Overall | After Him (Après lui) (2007) | Hunting and Gathering (Ensemble, c'est tout) (2007) | Secret of the Grain (2007)

New French Cinema-Drama

New French Cinema-Drama

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Released 3-Dec-2008

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Overall Package

  

Continuing the fine work with their previous two box sets : New French Cinema - Thriller and New French Cinema - Comedy comes this fine set featuring three interesting and varied dramas. Variety is truly the order of the day as the set offers something of a romance in Hunting and Gathering, a cool story of death and obsession in After Him and a long family drama in The Secret of the Grain.

Fans of French cinema will relish the chance to pick up these titles at well below market price. The lack of any real extras on two of the DVD's ( Hunting and Gathering has an interesting short film) is something of a disappointment but the value for money more than makes up for the absence of additional material.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, January 31, 2009
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Overall | After Him (Après lui) (2007) | Hunting and Gathering (Ensemble, c'est tout) (2007) | Secret of the Grain (2007)

After Him (Après lui) (2007)

After Him (Après lui) (2007)

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Released 6-Aug-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 87:59 (Case: 92)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Gaël Morel
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Catherine Deneuve
Thomas Dumerchez
Guy Marchand
Élodie Bouchez
Elli Medeiros
Luis Rego
Adrien Jolivet
Salim Kechiouche
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Louis Sclavis


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown No Audio Data available for this title
Widescreen Aspect Ratio ?
16x9 Enhancement Unknown
Video Format ?
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

After Him (Apres Lui) is a 2007 French film from young director, Gael Morel. It had a limited release on DVD in 2008 and now appears as one of the selections in the Modern French Cinema: Drama box set.

The film opens with a scene that could have been cribbed from any Almodovar film - two young men dressed in ladies clothing frolic in a bedroom. All is not as it seems, however, as the pair, Franck (Thomas Dumerchez) and Mathieu (Adrien Jolivet), are best mates off to a stag party. Mathieu's mother Camille (Catherine Deneuve) helps the boys get their makeup just right. The scene could be set for a frothy French comedy.

However, later that night Camille receives that dreaded call. Mathieu has been killed in a traffic accident when Franck lost control of a car hitting a tree. Camille, her ex-husband Francois (Guy Marshand) and other daughter Laure (Elodie Bouchez) descend into the depths of grief as they try to cope with the loss of the beloved Mathieu. Franck is ostracised for his role in the death but Camille insists on bringing him to the wake much to the disbelief of family and friends.

In the wake of unimaginable sadness Camille slowly begins to put her life back together. She visits and revisits the scene of the accident both caressing and beating the tree that ended her sons life. Rather than seeking consolation from her daughter or ex-husband she starts taking an obsessive interest in Franck. Despite the back cover of the DVD which features Camille brushing the face of a semi-naked Franck, the obsession is not sexual. She is driven to create in him the perfect life that Mathieu was unable to live.

There are weighty themes and After Him remains defiantly a niche film. Perennial French favourite Catherine Deneuve returns to the psycho-drama of Repulsion (sans rabbit head!) with perhaps her best performance since Indochine. At 65 she may not be the dazzling beauty of her youth but she can still convey oceans of sadness with a mere glance.

Her obsession leads to some "hands over the eyes" moments as Camille not only gives Franck a job at her bookshop to keep him out of manual labour, but constantly watches over him. So trapped in her grief is Camille that she is unable to appreciate her own daughter and new granddaughter. Deneuve as always is the ice queen and although consumed by grief is utterly unreachable.

The script by Morel and Christopher Honore is tight and economical and the film is genuinely thrilling at times as we wonder what the poor lady will do next. Fans of the great French actress will no doubt wish to purchase the film. It is an interesting mediation on grief though a little hard going for its short running time.

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Transfer Quality

Video

 After Him is presented on DVD at 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Information on the original aspect ratio of the film is scarce. I would have thought that it may have been shot on film and released in cinemas at an European widescreen 1.66:1 ratio.

In any event, the film receives 16x9 treatment. The resulting image is quite crisp and clear. Although the film does use mostly muted colours, there is a good depth of colour on offer and no evidence of bleeding.

Apart from a very small instance of aliasing the transfer to DVD is exceptional. There is a light grain to be observed but no defects in the print itself and no artefacts to be observed.

There are English subtitles which are clear and easy to read.

Director Morel uses a good deal of extreme close-ups and the clarity of those shots, as well as the skin tones, are perfect.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sound for After Him is French Dolby Digital 5.1 running at 448Kb/s. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 track running at 224Kb/s on offer.

