My Favourite Books: The Chocolat Trilogy

Standard

I normally write about films, but, being one who hates being boxed in and this still being a fledgeling blog, I wanted to follow my compulsion to write about some of my favourite books.  Henceforth, here is my first book post.

Most people have heard of Chocolat by Joanne Harris, read it, and/or at watched the film adaptation, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.  I watched the film quite late after it’s release, in 2005, really enjoyed it and then bought the book (usually the other way round for me), which is even better.  When I realised that there was a sequel, The Lollipop Shoes was duly bought.  Then, in 2012, the third novel was released, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure and I bought it ‘hot off the press’.

Juliette Binoche, Chocolat

Chocolat follows Vianne (who lives like a traveller, going where the wind takes her) and her daughter, Anouk, who end up in the village of Lansquenet in the South-West of France.  They ruffle the feathers of the villagers by opening a chocolate shop during Lent.  Vianne also raises eyebrows with her free-spirited approach to parenting.  Their presence, along with Vianne’s divine chocolates, has a strange effect on people, bringing out their personalities and desires.  Will Vianne settle in Lansquenet and will the villagers accept her?

In the sequel, The Lollipop Shoes, we find Vianne and Anouk living in the Montmartre, Paris.  Vianne opens a new chocolate shop.  She also has had another daughter, Rosette, since the first novel.  A mysterious stranger, Zozie, turns up in their lives.  Zozie is charismatic and seemingly kind, but her intentions are far from good.  Tired, confidence lost and fed up of moving from place to place, how will Vianne deal with this threat to her family?

Peaches for Monsieur le Cure sees Vianne and her daughters return to Lansquenet, after Vianne receives a letter from an old adversary.  Things have changed in the village since she left and new troubles have been stirring.  Can Vianne help her old friends in Lansquenet?

I could not put these books down.  I feverishly read each one and literally could not wait to read them again.  Beautifully descriptive, Joanne Harris has created such wonderful characters that you cannot help, but fall for them, even Monsieur le Cure!

I particularly love The Lollipop Shoes.  The book ensnares you from the start and has the tone and pace of a modern fairytale for grown-up’s.  Departing more into fantasy than Chocolat, I feel the author has written the book she always wanted to.  Having holidayed in France as a child, I really feel the warmth for this wonderful country exuding from these books and accuracy in it’s depiction of village life.

To sum these books up, they are a joy to read. If you get as fed up with chick-lit and formulaic thrillers as I do, give these wonderful stories a try.  I hope you fall in love with them too.

Advertisements

Lord of the Rings

Standard

Like many others, I was a fan of Tolkien’s trilogy long before Peter Jackson and New Line brought the films to our screens in 2001.  My first introduction to Tolkien’s world was at 9 years of age when my school screened Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version of the books.  I did not discover until I read the books, as a teen, that his version stopped mid-way through The Two Towers.  However, this was my entrée into Middle Earth and I was hooked.

For any (rare) people who don’t know the story of Lord of the Rings, it is about Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, who is left a ring by his Uncle, Bilbo Baggins.  The ring happens to be the most powerful thing in Middle Earth and the dark lord Sauron wants it back.  With this ring, Sauron and his dark army of orcs, goblins and uruk-hai will be able to control Middle Earth.  Frodo, along with his hobbit friends, Sam, Pippin and Merry, end up on an adventure, travelling through Middle Earth, in a quest that must see Frodo destroy the ring….but, will it destroy him first?  To help Frodo on his quest are; Gandalf the Grey, Aragorn (a mysterious Ranger), Boromir, Legolas (an elf) and Gimli (a dwarf).  The trilogy is also about these friends and how they all have their own part to play in helping Frodo.

Hobbiton

In my early 20’s, I eagerly followed the production progress of Peter Jackson’s films via Empire magazine and I vividly remember the first published photos of the ringwraiths.  I think those pictures went viral.  Here was a director who was a Tolkien fanboy too.  Any cynicism was erased because I was looking at Tolkien’s world coming to life.

The Nasgul/Ringwraiths/Black Riders

The LoTR films have already become modern classics.  As with any other film in this category, casting is key.  Peter Jackson found a cast who lived and breathed their characters, they invested themselves in the whole process with him and realised these films were a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Frodo Baggins, Pocket-Sized Hero

If the actors don’t believe in the story, or director, how will it ever translate well on screen (for example, Natalie Portman in the Star Wars films).  Before these films and Andy Serkis, who ever would have thought they would sympathise with Gollum?

