8 March 2019.
STAN AND OLLIE ****
Duos have always been popular for they are often made up of opposites and therefore make for varied possibilities. There’s always the repartee that livens up these acts, giving them both fun and pathos, as with Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, Holmes and Watson, or Tom and Jerry.
Of them all, Laurel and Hardy, who became a team in Hollywood movies in the late 1920s, were one of the most influential and endearingly amusing, and this film about their last years is especially touching and evocative of an innocent, bygone era.
Portrayed brilliantly by the English actor Steve Coogan as the serious Stan Laurel and the American John C. Reilly as the more naive Oliver Hardy, the film is about their tour of Britain as a waning comedy duo in the 1950s.
The two actors (nominated at the Golden Globes and BAFTAS) are so convincing that once the film is over, you will have a hard time differentiating the original duo from these two marvels. They portray with tenderness the slow dissolution and disillusion of the two men who come to realize they are in an impasse of their lives and careers.
The beauty of the script (by Jeff Pope) is its slow-burning but mounting tension as they try to keep their troubles from their wives (another delightful duo) who are coming over to join them in Europe. In the meantime they are urging their impresario (a roguish Rufus Jones with a killer smile) to give them the service they deserve, while holding on to their own fragile relationship.
A sweet tribute to the legendary duo, this gentle biopic about friendship and loyalty will have you both chuckling and swallowing that lump in your throat.
LE MYSTÈRE HENRI PICK ***1/2 (vo French)
What a pleasure – the inimitable Fabrice Luchini is back in full form in this charming literary suspense.
A lone copy of an unpublished manuscript is found in the bookstore of a small hamlet in the north of France. It’s attributed to Henri Pick, a simple pizza man in the village who passed away some years ago. When it is finally published and becomes a huge success, everyone is impressed except for the country’s top literary commentator (a sort of Bernard Pivot) who doubts the authorship of the novel. A scandal erupts, he loses his job and his wife, but finds a new purpose in life – tracking down the mystery of who really wrote the book.
Director Rémi Bezancon sets us off on a delicious, intellectual hunt with lots of tangents to the story, intriguing characters and a satisfying conclusion. There are touches of a Chabrol tale, shades of “Alceste à bicyclette”, and even a bit of the 1983 atmospheric film “Local Hero”, starring Burt Lancaster.
Here’s a wonderful, very French yarn to savour and come away with a big smile on your face.
CELLE QUE VOUS CROYEZ (Who You Think I Am) *** (vo French)
Why would an attractive woman in her 50s be so insecure as to create a whole new, much younger character for herself when she goes on an Internet search for a male companion? Juliette Binoche plays this lovely woman who is divorced with two children that falls for a far younger man, whom she is reluctant to meet after a protracted phone relationship.
Sensitively played by a luminous Binoche (who is everywhere these days), along with Nicole Garcia as her therapist, and directed by the talented Safy Nebbou (“Dans les forêts de Sibérie), this is a romantic thriller that will have your heart racing and aching for the culmination of this bizarre relationship. It is also a telling view of how modern social media can distort human emotions into strange, unreal dimensions. A gripping tale indeed.
WOLKENBRUCH *** (German and Yiddish)
If you could imagine a Swiss Woody Allen, Motti Wolkenbruch would be your guy. This young fellow who is being hounded by his ‘Yiddishe Mama’ to find a suitable wife, would really prefer the pretty ‘shiksa’ in his university. When he comes to the end of his rope, he finds freedom and delights when he’s shipped off to Israel to find a good Orthodox mate. But the ‘promised land’ has evolved and the trendy girls there are not what his family expected of the old country.
This tongue-in-cheek satire is a perfectly uber-clichéd view of a typical Orthodox community in Europe – great, silly but pertinent fun. Woody would approve.
(Showing at the Grutli).
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.