Director: Regis Roinsard (2013)
Starring: Romain Duris, Deborah Francois, Berenice Bejo
When a film is described as “Mad Men meets The Artist”, it’s no wonder people flock to see it. Populaire, a French romantic comedy resting on a refreshing narrative about competitive speed-typing, has quickly become a success on the indie scene thanks to such comments. With Sterling Cooper being so commonly talked about that it is sometimes easy to forget it isn’t a real business, this visual beauty set in the ever-appealing streets of Paris catches on to the current obsession with all things mid-1900s. The feminine hairstyles, the nipped-in clothes, the feline flicks of eyeliner and the nostalgic essence of a time before computers are harnessed in this tale of a French small-town girl who dreams of being an idolized secretary in the big city, making it a treat for the eyes as well as the mind.
Besides its aesthetic exuberance, something aided by the male actors’ handsome jawlines and gorgeous soft-faced women playing Rose and Marie (a role filled by The Artist’s ‘Peppy Miller’, actress Berenice Bejo), the way that the strong storyline is in the forefront for the entire film makes Populaire stand out against other romantic comedies. This is more than a tale of boy meets girl; this is a social commentary on gender roles, wealth and politics told via a boss’ desire to see one girl’s potential reached. The ritualistic training before each speed-typing contest makes for lightly humorous scenes between Duris and Francois, while the overall confusion of romantic chemistry and the characters’ inability to read each other tugs at the audience’s sympathetic and empathetic nerves in a way that encourages feelings of hope for the main duo.
As a whole package, Populaire is everything visually offered by modern drama set around the 1950s. Even more, its successful characterisation, dated charm and commendably original narrative make it a film that is as enjoyable to look at as it is to follow as a story of optimism and finding happiness in life.
With thanks to Chapter Arts Centre – www.chapter.org