15 June 2018.
This is a fine week for films – take your pick from this exceptional selection:
POPE FRANCIS – A MAN OF HIS WORD ****
To start off, there is Wim Wenders’ superb documentary on the Pope. A man of the people who cares for and identifies with the poor. That’s why he picked his name from Saint Francis (of Assisi) who between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries gave up all worldly goods to nurture animals, nature and the have-nots of his world.
Wim Wenders is a master of documentaries, witness his famous BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB from 1999 about the unforgettable musicians of Havana; PINA, a great portrait in brilliant 3D about the famous choreographer Pina Bausch; or THE SALT OF THE EARTH, his moving homage to the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado. All multiple award-winners.
And now we have his tribute to this Argentinean priest who as Pope has taken on the Catholic hierarchy while trying to make the Church into a more humane and open institution. Wenders has clips of him from his past, with his followers, in his travels, but above all the frank, personal conversations he has had with him.
See the film (around the same time as the Pope is visiting Geneva!) and be moved by the words and actions of this controversial – and at times, besieged – Pope whose very presence feels authentic and caring. To hear this good man is deeply touching.
THE GUERNSEY LITERARY & POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY ****
Silly title but a delightful movie based on the best-seller with the same name, this is probably Mike Newell’s (FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL) best film. If you want an old-fashioned romance, an intricate story with wonderfully quirky characters, intermittent laughter and tears, run to this film.
The setting is an exuberant, sophisticated London right after WWII, and the protagonist is a lovely young writer who receives a strange letter from a fan living on the isle of Guernsey. Despite just having become engaged to a dashing American, she decides to visit the island and write about the strange literary society which is charmingly described in the following letters. Her sojourn there will change lives, as we watch with hope in our hearts and a lump in our throats. For there are many facets to this story – the unhealed wounds of an island occupied during the war, dark secrets, a child waiting for her mother, and difficult decisions to be made in matters of the heart. Though we mostly know where this tale is going, it doesn’t matter since we want it to go there…
Lily James of ‘Downton Abbey’ is marvelous as the heroine, as is the whole cast including the old trouper Tom Courtenay and the attractive Dutchman, Michiel Huisman. Turn off the TV and go.
A completely different film, darkly compelling and daring, is this work by Chilean/Argentinean director Sebastián Lelio who gained fame through such films as GLORIA and the Foreign Oscar-winning A FANTASTIC WOMAN.
This one recounts the turmoil that is renewed when an independent woman (an excellent Rachel Weisz) comes back to her Orthodox Jewish community in London after many years in New York, for her father’s funeral.
Her father was a greatly revered Rabbi, her old flame is married, and she will end up disrupting a promising life and career. With a very different role for Rachel McAdams, this powerful tale reveals a great deal of tension in its plea for honesty and freedom of choice.
OCEAN’S 8 ***
If you’re looking for sharp action and glamorous fun, this is the one. Remember the OCEAN’S ELEVEN franchise with the Clooney, Pitt and Damon gang? That got to be a bit tiresome when it began to feel as though we were intruding upon a private club… Well in this ‘year of women’ the ladies have decided to take over the reins and they’ve done a sparkling job, directed by Gary Ross of SEA BISCUIT and THE HUNGER GAMES.
The ride begins with a super sequence of Sandra Bullock asking for parole after some five years in prison. She is the deceased Ocean’s sister, cool as a cucumber and steely as a bullet. And then we meet her best friend, played by an even smoother Cate Blanchett. Man, do we know we’re in competent hands here. And as the girls gather, including Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter, the plot thickens. This being a bevy of women, why not have the heist be about a huge piece of jewelry, Cartier jewelry at that, and at the Met Fashion Gala.
There’s a whole array of celebrities playing themselves, lots of intricate negotiating and manoeuvres as the plot thickens, and then enters the victim of the pack – a sweet Anne Hathaway. The story may be slight, but the fun is mega, it’s all so glittering and they’re all so gorgeous. Go check it out – you’ll have a blast.
MALARIA – VIBES OF TEHRAN *** (vo Farsi)
Malaria is not a disease in this film but the name of a rock band in Iran. But then it could also be a metaphor for the oppression of the youth in that country, and especially the two young lovers who have run away from their parents by staging a kidnapping. They find refuge in the hospitality of the rock band and the vastness of Tehran.
In this contemporary fable written and directed by Parviz Shahbazi is the frenzied euphoria of love on the run, the bustling streets of the capital and the momentary hope of young lovers. There is the camaraderie of youth and then the cold light of reality when the two lovers fake their final disappearance, or do they?
The film premiered at the 2016 Venice film festival and won the Grand Prize at the Warsaw International film festival. It’s a journey into another world and that’s what cinema is all about.
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.