25 September 2020.
UNDINE ***1/2 (vo German)
It’s excellent that we are finally getting more examples of fine German films in our Suisse Romande theaters, right after the compelling “Schwesterlein” which had two Swiss directors but mainly German actors and settings.
This one is a strange and haunting love story by the talented writer/director Christian Petzhold, among his many works – “Barbara” and “Phoenix” – both with his favorite actress Nina Hoss whom we just saw in “Schwesterlein”.
This film is a sort of modern day fairy tale full of strong passions about a professional historian of urban planning in Berlin who allows her emotions to overpower her life choices.
The delicate and beautiful Paula Beer, who was radiant in François Ozon’s “Frantz”, won the Best Actress Award for her role of Undine at the 2020 Berlinale. She shares the overwhelming, almost magical power of love in this film with the enigmatic Franz Rogowski, who has an uncanny resemblance to both Joachim Phoenix and Sean Penn, along with their strong screen presence.
It has shades of “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Shape of Water” and bits of “Le Grand Bleu”. After all, the name Undine harks back to a water nymph or creature, for both protagonists are somehow connected to water, whether as a diver or in a revelatory accident with a large aquarium. Told you it was strange, and quite mesmerizing.
LE BONHEURS DES UN… **1/2 (vo French)
At a dinner with two couples who are very close friends, Bérénice Bejo’s character casually remarks that she is writing a book. This innocent comment slowly sets off jealousies, vulnerabilities and insecurities in their camaraderie that become the motor of this French tragicomedy. Depending on our emotional makeup, it could happen to anyone is what writer/actor/director Daniel Cohen may be conveying, and at times he makes it feel like a French Woody Allen.
His famous foursome of actors – Bejo, Vincent Cassel (playing against type), the comedian Florence Foresti and the Belgian François Damiens give their all and a bit more in this intriguing yet painful downward spiral of a longtime friendship. Bejo is sweet and modest in her rise to literary fame, while her success eats away at Foresti’s uncontrolled jealousy, exasperating also her husband Cassel’s lack of confidence. Here is an amusing, though at times exaggerated portrait of four different characters and the destructive power of envy.
By the way, there is an exhaustive retrospective at theGRUTLI CINEMAS on the films of the brilliant Fritz Lang, who is one of the early greats of the Hollywood directors (such as Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch and Michael Curtiz) who came over from Germany and enriched the artistic landscape in Hollywood. Some silent masterpieces as “Metropolis”, unforgettable film noirs and a few westerns (30 of them, dating from 1921 to 1960) will be showing every day until October 8th.
Pick up the informative program at the Grutli or check it out on their website, cinemas-du-Grutli.ch. This is a rare opportunity to see outstanding cinema – not to be missed!
Look up the films, times and cinemas on cineman.ch.
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.