French films to look out for this summer

Although foreign language films still tend to be shown in art house cinemas, there’s no doubt that there are more of these around than before, and that they attract a wider audience than previously. Most major towns and cities now have an arts cinema, such as the Picture House group, where foreign, independent and films with a ’cult’ following are screened.

This summer there are a range of critically acclaimed French films coming to UK screens, with something guaranteed to suit all tastes. Here’s our pick of what to look out for over the coming months:

White Material (Certificate 15)

Starring one of France’s most acclaimed actresses, Isabelle Huppert, White Material is a hard-hitting drama about civil and racial conflicts in a small African farming community. Huppert is a plantation owner in the former French colony, who is determined to keep her coffee plantation from folding, despite pleas from those closest to her to pack up and leave.

Heartbreaker (Certificate 15)

This romantic comedy starring French favourite Vanessa Paradis and Britain’s very own Andrew Lincoln was a surprise hit at the French box office, taking a massive 10 million Euros in 10 days! Heartbreaker follows the story of brother and sister, Alex and Melanie, who make their living by orchestrating the separation of couples whose relationship has ‘run its course‘. Complications arise for Alex when he ends up falling for Paradis, their latest ‘target’ …

Leaving (Certificate 15)

Leaving is a powerful drama starring British actress Kristin Scott-Thomas, whose flawless French after living in Paris for over 20 years can’t fail to impress. Scott-Thomas plays a bored bourgeois housewife living in the south of France, who decides to go back to work to escape the monotony of her middle-class life. Her husband sets up a physiotherapy studio for her to practice in, but his gesture backfires when the man hired to build it begins a torrid affair with his wife…

Breathless (A Bout de Souffle) (Certificate 12)

To mark the 50th Anniversary of Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 masterpiece has been digitally restored and re-released. The film stars French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel, a petty criminal who models himself on the persona of Humphrey Bogart. After stealing a car in Marseille, he shoots a policeman, and, on the run from the police, turns to his American girlfriend Patricia (Jean Seberg), a student and aspiring journalist, who sells the New York Herald Tribune on the streets of Paris. The story’s engaging, and the black and white backdrop of 60s Paris is fantastic.

The Girl on the Train (La Fille du RER) (Certificate 15)

Starring Catherine Deneuve, The Girl on the Train is a film based on the real story of a young Frenchwoman who became the centre of a media frenzy when she claimed to have been the victim of a hurrendous anti-Semitic assault, only to be exposed as a liar.

Cactus offers part-time French courses in London, Brighton, Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and Southampton. Please visit the Language Courses UK website for full listings, including start dates and prices, and to book.

Cactus supports 2010 National Awards for Excellence and LAFTAs

It’s awards time again and this year, Cactus is delighted to be sponsoring prizes for both the National Awards for Excellence and LAFTAs 2010.  The awards (organised by CILT -The National Centre for Languages) are one of the highlights of the languages calendar. Schools and individuals from all over the country enter the awards, which acknowledge the very best in language learning and education.

This year, Cactus will be offering two lucky winners the chance to learn Spanish on location with exciting, week-long languages holidays in Spain.  Cactus’ very own Jenny Johnson will be handing out the prizes at a special awards ceremony at the British Film Institute on London’s Southbank on 6 July. 

The CILT team has advised us that the standard of entries has been outstanding again this year, with a record number of entrants for both competitions.  So it just remains for us to wish everyone who’s put themselves forward for the awards the very best of luck tomorrow!

New York: 10 things you didn’t know about the Big Apple

As if New York City wasn’t already the number one tourist destination in the US, generating billions for the economy, the city has unveiled a new campaign to promote even more tourism. The campaign aims to reach the widest audience ever for any city program, reaching out to other cities within the US including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston, and also on an international level to markets including the UK, Australia, Brazil, Germany, France and Italy.

New York City’s five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island) will be highlighted through a range of colorful, promotional activities covering outdoor, print and digital advertising, as well as promotional packages from leading business partners. It certainly seems that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s goal of 50 million visitors per year by 2012 – currently at 47.1 million in 2010 – is within grasp.

As it’s not hard to list New York’s highlights – and there are many of them, no doubt included in the promotional campaign – we thought we’d deviate from the norm and tell you a few things that you may not know about the city that never sleeps.

New York, New York…

1. New York City has ten sister cities including London, Madrid and Rome.

2. The city used to be called New Amsterdam, under Dutch rule, until it was re-claimed by the British and renamed.

3. New York City has the lowest crime rate among major American cities since 2005.

4. Buskers have to audition to play in the top subway spots in New York City! Given that over 150,000 people pass through a subway such as Times Square each day, a busker can earn a significant amount through loose change. So since 1985 the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has held auditions, and the best are given 2-week permits to perform at prime spots on the platforms – even appearing at Carnegie Hall!

5. Legend has it that Washington Square Park, in Manhattan, used to be a site for public executions in the late 18th century. People were hanged from the elm trees and Hangman’s Elm still stands in the northwest corner of the park.

6. The name ‘Big Apple’ is said to date back to 1921, when it was used by horse racing writer John J. Fitz Gerald. He heard the term around the stables of New Orleans from riders aspiring to race in New York City, and used it in his articles for the New York Morning Telegraph.

7. If you want to eat cupcakes in true Sex & the City style, tingle your tastebuds with flavors ranging from chocolate peanut butter swirl to vanilla waffle topped with maple-syrup-dipped buttermilk fried chicken or Harry Potter-inspired Butterbeer, flavored with butterscotch and sprinkled with edible gold dust. It’s all a bit of a mouthful.

8. You can be fined $50 for placing your bag on an empty seat on the subway, as using more than one seat is unlawful – whether or not the train is full.

9. New York City’s 50,000 cabbies earn over $5.5 million each day between them.

10. Almost 40% of the city’s population is foreign-born, and some 170 languages are spoken here. 

Cactus runs English courses in New York and in other cities across the US and Canada. Courses are available from beginners to advanced and from one week upwards; business English courses, academic year courses and more are also available.

For those living in New York, Cactus runs foreign language evening courses and weekend crash courses in a variety of languages and at different levels.

July 2010: This month we’re celebrating summer…

The long days and warm sunshine are putting a spring in our step and making us dream of far-flung destinations where we can dip our toes in water and watch the sunset over a cold beer.

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