6 May 2016.
Brace yourselves, Cinephiles – lots of quality films coming at us this week! Nearly all non-English ones that I would highly recommend. We are in international Geneva, after all. Check out these other corners of our world…
Here’s another true story, based on the incredible trek of Robyn Davidson (played by a fine Mia Wasikowska), a loner of a woman who in 1977 walked the plains and deserts of an austere Australia, from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, a merciless journey of some 2,700 kilometres. With just her beloved dog and four camels, it was a trip that she felt compelled to accomplish, and especially all on her own.
Director John Curran has managed to make this long trek with little dialogue into an almost breathtaking thriller. Davidson’s mishaps, encounters with both suspicious and helpful aborigines, and the loyal National Geographic photographer who followed her path are all just accessories in her fierce determination to reach her goal. This tale is much more engrossing than “Wild”, last year’s similar, but duller film about another lone female trekker, starring Reese Witherspoon. Curran has created here an aesthetic, zen-like homage to Davidson’s astonishing odyssey and the immensity of Australia.
VIRGIN MOUNTAIN (L’HISTOIRE DU GÉANT TIMIDE) **** (vo Icelandic)
I don’t know how they do it, these people from the cold, grey North. But like so many Icelandic films – such as “Of Horses and Men” and “Rams” – they take ordinary people and situations and make them glow with an inner warmth that they must muster through long, frozen nights of contemplation.
This tale is, as its title denotes, about a shy, lonely fellow with a weight problem. A sweet, gentle man who has a steady job, lives with his mother, plays with war figurines, and accepts all and any insults that life throws at him. A peaceful giant. And a virgin. A simple story about getting to know a girl and the little joys and big complications that it involves. Gunnar Jonsson’s acting is so subtle, it will break your heart.
At the Grutli, so run to it!
UN HOMME A LA HAUTEUR ***1/2 (vo French)
Ah, a light, romantic comedy that enchants as it teaches us the acceptance of differences. Not an easy task, but brilliantly and bravely done here with the charming Jean Dujardin and the lovely Virginie Efira.
A cell phone is lost, a surprising encounter ensues on its return, and a relationship develops with pizazz, hiccups and a great deal of thought. The French do well with romance and innovative ideas, and here is an invigorating example. (Let’s hope Hollywood doesn’t try to remake it!). Won’t say more, for you should discover this delightful bit of froth for yourselves.
THE SWALLOW (L’HIRONDELLE) *** (vo German, Kurdish)
Here’s an engrossing film telling of a young Swiss/Kurdish woman who travels to Iraqi Kurdistan in search of her long-lost father. A handsome, German-speaking Kurd (Ismail Zagros) begins to aid her in her search, albeit with some murky, ulterior motives. This road movie evolves from a daughter looking for her roots to a tender love story and eventually a political tale of treason, honor and revenge.
With two attractive protagonists, a conflicted terrain and family turmoils, Swiss/Kurdish director Mano Khalil has created here a suspenseful work of twisted politics, hopeful love and brutal reality in this harsh corner of the world.
LOS AMANTES DE CARACAS *** (vo Spanish)
This Venezuelan film took the top prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival. Maybe because it looks like a Dardenne brothers film and feels like a Fassbinder work? Disturbing and austere, it is the story of an incongruous, sexual relationship between Armando and Elder – an older, well-off loner of a man, and a young ruffian from the streets.
With spare dialogue, grey interiors and shabby urban locations it recounts how the two start off as hostile strangers and gradually develop an emotional, tangled liaison which has unexpected consequences for both of them. The psychological undertones and hints of a social bias must have impressed the Venice jury, though this puzzling tale is neither too convincing nor captivating – my mind kept wandering. But it is well-played and intriguing.
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.