21 September 2018.
CHRIS THE SWISS ***1/2
This mix of black and white hand-drawn animation and documentary is a very personal search by Swiss director Anja Kofmel into the mysteries surrounding the death of her journalist cousin Christian Wurtemberg, who met his end in Croatia in the early 1990s.
He had gone to report on the devastating war tearing Yugoslavia apart, but it seems he got further involved politically, as a mercenary or even a spy. As Kofmel studies his journals, shows his broadcasts and interviews various friends, family and comrades about his motives, the trail becomes evermore intricate and murky, as do the overpowering animated sequences drawn by the director. The film’s intimate view of the man and his horror of war’s carnage are reminiscent of the brilliant Israeli animated film “Waltz with Bashir”.
Chris was no doubt a fearless adventurer who became both disgusted and fascinated by the terrible conflict he was witnessing. Pulled deeply into dubious circumstances and dangerous groups, he died there at age 27. His cousin’s tribute to him is darkly aesthetic and powerful.
IN DEN GÄNGEN (In the Aisles/ La Valse dans les Allées) **** (vo German)
You would think nothing much happens in the sterile aisles of a gigantic bulk supermarket except the flow of shoppers looking for bargains. Well, there are also the employees who replenish the wares and stock the high aisles late into the night, zipping around in their electronic trolleys with mini-cranes.
This film is their domain and their story, more human and touching than you’d imagine. There’s even music to fit the mood, sometimes a waltz, sometimes something cooler, like another character in the film. There is the newcomer whom they call “Frischling”, for he’s new and fresh, played so gently by Franz Rogowski, a Joaquin Phoenix look-alike. A gruff old hand (a poignant Peter Kurth) takes him under his wing, warming to the kid since he doesn’t talk much, for he has a bit of a lisp and he’s shy. The old guy teaches him how to manoeuvre those trolleys in order to pass an exam.
The ‘Frischling’ comes alive when he spies the blond Marion (award-winning actress Sandra Hüller, from “Toni Erdmann”) between the shelves where she’s stocking chocolates. This is their tale, a melancholy story of barren lives somewhere in East Germany, where not much has really changed since the reunion. Except for more consumer goods and maybe less union…
This small, bare jewel of a (multi-awarded) film with understated acting and direction by Thomas Stuber, will enter your heart for awhile and allow you into the complicated human connections between the aisles…
THE SISTERS BROTHERS **1/2
This plodding tale of two brothers who are notorious outlaws and assassins in the old West feels somewhat disjointed despite the fine actors, Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly, portraying the brothers, along with a rival loner played by Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s terribly violent, sometimes amusing, along with moments of tenderness, and about what manhood was in the Wild West. In a nutshell, it’s about the brothers sent on a mission to find and kill a chemist (an excellent Riz Ahmed) who has a magic formula for finding gold, and about the destructiveness of greed…
Directed by French filmmaker Jacques Audiard, of such strong films as “A Prophet” and “Dheepan”, it feels strangely off-kilter, as though Audiard is emulating Clint Eastwood’s bloody “Unforgiven”, with these two brawling yet devoted siblings, yet trying too hard. Despite his capturing the grit and pace of the West, there is an unusual tone to the film that seems somewhat foreign. But then, he is French and I am not into Westerns.
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.