15 November 2019.
FORD vs FERRARI (LE MANS 66) ****
There is pure adrenaline in this true story of two opposite personalities who were longtime friends and colleagues in the racing world back in the mid-1960s.
This latest film by James Mangold (of character-driven dramas as “Cop Land”, “Walk the Line” or “3.10 to Yuma”) stars Christian Bale as Ken Miles, the difficult but passionate English race driver, and Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby. The revered Shelby was the solid, Texan car designer and entrepreneur who was the first-ever American to win (in 1959) the legendary Le Mans 24-hour race in France against their major rival, Ferrari. This is the story of their uphill struggle in which the duo tried to do it again in 1966.
In the exciting genre of car racing, this one is a standout – on the race track, in character development, as well as illuminating towering automotive figures as Enzo Ferrari, Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca. And the intense, heartfelt acting of the two leads is Oscar-worthy.
Mangold illustrates their friendship with amusing empathy yet discretion, while stressing the difference between their vision and passion versus the heavy bureaucracy of the automotive industry which they had to convince to let them make the cars that could beat the Italian giant. This is old-fashioned movie pleasure worthy of your time, despite its length of two and a half hours – which fly by like those speed machines.
J’ACCUSE ***1/2 (vo French)
Roman Polanski has done it again. The director of such varied and major works as “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Tess” or “Chinatown”, offers here another brilliant work of introspection and a renewed look at an important historical event. This very sober and meticulous film about the infamous 1894 Dreyfus affair and trial in France rightfully won the Silver Lion (Grand Prix de Jury) at the Venice Film Festival.
The film sets its tone on a cold, grey morning when Officer Alfred Dreyfus (Louis Garrel) is stripped of his military insignia in front of lines of soldiers of all ranks. He has been accused of spying for the Germans and condemned to perpetual isolation on a far-off island. His shame ends up being the shame of the French government when one officer, played by the excellent Jean Dujardin, begins to dig deeper into the dubious claims against Dreyfus.
Polanski shows that much of the pressure to hastily condemn Dreyfus was because he was Jewish. With solemn precision, he brings out the facts that led to a difficult retrial for the proud, innocent man, including the intervention of such luminaries as George Clemenceau, Anatole France or the brilliant writer Émile Zola, who ignited the affair with his headline article entitled J’Accuse! The whole controversy of this injustice lasted from 1894 until1906, deeply troubling and dividing France.
As was his Oscar-anointed “The Pianist” about the tribulations of a Jewish Polish musician in WWII, this masterwork is once again the director’s connection to his own background and heritage.
Unfortunately, the release of Polanski’s latest opus has been marred by new, unproven allegations of a rape case dating back to the mid-1970s. She said, he said…who is guilty, who wants their dubious revenge, or their 15 minutes of fame?
Presumed innocent until proven guilty should be the bottom line in any accusation. As with so many recently tainted individuals with years of fine careers down the drain: Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Dustin Hoffman, Woody Allen, Placido Domingo, Kevin Spacey, a sad, unending list…
Should not a person’s art/accomplishments be judged separately from their private life, as with the sublime Renaissance painter Caravaggio, who apparently murdered a man?
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.