On first blush this chamber piece would not seem to lend itself to a surround soundtrack. However, the surround track does have some nice moments.

Whilst there is not much happening in the rear channels the soundtrack is well spaced across the front speakers. There is nice separation to the environmental sounds, such as the wind in the graveyard, the rain effects and the flames in a pivotal scene in the movie.

The sub-woofer is rarely engaged.

The dialogue can be heard quite clearly and appears to be in perfect audio sync.

Music in the film comes in two varieties. Firstly, there is the soundtrack consisting of piano and strings which is reflective of the sombre mood of the piece. Secondly, there is the music which reminds Camille of Mathieu, predominantly folky stuff.

A key element in the film is the music of French rocksters, The Tatianas, something like a French Libertines. The Tatianas appear in a live concert scene when the out-of-place Camille takes Franck to the show using her son's ticket.

Whilst on the subject of sound it is worth commenting that the Palace Films screen preceding the film is several ear splitting volume notches above the main film requiring quick manipulation of the receiver remote!

All in all a quality soundtrack for this small film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The only extra on this DVD is the theatrical trailer. The trailer gives a good introduction to the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   This DVD is something of a rarity. It is not available in Region 1. There is a Region 2 France edition available.

Summary

    After Him is a star vehicle for French ice queen Catherine Deneuve and will be loved by fans of the great actress even if the subject matter is too dour to appeal to most.

The DVD transfer is excellent both in sound and visual terms.

The lack of any extras is a disappointment as there is certainly space on this DVD for more material.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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Overall | After Him (Après lui) (2007) | Hunting and Gathering (Ensemble, c'est tout) (2007) | Secret of the Grain (2007)

Hunting and Gathering (Ensemble, c'est tout) (2007)

Hunting and Gathering (Ensemble, c'est tout) (2007)

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Released 11-Sep-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Short Film-62 Sleeps - a short film by Erin White (11:32) (16x9)
Theatrical Trailer-Hunting and Gathering (Ensemble, c'est tout) (2007)
Theatrical Trailer-Bread and Tulips (Pane e Tulipani) (2000)
Theatrical Trailer-Caterpillar Wish (2006)
Theatrical Trailer-Forbidden Lie$ (2007)
Theatrical Trailer-The Last Kiss (L' Ultimo bacio) (2001)
Theatrical Trailer-Va savoir (2001)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 92:34 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Claude Berri
Studio
Distributor
Pathe Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Audrey Tautou
Guillaume Canet
Laurent Stocker
Françoise Bertin
Alain Sachs
Firmine Richard
Béatrice Michel
Kahena Saighi
Hélène Surgère
Alain Stern
Halima Guizani
Juliette Arnaud
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Frédéric Botton


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Ensemble, c'est tout (literally Together, is everything) is the award winning drama from veteran screenwriter-director Claude Berri. The film is based on the celebrated novel of the same name by French writer Anna Gavalda. The bestselling novel Ensemble, c'est tout was also translated in English, under the title Hunting and Gathering.

Ensemble, c'est tout is the tale of four loners, from different walks of life, who will eventually live together. We first meet Camille (Audrey Tautou), a frail young woman, whose sunken eyes and isolated existence are the result of a battle with depression and anorexia. Camille lives in a cramped apartment at the top of her building by herself, she has a strained relationship with her mother and in the dead hours of the night works as a cleaner, despite her obvious talent as an artist. One night Camille reaches out to her neighbour Philibert (Laurent Stocker), a shy young man who is all too conscious of his speech-impediment. Philibert, an aristocrat, lives in a lavish apartment filled with artwork and literature passed down from generations before, yet despite his obvious intelligence and love of art and history he works outside a gallery selling postcards. Philibert, shares his apartment with Franck (actor-director Guillaume Canet) a hot headed womanising young chef who works six days a week and on his only day off visit’s his grandmother who raised him. Franck’s grandmother Paulette (Françoise Bertin) is a recluse who has recently had hip replacement surgery and feels abandoned by her grandson as she is forced into an aged-care facility while she recovers.

These four lives come together when Camille suffers a severe flu and Philibert allows her to stay in his apartment. However Franck instantly dislikes Camille and warns Philibert not to get involved with her. Still, Camille’s friendship with Philibert grows, while her animosity for Franck deepens, but when Philibert must leave Camille alone with Franck in the apartment for two weeks, they are forced to get along with one another. Soon they find some common ground and Camille and Philibert invite Paulette to stay with them, allowing her to see her grandson more often.

