22 November 2019.
FROZEN 2 (LA REINE DES NEIGES 2) **1/2
I should think that at this time of year lots of parents are thinking of taking lots of children to see Frozen 2 as a Christmas treat, remembering the very beautiful and hugely successful Frozen 1 which we all saw six years ago. Well, I’m afraid that both parents and children may be a little disappointed.
We are still in homely Arendelle. Elsa and Anna are still the heroines. Kristoff is still there, and so is Olaf the snowman and Sven the silly reindeer. There is still plenty of music. But things have changed. The girls’ relationship has grown more difficult. Kristoff is less manly somehow and spends much of the film fumbling for a ring with which he wants to become engaged to Anna. Olaf does his dislocating tricks, which have become a bit old-hat, but has moved meanwhile into philosophy. Sven of the big eyes and wet tongue is the same, and thank goodness for that. The songs are not the same. Music played a big role in Frozen1 with Let It Go becoming a major hit that we are all still singing. They have tried to emulate this in Frozen2, with Into the Unknown intended to be the carrier, but although it tries hard it doesn’t quite get there and the other songs are easily forgettable.
Frozen 1 was a charming, relatively simple fairy tale of a story. In seeking to do better Frozen 2 goes too far. It meanders a lot, it introduces too many characters without fully explaining them, it is complicated, as much for adults as it will be for kids. I defy anyone to explain the plot fully after the first time they have seen this film.
Having said all that we are still in the lovely winter world of the chilly but warm-at-heart north and the film is still quite a spectacle. There may be a ‘king’s new clothes’ moment as you walk out of the cinema, with no one knowing quite what to say, but ask Santa to pop the DVD into the children’s Christmas stockings so that they can go through the story again and catch onto the songs and all will be well. (by BJ)
LES MISÉRABLES **1/2 (vo French)
The poster for this film shows the Arc de Triomphe with a huge crowd in front of it filling the Champs-Élysées. It doesn’t look like one of those Parisian manifs we see much of these days. The waving flags are those of the République with not a CRS nor a gilet jaune in sight. So why use this photo to advertise a film that takes place in some housing project with a limited number of protagonists, and why name it after Victor Hugo’s magnificent novel? Pretentiousness? I think so. But the poster and the title have helped lift the film to dizzy heights among the critics and most of the French cultural glitterati. So did the Prix du Jury it picked up in Cannes, surely a political gesture.
Les Misérables is not a bad film. One could say it is an interesting portrayal of those all too widespread aspects of life in the banlieue – the depravation, the unemployment, the criminality, the drugs, the violence and the sheer hopelessness with which many people have to cope. But to do this it uses a set of stereotypes identifiable at a hundred yards – the rookie cop, the straight cop, the cop out of control, the blacks, the arabs, the kid gone wrong and even a band of violent gypsies thrown in for good measure. Everyone is in there wearing their identity like a badge. And it was this lack of subtlety that spoiled it for me. I didn’t have to work at it, except in understanding the slang. It was all laid out.
To the director’s credit he stays fairly apolitical. There are bad guys and good guys on all sides but he doesn’t come down for one or the other. That he leaves to you. Watch this film if you want to see this part of France, and you can understand the vocabulary. The director sometimes goes over the top and goes too far, but there is a truth in what he portrays and it is pretty horrible. (by BJ)
LES ÉBLOUIES **1/2 (vo French)
This is an autobiographical film and deserves our attention because of that. It is about a young, adolescent girl forced to live in a Catholic ‘community’ by a religiously deranged mother and a father too weak to deny his wife’s will. All of her brothers and sisters are there too, required to live up to their priest’s strict and sometimes perverse rules and instructions, effectively imprisoned by the institution’s walls and denied the normal childhood they crave.
The girl, as the oldest, is the first to seriously revolt, and she pays dearly for it in terms of internment and denigration. Seeing her brother sexually abused one day she runs to the mother, only to be hit by her and called a liar. This pushes her over the top, literally, and despite her fears that her parents may become caught up in whatever happens next she goes to the police who listen to her and intervene.
This is a powerful film, not least because it is true. It is hard to imagine that religious communities like this still exist within our society but they do, and with the acceptance of the Catholic Church. It is estimated that in France, at any one time, there are fifty to sixty thousand children living under such regimes. (by BJ)
DEMAIN EST À NOUS **** (vo French)
The good news is that the highly-mediatized Greta Thunberg is not the only young person doing something constructive for society and its future. For this inspiring documentary is about exceptional youngsters from 7 to 13 years of age – all over the world – who are doing their bit in bettering their surroundings in the very important present.
There is little José Adolfo in Peru who at 7 started a cooperative bank for kids who help him recycle garbage. There’s 10 year-old Arthur in France who gathers clothing and food for the homeless, spending time talking to them, touching them. Heena in India who started a newspaper for the young to express their feelings against injustice, as a forum for new ideas and change. And brave Aissatou in Guinée who fights against the forced marriage of minors.
From Bolivia to South Africa and beyond, director Gilles de Maistre (“Mia and the White Lion”, “Le Premier Cri”) puts a spotlight on these amazing, courageous young people who care about the world and have projects that would put adults to shame. As it says in the film, “They didn’t know it was impossible, so they did it anyway.”
Run to this documentary with friends and family, share it with everyone. It should be shown in all schools, for it is about children who do something positive about their beliefs for a better world. And that is very good news. (By Neptune)
JOYEUSE RETRAITE * (vo French)
Despite the talented and still charming Thierry Lhermitte and the popular Michele Laroque, this supposed comedy about a couple who are looking forward to a peaceful retirement falls flat as a cold pancake.
Terrible script, direction and overacting kill it. Save your time and money for the worthy ones. (By Neptune)
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.