8 January 2016.
If you haven’t seen a Swiss film for a while then Neptune has discovered just the thing for you this week. If this is not your cup of tea then there is the adrenaline of the stock market in The Big Short or cultural insights revealed in a Japanese film about a struggling pancake booth.
GIOVANNI SEGANTINI – Magie de la lumière *** (vo French)
There’s no doubt about it – the Swiss excel at documentaries. It might be their connection to time (watches?), their precision (watches, trains?), their meticulous handiwork (watches, tools, paper cutouts?), or their patience (waiting for the cheese to age and the cows to come home?) Sorry, just my meandering mind…
This one, by the Zurich-born Christian Labhart, brings to light an exceptional Italian painter who created some of his finest works in the high mountains of the Engadine at the end of the 19th century. From a tortured childhood to a wandering life looking for the perfect light for his paintings, Segantini was always passionate about his ideals, his work, but also about his beloved wife and family.
The exuberant Jean-Luc Bideau and the melodious Marthe Keller narrate from his writings and from a book based on his life, giving thought to his paintings which resemble both the grandeur of Hodler and the brush strokes of Van Gogh. And to raise it to the glory of complete art, the music of Bach and Mozart are interpreted by Paul Giger and the Carmina Quartett, along with a superb counter-tenor, Franz Vitzthum.
It’s all quite perfect, except for the moments when the director interjects jarring, modern-day views of Milan’s (where Segantini started) grey panorama into the bucolic old world of our painter. Strange, unsettling notion, though it cannot take away from the beauty of the rest of this opus on creating art.
AN – LES DELICES DE TOKYO ***1/2 (vo Japanese)
By the famed, multi-awarded Japanese director and Cannes regular, Naomi Kawase (“Still the Water”), here is a gentle story of the meeting of old age and young admirers. Quite normal in a culture which traditionally reveres the elderly, it is a fine reminder to our hurried, compartmentalised Western ways to see the wisdom and delicacy of those who may have outgrown our society.
And so Kawase recounts this touching tale of an old woman and a secretive man who runs a struggling pancake booth. Run to this superb study of patience and the appreciation of life.
THE BIG SHORT ***
If you’re into the rush and adrenaline of the stock market and the perils of Wall Street, this is your kind of film. With a power cast – Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt – this based- on-true-story movie by Adam McKay about the 2008 economic collapse is an exciting roller-coaster ride and initiation into the (corrupt) workings of the money markets. A place where the rich keep getting richer (big banks), and the weak keep getting – excuse the expression – screwed…
This is fast and furious, and not always easy to follow for the ordinary layman, but it’s worth your time…and money 🙂
THE PEANUTS MOVIE (Snoopy et les Peanuts) **
Everyone’s favourite characters are all here…cute Snoopy, insecure Charlie Brown, loony Lucy, etc, etc, but somehow they don’t light up our hearts as Charles Schulz managed to do through so many newspaper years. Pity, for it’s a sweet movie, but the plot is somewhat old hat, and the pace drags. Wonder how the kids will react.
At your own risk…
THE HATEFUL EIGHT (Les huit salopards) *1/2
I’ve been a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino since Pulp Fiction. In admiration of his love and knowledge of cinema, and the complete control of his craft. One could even excuse his excessive use of blood and gore as they were often part and parcel of his “symphony in violence”.
His last one, Django Unchained was an overblown master work, with a raison d’être – of the indecency and savagery of the black man’s history of inequality in the American South.
But this latest is a self-indulgent, lengthy exercise in gratuitous violence couched in a supposed homage to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. The title foretells the vileness of his endeavor – an unappetizing motley crew of misfits and outlaws stuck inside a snowed-in cabin for nearly three interminable hours – ours, not theirs. Sorry, Quentin, not this time.
LE GRAND PARTAGE *1/2 (vo French)
Because of a weak script which quickly loses its thread, this film is neither a hilarious comedy nor a brilliant social commentary. It just doesn’t know where its head or heart stands, flip-flopping around like a dying guppy. It has an interesting concept – of the bourgeois having to share their homes with the poor – and a good cast including Karin Viard, Didier Bourdon and Josiane Balasko, but it just doesn’t gel.
Oh Lord, we have that supposed magical combo again: director David O. Russell, best-flavour-of- the-year Jennifer Lawrence, over-used Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro (all from “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle”), making for an Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome…
Except this one has a tiresome family in a plodding, convoluted plot about a mop meeting the American Dream. Oh, please! Enough already of sweety-faced Jennifer, of “Hunger Games” renown!
PENSION COMPLETE * (vo French)
Despite the duo of Gerard Lanvin and Franck Dubosc, this bland remake of the delightful 1960s “La Cuisine au Buerre” (with the inimitable Fernandel and Bourvil) just doesn’t make it.
Why re-fix it if it ain’t broke?! Save your money.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.