Ensemble, c'est tout is a graceful film and what sets this film apart from becoming a run of the mill romantic drama are the spirited performances, particularly from Canet and Stocker. Critics have suggested some of the characters are underwritten, particularly the character of Philibert, but overall this is a charming film about the friendships and relationships which are formed when we least suspect it.

Recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Ensemble, c'est tout is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and it is 16x9 enhanced.

The average bit-rate of the feature, which has been encoded over a Dual Layer DVD, is 8.25 Mb/s.

The quality of the transfer is very good. The look of the film is sharp and natural.

Shadow detail is well exhibited and colour is considerably rich with natural flesh tones.

There are no issues regarding film artefacts or compression during the feature film.

The burnt-in English subtitles appear in a clear white font and are a decent translation of the onscreen French dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

While Ensemble, c'est tout is a dialogue based film, it is still disappointing that a French 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack option is not available on this DVD.

The standard French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) soundtrack is practical and as expected, emitted from the front soundstage.

The soundtrack is clear and audible without any flaws and Frédéric Botton’s lush melodramatic score has been nicely produced.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

The main menu is composed of a still image of the cover art, accompanied by a fragment of Button’s score. The main menu offers 12 chapter selections and access to the extra feature content.

62 Sleeps (2004)

This is an award winning short film directed by Erin White. This engaging live action short film is focused on a young girl anxiously waiting for her absent father to return. (16x9) (11:32)

Theatrical Trailer (16x9) (1:59)

More from Palace Films:

Following an anti-piracy warning focused on the Australian Film Industry – in particular Wolf Creek, the following trailers are accessible:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Ensemble, c'est tout was released in Region 2 (France) on November 28 2007.

The R2 (France) DVD release included the following technical specifications and extras in addition to our local release :

However this release is not English friendly. Ensemble, c'est tout had a limited theatrical release in the UK and USA and is yet to be released on DVD.

Summary

Ensemble, c'est tout is an enchanting romantic drama, with spirited performances from the multi-talented Guillaume Canet and Laurent Stocker.

The transfer on this DVD is very good, however the only audio option is a standard stereo soundtrack.

The only extras are a handful of trailers and an unrelated short film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOPPO DV-980H, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A595a - 5.1 DTS
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

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Overall | After Him (Après lui) (2007) | Hunting and Gathering (Ensemble, c'est tout) (2007) | Secret of the Grain (2007)

Secret of the Grain (2007)

Secret of the Grain (2007)

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Released 9-Jul-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer-(2.14)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 148:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Abdel Kechiche
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Habib Boufares
Hafsia Herzi
Farida Benkhetache
Abdelhamid Aktouche
Bouraouïa Marzouk
Alice Houri
Leila D'Issernio
Abelkader Djeloulli
Olivier Loustau
Sabrina Ouazani
Mohamed Benabdeslem
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    One of the most lauded foreign films of 2008 was Abdellatif Kechiche's The Secret of the Grain (La Graine et la Mulet). The winner of a swag of awards at the French equivalent of the Oscars, the Cesars, as well as the winner of the Fipresci Prize and Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, The Secret of the Grain made it way into the Top 10 list of many noted critics. It was released on DVD in 2008 and now forms part of the New French Cinema: Drama box set.

The film is at once highly detailed and yet sprawling and almost plotless. It focuses on the lives of a Tunisian/French dock worker in the Mediterranean Port of Sete. Like the films of Fatih Akin (who frequently examines the Turkish experience in Germany) director Kechiche looks at this large Arab community as both the majority in the small dockside community and the minority in France.

The Secret of the Grain has very little in the way of a plot. Ageing dock worker Slimane (Habib Boufares) is at the end of his career on the water front. Not only is he 61 years old and moving slower than he used to but the docks themselves are cutting back and the word on the water is that Slimane will soon be made redundant.

Slimane is divorced from the mother of his five children. The relationship between the estranged couple is courtly and the children have oceans of respect for this dour, downcast man. His three daughters are all forces of natures ably controlling the men in their lives whilst still managing to make them feel like they rule the roost.

The extended family, without Slimane, live in a dilapidated apartment complex. Slimane lives with his lover Latifa in her run down hotel. Perhaps even more than his own children the apple of Slimane's eye is Latifa's daughter Rym (Hafsia Herzi) a feisty direct teenager. When retrenchment finally comes it is Rym who prods and assists Slimane to achieve his life aim - to open a restaurant. He buys a wrecked boat and converts it into a restaurant.

Getting all the money approvals and licences proves to be a major stumbling block for the pair. To woo investors and to soften up the government authorities Slimane opens the restaurant boat up for a gala evening - North African food abounds but the centrepiece is to be his ex-wife's couscous with fish. A series of tangles and complicationsappear before Slimane which risk pushing his bold vision off the rails.

