TOUR DE FRANCE ***1/2 (vo French)
There is no doubt that Gérard Depardieu is what the French call a “monstre sacré” – probably Frances’s greatest actor. He can portray anything and make it more than authentic.
One could say he is the French Marlon Brando, both artistically and privately – superlative in one field, troubled in the other. He was the outrageous young rebel in “Les Valseuses”, a charming Frenchie in America in “Green Card”, a wonderfully silly Obélix, or an eloquent, tragic Cyrano de Bergerac. Anything.
Here he plays an ageing, racist fellow who ends up traveling through France with a young French/Arab rapper (Sadek) – the former seeking the locations of the 18th century French painter, Joseph Vernet, the latter running from big trouble in his neighborhood. Director Rachid Djaidani has created an incongruous union in this touching, beautifully-paced road movie, full of tensions turning into harmony, without ever falling into clichés.
LOUISE EN HIVER **** (vo French)
If you want to see an animation film that is like a moving watercolor painting with beautiful pastel hues and music, this is it. This story of an old woman who misses the last train of the season on her holiday island is a soothing wonder, a delicate reminder that there are always possibilities beyond what one faces just now.
Instead of cracking up under the idea that she is stranded, Louise decides to buckle down and endure all that nature throws at her during a rough winter.
The storms, the mounting waters, the terrible cold all meld slowly into seagulls floating and swooping on peaceful days, crabs skimming across the beach, and a stray doggie that becomes a faithful companion. Cold turns into warmth, hardship turns into the deep satisfaction of survival, while loneliness turns into an acceptance of herself.
This is an ode to the resilience of old age, the power of memories, and the comfort of solitude. By Canadian director Jean-François Laguionie, it is simply a sublime moment, an animated poem to life.
JEAN ZIEGLER – L’Optimisme de la volonté ***1/2 (vo French)
Most everyone in Switzerland has heard of Jean Ziegler. This brilliant professor of sociology, member of parliament, controversial writer and U.N. appointee to various human rights councils is a man who is either revered by his followers or reviled by those who find him ungrateful to his Swiss roots. He is the one who in 1976 dared to publish “Switzerland Exposed” (Une Suisse au-dessus de tout soupçon), attacking the hypocrisies of capitalism and especially those of Swiss banks.
His untiring struggles for the poor and hungry in the Third World have gained him strong supporters as well as a legion of opponents accusing him, in turn, of hypocrisy.
This excellent documentary by the Genevan producer and director Nicolas Wadimoff reveals the human being behind all the polemics. In the same vein as Ziegler, Wadimoff has often made films about the downtrodden, such as his searing first film on refugees, “Clandestins” (1997), or as producer of the eye-opening African documentary “Captain Thomas Sankara”. They are no doubt both on the left spectrum of politics. But that does not make Wadimoff a blinded fan, but rather a sympathiser and objective questioner.
He reveals the early years of Ziegler, his parents, his studies in France and meeting such figures as Sartre and later Che Guevara, including his trips though South America and Africa, connecting with many revolutionaries as Castro, Chavez and Ghadaffi.
It’s especially in the sequences in Cuba, along with his devoted wife, that we see an enchanted Ziegler, in awe of the country, its revolution, and his idol Che. That is the man Ziegler, now 82, sometimes unconditionally following his ideals, trying through it all to save the underdog, no matter who the trailblazer. Wadimoff sees it all with a clear eye, which makes this an essential film about an exceptional man.
What is it with these great directors turning artistically bankrupt?! This time it’s the talented Robert Zemeckis who hits the dust. His varied, superlative films have included Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away, and The Walk.
So what went wrong in this romantic spy thriller with two fine actors such as Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard? One could start with the nonsensical script and dialogue; the stilted acting and lack of chemistry between the stars; and the embarrassingly fake decor and cinematography, all culminating in an absence of direction. Sad and incomprehensible from Zemeckis.
Maybe a film is a gigantic version of throwing a party – you try to get all the ingredients right, yet it still falls flat. Here the ingredients were wrong from the start, and this terribly clichéd tale of supposed love and intrigue during WWII just couldn’t make it. What a waste and a pity.
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.