Populaire Blu-ray Review
The whole thing screams chic and is told with loving care
MovieCharm, warmth and easy watching – rarely are such films made within the Hollywood machine, it is left to the independents, or foreign markets to produce. And that is where tonight’s feature hails from, France, and it is everything that the opening sentence suggests. Following the story of a naïve shop-working girl with an extraordinary talent for typing, director Régis Roinsard’s debut feature packs in enough comedy, romance, sport, competition and downright charm to win over the hearts and minds of even the most cynical viewers. Nominated for, and winner of, numerous awards it is easy to see why, for the feature plays very much like a film from the period it which it is set: the fifties - from the titles to the music, from the pacing to the acting; the whole thing screams chic and even if the story is inevitably predictable and doesn’t try to tread any new ground, it is told with such loving care that you can’t help but be won over. Ladies and gentlemen, tonight feature presentation is Populaire.
PictureThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer using the AVC MPEG4 codec and is Region locked to B.
In trying to capture the fifties feel of the piece the image has been specifically shot to be quite soft, bright and, on occasion hazy – this is aesthetic choice and not a defect with the print. Detail, on the whole, is pretty good, skin has a reasonable texture, clothing can have weave, check out how ‘wet’ Rose’s clothes get during a storm, while the keys and mechanics of the typewriters have clear edges – paper even looks crisp enough to feel. Distance shots hold edges well into the distance, though the film rarely makes full use of such.
Colours are bright and bold with the primaries coming across with suitable vibrancy with no wash or bleed – check out the love making scene where blue and red bathe the screen, while otherwise skin has a pale, but natural hue.
Colours are bright and bold with the primaries coming across with suitable vibrancy with no wash or bleed
Brightness is set a fraction high with a corresponding contrast which leaves the whole picture slightly washed, this, though, is a function of the film’s look and not a defect; this comes across as a ‘fifties looking’ film, thus the blacks are never absolute, so while this robs the picture of any significant punch or depth, please note this is not a problem, just a function of the picture – but it does take a little getting used to compared to the modern blockbuster.
Digitally there were no compression problems or any edge enhancement. The love making scene above does push the boundaries of red with the image looking ever so slightly digitised, blue copes well though. CG sits well within the frame with only one scene (outside shot of a New York street zooming to the competition hall) showing up the effects used. On the whole a very pleasing picture whose aesthetic choices have been very well represented.
SoundI chose the French dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and it works very well to present its information. We’re not in deep surround territory here, however the scope for immersion is actually well represented with numerous scenes making full use of all six speakers – bars, the competition halls, night clubs all create a realistic surround environment with full ambience being supplied by the surrounds; whether that is glasses clinking, general chatter, the clatter of typewriter keys or music, all become very immersive to the environment.
Dialogue is clear and precise, sounds very natural and emanates from the frontal array with a little directionality when needed. There are plenty of stereo effects, such as cars moving across screen, to the ‘ting’ of a typewriter bell, or placing you in the centre of a typewriter's mechanics! The score makes use of the surround environment and never more so than in the night club scene. Bass is well managed with the sub filling out the score and effects keeping it on throughout the runtime, but this is not an action film so there are no LF effects and bass never plumbs any significant depths.
Subtitles are white, in the lower centre of the frame, grammatically correct and are around long enough to make reading them a breeze.
ExtrasJust the five (very) short featurettes and some (skippable) trailers before the film starts; all are PR fluff but they do contain some behind the scenes material and are headed up by interviews with the major cast and crew.
- To Begin With (HD, 02.42) – A discussion of the film’s premise, gestation period and ideas for the script, headed up by the director.
- The Love Story (HD, 01.58) – A look at the main leads and the romance that blossoms between them.
- The 50s – (ND, 03.01) – A discussion about the period setting and the design aspects and art direction to achieve the results.
- A Romantic and Sports Comedy (HD, 02.41) – Brief overview of combining these two genres into one compelling story.
- Typists Rule (HD, 02.58) – A look at the other star of the film, the typewriters, and how they were collected from all over the world, all dismantled and repaired, including repainting them, and the amount of training the secretaries received to be convincing in the role (apparently there is no speeded up film, all real time and the actresses' real hands!)
VerdictPopulaire is not what you expect. It is also everything you expect. An immensely charming film that tells the story of a French girl whose talent for speed typing sees her become world famous while along the way she captures the heart of her trainer; there is nothing surprising but with its winning formula and natural chemistry between its leads, as well as being genuinely funny, very heart warming, romantic and honest edge of the seat viewing, it is a hugely rewarding experience. Director Régis Roinsard’s debut feature successfully captures the appeal and magic of a fifties film (the time when the film is set) and it plays very much to its strengths becoming entertaining and enjoyable. I do hope it finds a place on the home format where its natural elegance should shine through.
As a Blu-ray release the set is pretty good. The picture successfully captures the mood of a fifties film being bright and bold, the sound is surprisingly immersive for what is a mainly dialogue driven piece, but certain set pieces really set the speakers alight. The extras are a little thin on the ground, being pretty much promotional fluff, but each one does take on a little bit of the behind the scenes material. On the whole a decent enough set.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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