As well as directing the film Kechiche wrote the screenplay. However the entire film seems improvised from basic ideas. Kechiche uses newcomers and amateurs in his cast which bears mixed fruit. Young actress Hafsia Herzi is a definite find and her scenes bristle with her youthful enthusiasm and passion. Kechiche is more interested in the internal drama of the family rather than the external events hence the centrepiece of the film is a pair of long slow lunches where the family gather, without Slimane, and discuss issues of domestic interest. This scene beguiles with its earthiness.

Opening the scenes up and letting them breathe is a definite part of the charm of the film. However, at times, it also becomes a curse. At 2½ hours the film is about half an hour too long and there are several scenes where the actors raise the same issue time and again. Foremost amongst these is a late scene where the Russian wife of Majid, Slimane adulterous eldest son, rants on his infidelity and the apparent nonchalance's with which this is treated by the family. The scene is important for several reasons including the clear message that the sons and daughters close ranks around their own, which is reflected in their non-acceptance of Latifa and Rym, but the director allows the rant to go on for what seems like 10 minutes.

Even Herzi is allowed to run on too long when trying to convince her mother to attend the gala night on the boat. No doubt Kechiche wanted to let the scenes breath to allow us to experience a real family with their mundane issues however the pacing is sometimes too slow. This is to be contrasted with the last 40 minutes of the film where the director turns the tension up to 11, making for sweaty palms.

In short, The Secret of the Grain is an invitation to join this extended family and observe their rituals of their day to day lives. Once accepted the invitation pays off with a depth of human experience and understanding. Those seeking a snappy dialogue driven film would do well to stay clear. The dialogue is rarely sparkling and Slimane is an almost silent lead surrounded by motor-mouth family members. Indeed, for the first 40 minutes there is no plot advancement whatsoever. However, for those who wish to be drawn into this earthy world with its ageing fishing boats, mountains of couscous and passionate people, the film will undoubtedly have a strong resonance and be a firm favourite.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    According to IMDB The Secret of the Grain was projected cinematically at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This ratio has been preserved for the DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced. The Secret of the Grain is a long film however the lack of any real extras on the DVD means that the film is allowed to span both layers of this DVD 9. Accordingly, I did not notice any real compression issues and the high definition digital image quality was generally bright and clear with no low level noise.

The flesh tones were accurate and the colours - from the deep blue of the sea, to the yellow of the couscous and the deep red of a belly dancing costume - are all accurately rendered without any bleeding.

The quality of the flesh tones is crucial to this film as Kechiche has his cinematographer shoot much of the film up close and personal.

The subtitles are clear and easy to read.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

   The sound for The Secret of the Grain is Dolby Digital 2.0 running at 224Kb/s.

This is perfectly adequate for this film as much of it consists of dialogues or multi logs around the kitchen table. The dialogue is always clear and easy to hear. It appears to be in perfect audio sync.

Kechiche presents his film as akin to a documentary of the lives of this family. Accordingly, there is no music other than that heard by the characters. The music, as might be expected, is Tunisian with its beguiling insistent rhythms. In the gala night scenes a group of musicians play traditional music to great effect.

There are no technical problems with the sound transfer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The only extra on the DVD is the theatrical trailer. It is a good introduction to the film although it perhaps gives the impression of a greater degree of drama than the film actually possesses.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  Aside from this Region 4 release it appears The Secret of the Grain has been released on DVD in Region 2 France and Region 2 UK. The Region 2 release in the UK contains an interview with the director of approximately 24 minutes in length.

It is worth noting that in the UK the film was retitled "Couscous". The Secret of the Grain is, of course, not a literal translation of La Graine et la Mulet. My research suggests that the film title directly translates as the grain and a mule (with the pun on mullet for the fish). Apparently the title stems from an allegorical story about a farmer who, to save money, deprives his mule of one less grain per day. There are no apparent disadvantages until the mule drops dead!

Those who are very keen on the film may wish to purchase the Region 2 UK version however I would suspect that the Region 4 edition will be satisfactory for most.

Summary

    The Secret of the Grain is a long drama which combines not just the kitchen sink but the pots on top of it. The French were in awe of the film as were some top US critics including A.O. Scott of the New York Times who put it high in his best 10 films of the year list. There is no doubt it has a strong resonance for those who are able to slip into its rhythms.

The transfer quality is quite good both in sound and vision terms. The lack of extras is a disappointment however many would no doubt prefer to have more space devoted to the transfer of the film than to extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, January 30, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE