19 October 2018.
CAPHARNAUM **** (vo Arabic)
Lebanon: a sweet, hard-working little boy (looking much smaller than his age) among far too many poor siblings; his dearest underaged sister bartered off in exchange for their miserable apartment; the strange world of a dilapidated amusement park; a scared African refugee who takes him into her hovel where she hides her baby boy. The life of a street kid…
I would give the boy (Zain Al Rafeea) in Nadine Labaki’s CAPHARNAUM, a Best Actor’s award along with his smaller charge, who is adorable. How they were directed is a cinematic miracle.
The beautiful Ms Labaki (“Caramel”), who plays the boy’s lawyer, has given us a film that follows an imprisoned adolescent who decides to sue his parents for having conceived him. His harsh, miserable existence is so realistic that it feels like a documentary of the earth’s downtrodden – a sort of mesmerizing modern-day Oliver Twist.
This is an exceptional film that will break your heart while filling it with compassion. It won the Prix du Jury award at Cannes, though it should have taken the Palme d’Or for its excellent direction and important universal message that is so true and necessary: have only the children you can take care of…
FIRST MAN *1/2
The brilliant young director Damien Chazelle has jumped from two superb, musically-based, Oscar-anointed films – “Whiplash” and “LaLa Land” – to one about space exploration, and more specifically about the early years of Neil Armstrong as an astronaut. After all, Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon.
But unlike “Apollo 13”, which covered some of the same ground, or rather space, and was a thrilling, uplifting film by Ron Howard, this one is quite the downer. It is far too technical, too long, very invasive about Armstrong’s family life, of which too many of the heavy scenes are based on artistic presumption rather than fact. It is ponderous and unnecessary, delving into issues that are none of our business. This is insidious voyeurism into the life of a worthy, true hero who is no longer among us.
But because it’s a new Chazelle and Ryan Gosling pairing, and has a rah rah subject in the U.S. and Russian space race during the 1960s, it is getting ecstatic reviews and publicity, and even early Oscar talk.
Go if you want, but I was bored, dejected and exhausted from it.
SMALL FOOT (Yeti & Co.) *
Here is animation that will satisfy neither the kids – too many passé, Broadway-type songs – nor interest adults – too childish. See the delightful, intelligent “Delili à Paris” instead.
LE FLIC DE BELLEVUE * (vo French)
Now they’ve decided to export Omar Sy to Miami to rev up his career, but this is unfortunately a limp, wannabe “Miami Vice” or “Lethal Weapon” – neither very funny, nor terribly thrilling as a police yarn. It’s really just a postcard from opulent Miami. Miss it.
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.