23 November 2018.
The talented actor Ethan Hawke, who picked up an Excellence Award at this year’s Locarno film festival, has become an accomplished director and delves here into a biopic on the singular, turbulent life of the legendary (among aficionados), yet little-known Country singer/songwriter Blaze Foley.
It’s a ballad, a poem, a melancholy, hazy golden tribute to a man who lived to write his feelings and sing them wherever he could, in honky-tonk bars or recording studios all around the country, until he found the love of his life. But his uncontrollable temperament and hard drinking constantly got in the way of his natural talent and his strong love for his woman, Sybil Rosen. The film is based on her memoirs of their time together. She is beautifully played by actress Alia Shawkat, while the charismatic singer Ben Dickey portrays Blaze’s tragic character with both lightness and depth. Their love shines through their intimate moments together and their bare surroundings in a commune of simple people living like hobos in the woods. This is pure Country Western, and it’s mesmerizing.
THE BOOKSHOP ***1/2
More English than this you can’t get: it’s late 1950s in a small seaside hamlet in England. Florence, a young widow, wants to open up a bookshop in her cozy home on the bucolic high street. A jealous grande dame is opposing her at every turn. A mysterious, elderly widower takes a liking to the young, courageous book lover. And the townspeople love to gossip – curious biddies and the menfolk too.
There is a languid quality to the film that will bring down your stress level and let you float on the nostalgia of its narrative, told from the memories of the little girl who helps in the bookshop. Character actor Bill Nighy (“Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, “The Boat that Rocked” and “Skylight” on stage, among his more than 146 roles) is once again immensely real and touching as the solitary widower, and his delicate, hesitant occasions with Florence are moments of grace. Emily Mortimer plays the mousy but determined Florence, while Patricia Clarkson, a favorite actress of the director, is the wonderfully haughty grande dame.
The Catalan director, Isabel Coixet, of such gentle, enigmatic films as “My Life Without Me”, “The Secret Life of Words” or “Elegy” (with Clarkson and Ben Kingsley) has again created a discrete world melding heart and mind. Like her other works, this one has won multiple prizes at various film festivals, including 3 Goyas (the Spanish Oscars) for Best Film, Direction and Screenplay.
FANTASTIC BEASTS – CRIMES of GRINDELWALD ***
I was not looking forward to this film, for I’m not a fan of fantasy, strange creatures, or a multitude of characters. Give me reality any day.
But with a streamlined story, laughs and excitement, the addition of the delectable Jude Law and an expanded role for the always fascinating Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, the franchise feels stronger as it connects slowly with the Harry Potter stories. True stars as those two add that extra magic to the convoluted tales of J.K. Rowlings and the strong direction of David Yates. Fear not children, there’ll be quite a few more sequels, as is her wont.
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.