3 November 2017.
WikiLeaks. Julian Assange. A unique, mysterious figure in the modern annals of technological scandals. Why and how did he release so many sensitive classified files on countless governments? Is he for real, what are his motivations, and what is his future?
It is simply astounding how filmmaker Laura Poitras managed to gain the trust of the ultra-secretive Assange. In this documentary she seems to be his shadow, as she was in her award-winning film “Citizenfour” on Edward Snowdon who divulged NSA secrets to the world, and who is now an American fugitive living in Russia.
Being in the right place at the right time and getting it all down on film – that is the knack of a great documentarist. The only problem is that not many of our questions are really answered here. We do begin to get a feel for the man, his fugitive status (he is still in lengthy self-imposed asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London), and the task he has set himself to create a team bent on leaking out the full and bitter truth, no matter the consequences. Is it heroic or is it the act of a devastator? Is he doing it for the good of the world or is it about his own delusion of grandeur?
The result of this film seems somewhat opaque, compared to the more structured one on Snowdon and his position. Or maybe it’s because Assange and his beliefs are not easy subjects to pin down. Whatever you come away with, this is a fascinating trip into a man’s singular life and his complex relations with the bounty of the Internet.
KILLING OF THE SACRED DEER (Mise à mort du cerf sacré) **1/2
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has a curious, twisted view of the world, to put it mildly. His last two films, this one and “The Lobster”, ended up winning awards in competition at Cannes.
The previous one was a strange tale about an institution that forced single people to find a suitable mate or be turned into animals. This one is far more tragic, in which a disintegrating family must choose one child to sacrifice in order to survive as a unit. I told you his films are twisted…
Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell (in a weird, bushy beard) play the parents in this bizarre, modern Greek tragedy. Both of them are doctors, the decor is utterly austere and grim, and their terrible misfortune starts when a curse is put on the father.
The atmosphere is clinical, as is their sex life and their relationship with their children. It is a surrealistic world that is deviously intriguing in its coldness and unreality. One either admires or detests Lanthimos…
D’APRÈS UNE HISTOIRE VRAI *1/2 (vo French)
Polanski has done far better work than this. I believe the culprit here is actually his French co-writer Olivier Assayas, who tends to be the critics’ darling as a director, yet keeps coming out with hollow works like the pretentious “Clouds of Sils Maria” or the insipid “Personal Shopper”.
This story is a muddled one about a successful writer who is feeling fallow after her latest bestseller. She has fame, looks, a literary celebrity for a lover, yet she seems at odds with her life. Until an ardent fan befriends her and begins to infiltrate her existence. They become inseparable, as the new friend literally moves in with her and starts to run her life.
This feels like a bad dream, somewhere between a wannabe “All about Eve” and a Hitchcockian thriller that is more melodrama than film noir.
The whole thing feels contrived and clichéd, while the acting of Polanski’s wife Emmanuelle Seigner and of Eva Green as her alter ego is exaggerated. But then how could they overcome a bad script?
If you want to witness great Polanski, go back and see “Chinatown”; the slightly more recent, superb “The Pianist”; or the brilliant “Venus in Fur” from 2013, starring a majestic Seigner. Those are pure Polanskis.
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.