Gollum/Smeagol

Everybody has a favourite character, or characters.  I love Legolas, Eowyn and Sam.  My 5 year old is already a fan and he loves Legolas, Boromir and Frodo.  Legolas  because he is just too cool for school, surfing on shields as he fires arrows at orcs, taking down olyphants and making it look effortless.  Eowyn feels trapped and wants to help fight for those she loves.  She proves very brave indeed.  And Sam?  Sam is loyal and true and loves his friend, Frodo, and would do anything for him.

Boromir of Gondor

Boromir: “It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.”

There are stand-out cinematic moments in each of the three films.  For me personally, I love the Mines of Moria sequence, Helm’s Deep, I love Eowyn standing up to and destroying the Witch King and, although it made me cry, the scene with the boat departing for the undying lands (I will say no more, no spoilers!).

Merry and Pippin (probably thinking about second breakfast)

Friendship runs at the heart of each film, the Fellowship of 9, Sam and Frodo, Merry and Pippin, Merry and Eowyn, Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn, Aragorn and Boromir.  It is these relationships that also carry the films through.

Eowyn, Shield-Maiden of Rohan

Peter Jackson achieved what George Lucas did not (with episodes 1-3) and created a world that you could see, feel and touch.  The land of the Shire and Hobbiton were created a year before filming so that they had a lived in, real look and it shows in the films. Most of the sets and locations were real and the bits of CGI that are in the films, are so well done that you forget it’s CGI.  You know that Peter Jackson believes in the books, his work, the creative process and getting it right and it comes out through every pore of these films.

Frodo: “I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here, at the end of all things.”

Trivia:

Peter Jackson gave one of the rings used in the movies to both Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis as gift when the shoot was finished. They both thought they had the only one

The Fellowship of 9 actors (Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian Mckellen, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan) all got a tattoo with the elvish word for ‘9’.  John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) did not, but his stunt double did.

Christopher Lee (Saruman) reads the LoTR’s books once a year and has met Tolkien.

Images: IMDb and LoTR.wiki

 

Watership Down

Standard

“All the world will be your enemy.  Prince of a Thousand enemies.  And when they catch you, they will kill you.  But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the swift warning.  Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed”   Richard Adams – Watership Down

I’ve mentioned before in my very first post (https://lululovesfilms.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/so-why-start-a-blog-on-films/ ) how certain films from your childhood stay with you and this film, for me, is one of them.

Hazel and Fiver, Watership Down

I cannot ever remember not seeing Watership Down.  It was televised every Easter during my childhood and I always watched it, always crying at the same parts.  Last year, I bought a restored version on dvd and, keeping the ritual, watched it at Easter.

The animation does look dated now, but this film was released in 1978 so it is to be expected.  The way I see it is, as though viewing photographs of my childhood from the late 70’s to early 80’s, the animation appears slightly sepia toned.  Interestingly, since the film’s release in the late 70’s right up to now, the BBFC have received complaints about the film’s U rating.  It is sad and scary in places, but never in such a way that it terrified me as a child.  However, if you and/or your child prefer animation with singing and skipping princesses, then perhaps you should avoid this!

Evil General Woundwort

In some ways, Richard Adams was ahead of his time in writing what is essentially about the environment and man destroying it.  However, Watership Down is largely about courage and friendship.

Fiver, seen as mad by most of the Warren, has visions.  When he has a vision of the Warren being destroyed, he implores everybody to leave and find a new safe place to live.  A small band leaves with him, including his older brother, Hazel, and Bigwig.  They enounter another warren of rabbits led by General Woundwort who is one of the nastiest villains in film!  From there on, it is a story of survival and endeavour to find, as Fiver says:

“…high lonely hills, where the wind and the sound carry, and the ground’s as dry as straw in a barn.  That’s where we ought to be..”

Most of my friends say Watership Down is too sad so they can’t watch it and they don’t understand why I like it!  I think this is a beautiful film with a timeless story and a wonderful voice cast including John Hurt and Richard Briers.  Their soothing voices have been part of many of my childhood films or television programmes.  However, my best friend, Laura has always loved this film too.  So Laura, this post is for you. xx

“My heart has joined the Thousand, because my friend stopped running today”