely classical music.

This is a well paced film, with strong characters, and it is well acted – Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlaine are very believable. Above all tackles what could be a tricky topic with great gentleness.

Soul Surfer
Directed by Sean McNamara
Certificate: PG

Rating: 1 Out Of 5 Stars

This film is based on a true life tragedy, and that makes this terrible attempt to tell it on the big screen even more galling. It is a story that deserves a film maker who will make a good fist of it.

Bethany Hamilton was a young, Hawaiian, surf-mad teenager who was rapidly rising in the competitive surfing world when her arm was bitten off by a shark.

She had the courage to come back and climb on the board again, and become a surfer once more.
This film, which includes constant product placement-style adverts for the Christian charity World Vision alongside surfing brand wear and energy drinks, manages to make a dogs dinner out of what should be an inspiring story.

Instead of considering her undoubted bravery and the tragedy she had to overcome, this turns into a very low-rate teen soap opera with occasional references to Jesus Christ thrown in.

It should be better, though Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt offer some professionalism as poor Bethany’s parents.

I have been reading this week The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter, the book by South African judge Albie Sachs, about what it is like to lose an arm.

His was mangled in a car bomb planted by the Apartheid regime, and his consideration of what it means to lose a limb and the psychological effects are incredibly moving.

We aren’t told this side of Bethany’s incredible story.

Instead it is full of badly telegraphed messages.

A trip to post-tsunami Thailand by Bethany is sloppily handled.

On a positive note, we are treated to footage of people surfing.

But that is all this turgid waste of a good story has going for it.


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