Light on its feet and always flirty, Populaire—opening Friday, Sept. 13, at the Ken Cinema—harks back to the airy 1950s comedies one might associate with Rock Hudson and Doris Day. It's the kind of cinematic confection where the opening credits seamlessly change color, from mint green to cotton-candy pink to navel orange, and the camera lovingly adores the simple grace of a woman's walk.
At the center of this retro-dreamscape is young country lass Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François), a naïve beauty who dreams of being a secretary in the city. It's the most modern of occupations in post-WWII France, holding the promise of travel and potentially even wealth by marriage. Of course, as the film progresses, such dated sexual politics eventually die hard.
During a disastrous interview with insurance salesman Louis Échard (Romain Duris), Rose displays an amazing talent for speed typing, sparking a competitive streak in the damaged bachelor. Their roller-coaster relationship kicks into high gear when Louis begins to train Rose for an international competition that will pit her against an American superstar.
Much of Populaire's seductiveness stems from its alluring visuals. Director Régis Roinsard shows a flair for delicate compositions, framing the angelic Rose in soft light surrounded by pops of vibrant hues. Her crane-like neck becomes the focal point of the entire film.
Still, it's hard not to get frustrated with a film that so glaringly disavows the subtext of gender inequality for a slack and ultimately unrewarding romance fable. Unlike Peyton Reed's superb satire Down with Love, this fluffy throwback has no interest in exploring the dark cultural underbelly of an age dominated by glistening surfaces and pearly white smiles.
An Oversimplification of her Beauty: An artist begins to reflect on his life after being stood up by a mystery woman, initiating a series of memories and observations that send the film into a stream-of-consciousness narrative. Screens through Sept. 19 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Family: Robert De Niro's career continues to plummet in this fish-out-of-water dark comedy about a New York City family of mobsters living in France under false identities.
Insidious Chapter 2: More horrific and ghostly images from director James Wan, the devious auteur behind Saw, The Conjuring and, of course, Insidious.
Populaire: This fluffy and sweet ode to 1950s comedies follows the roller-coaster relationship between a secretary and her handsome boss, both of whom become obsessed with a speed-typing competition. Screens at the Ken Cinema through Sept. 19. S
Sample This: Gene Simmons narrates this music documentary about the history of hip-hop sampling and how it changed the genre forever. Screens through Sept. 17 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Short Term 12: SDSU alum Dustin Cretton directs this award-winning film about the complex relationships populating a foster-care facility. Starring Brie Larson (The Spectacular Now) and John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom).
One Time Only
Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla: This gripping war film starring Kuno Becker follows a small force of Mexican soldiers who square off against the invading French army on May 5, 1862, in one of the most important battles in the country's history. Presented by San Diego Latino Film Festival's Que Viva Cine Latino, it screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, at Otay Ranch Town Center Food Pavilion.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Contains the greatest exit from a swimming pool in film history. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Alice in Wonderland: Johnny Depp gets all dolled up as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's candy-colored adaptation of the Louis Carroll classic. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at The Lafayette Hotel in North Park.
SDSU Student Film Festival: Runs Thursday and Friday, Sept. 12 and 13, at the Don Powell Theater at SDSU. Check theatre.sdsu.edu/index.php/buy_tickets/ for details.
Notorious: Ingrid Bergman is asked by a serpentine Cary Grant to spy on her Nazi friends in South America in this masterful thriller by Alfred Hitchcock. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 12 through 14, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Best Friends Forever: Nuclear apocalypse is imminent as two best friends embark on a crazed road trip. Screens as part of the San Diego Film Festival Preview event beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at SILO in East Village.
Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown: A loving chronicle to the father of modern horror fiction that features interviews with John Carpenter, Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Gaiman, Stuart Gordon, S.T. Joshi and more. Screens at 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Room: The definition of cult classic. Screens at midnight Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Ken Cinema.
Ruby Sparks: A struggling novelist creates a cute fictional female character to re-instill his hope in love. Screens as part of the San Diego Film Festival Preview event beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at SILO in East Village. See Page 14 for details.
La Camioneta: This vibrant documentary follows the journey of decommissioned American school buses that are refurbished and used in Guatemala as public transportation. Presented by San Diego Latino Film Festival's Cine en el Parque, it screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at California Center for the Arts in Escondido. It screens again, presented by San Diego Latino Film Festival's Que Viva Cine Latino, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Otay Ranch Town Center Food Pavilion.
Hot Guys with Guns: Ex-boyfriends must reconcile their angst to solve a mystery in this modern spin on the detective story. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at Birch North Park Theatre.
Men in Suits: Meet the masked men responsible for bringing characters like Godzilla and The Predator to life on the big screen. Screens at 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Morning Star: Any film that stars Denis Lavant as a circus performer and Iggy Pop as his conscience has to be seen to be believed. Screens at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at Bread and Salt in Logan Heights. RSVP to 858-205-4354.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: Indiana Jones battles Nazis, snakes and supernatural beings. The best adventure film of the last 30 years. Screens at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at Arclight La Jolla.
Take Me Home: A woman and a taxi driver take a magical road trip across America. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the Hervey Branch Library in Point Loma.
Pearl Peep's Movie Choice: It's a leap-of-faith kind of night at the movies. Surprise. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Obselidia: A lonely librarian goes on a road trip to Death Valley with a cinema projectionist. There will be romance. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Scripps Ranch Public Library.
Afternoon Delight: Written and directed by Jill Holloway, this indie comedy follows a Los Angeles woman's (Kathryn Hahn) pursuit to transcend the drudgeries of everyday life and marriage by giving shelter to a young stripper (Juno Temple).
Band of Sisters: Documentary that covers an entire generation of nuns who were transformed in the 1960s by Vatican II and left their traditional posts at convents, schools and hospitals to work out in the community. Ends Sept. 11 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Bounty Killer: Murderous bounty hunters compete for money, fame and mutual respect in this exploitation film starring a horde of D-level actors. Screens at AMC Palm Promenade in Chula Vista.
The Citizen: After winning the U.S. green-card lottery, Ibrahim arrives in New York City on Sept. 10, 2001. The events of the following day shape his experience in profound ways. Ends Sept. 12 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.