18 January 2019.
THE GREEN BOOK *****
There were three films this year that I considered most memorable – the Icelandic WOMAN AT WAR, the Lebanese CAPHARNAUM and the Polish COLD WAR. Until I saw this film that simply blew me away. Probably the best of the year. So, what is a great film?
One that is engrossing, moving, exciting, socially relevant, intelligent, funny, mind-jostling…worth your while. A film that remains in your head and heart for a long time after. And comes back fully each time its name or subject come up: CASABLANCA, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE BIG CHILL, BAGHDAD CAFE, GLADIATOR, AMERICAN BEAUTY, THE GODFATHER, ROMAN HOLIDAY, BICYCLE THIEF, BABY DRIVER, ANNIE HALL, PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (when are the #MeToo fanatics going to release Woody’s latest work?!)
This film is one of those greats. From its first scene – introducing the tough, big-hearted Italian Bronx man (an unrecognisable Viggo Mortensen) who will be chauffeur to the other character in the film – a talented, debonair, black pianist (Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali) who is going on tour through the American south in the early 1960s. The title of the film comes from the travel guide of places blacks were allowed in during that time.
Beginning to get the picture? An incongruous buddy/road movie that is both simple and deep. Amusing and painful. Human and very socially-conscious. About the small quirks of the two protagonists and the bigger problems of race. The two actors deserve an exequo Oscar. And one for the film, also!
Incredibly, all of this brilliant depth and lightness is directed by Peter Farrelly, one half of the Farrelly Brothers who made such lowbrow comedies as “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary”. Good thing he has ventured out on his own. By the way, forget the slight controversy around the film’s slant – it’s called cinematic licence. Just don’t miss this masterwork.
L’INCROYABLE HISTOIRE DU FACTEUR CHEVAL ***1/2 (vo French)
This truly is an incredible story, a true one, and the proof is located in Hauterives, in the Drôme, France and is called Le Palais Idéal. It was the simple, shy postman, Ferdinand Cheval (an excellent Jacques Gamblin) who spent 33 gruelling years – from 1879 to 1912 – single-handedly building his dream castle out of all sorts of rocks, shells and wood that he found on his daily postal rounds throughout his beloved countryside.
He was an austere man of few words, unable to show his emotions, dedicated to delivering the mail and living his solitary life. He lost his first wife to consumption, let his little boy be sent off to relatives, seemed to be merely vegetating until he met the love of his life, delicately portrayed by the lovely Laetitia Casta. It was when they had a daughter that he began to see a larger reason for his existence, that of constructing a castle for her.
Nils Tavernier, the 53 year-old son of Bertrand Tavernier, need not envy the grand film career of his father, for he has once again proven his own directorial talent with this sombre, very moving tribute to a man obsessed with a dream. The palace which Cheval painstakingly constructed over more than three decades can be visited in the Drôme area, an elaborate, naive work somewhat in the vein of Gaudi of Barcelona who was a contemporary but not necessarily an inspiration. Cheval’s ideas came from the postcards he collected from around the world, from places as exotic as Angkor Wat. This is indeed a fine homage to an introverted man with a keen, stubborn vision.
Not a fan of director M. Shyamalan’s pretentious hocus-pocus, therefore no comment.
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.