25 June 2021.
IN THE HEIGHTS (D’OÙ L’ON VIENT) ***1/2
Do you want to see a rollicking musical with lots of Latino Salsa thrown in? And all about the aspirations of good people ‘coming to Amerika’ for a better life? This is the film for you, based on the second musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of his smash Broadway hit, “Hamilton”. You can catch him in the film as the icy juice vendor.
Its title comes from the New York locale north of Harlem called Washington Heights. The neighborhood gets its name from the George Washington Bridge which looms over its teeming streets full of kids playing with the water of fire hydrants in the hot summer. It’s a closely-knit, vibrant community of Latinos, blacks and Orientals, all trying to make a brighter future for themselves and their families.
There’s young Usnavi, originally from the Dominican Republic, who runs a grocery/bodega and has dreams of getting back to his roots; there’s the beautiful girl he desires who longs to be a fashion designer; a loving, older matriarch from Cuba who is everyone’s fount of love and wisdom; and the prosperous Puerto Rican father willing to sacrifice his business to pay the high tuition for his brilliant daughter who was accepted to Stanford. So many wonderful characters in this exuberant musical that will lift you up with its love of life and sharing dreams.
The energy of “West Side Story”, the romance of “Lalaland”, along with the snap of rap make this a spectacle that will become a classic and will have you strutting in step with its hot rhythms.
MINARI ***1/2 (vo Korean/English)
Directed by Lee Isaac Chung, this tender and delicate semi-autobiographical film is about the honor and ambitions of an immigrant family from Korea. When a young Korean father moves his family to a farm in Arkansas to better attain his idea of the American dream, he finds both opportunity and hardships in their quest at becoming part of their surroundings. They work hard at fixing up their dilapidated house that looks at first like a railroad wagon, at their demeaning, humdrum jobs in a chicken factory, getting their kids integrated in their elementary school, and fulfilling the father’s passion for a flourishing garden.
But it’s all easier said than done, especially when the grandmother from Korea comes to stay with them. Here is both the humorous and troubling part of the tale, as the feisty little boy and granny don’t quite hit it off. In fact their interchanges are so caustic as well as amusing that they will long remain as a memorable example of generational differences.
Having won numerous awards, including Audience and Jury prizes at Sundance, the film went on to the Golden Globes, BAFTAS and Oscars, picking up Supporting Actress awards for Yuh-Jung Youn as the grandmother, while the adorable 8-year-old Alan Kim won the Best Young Actor prize at the Critic’s Choice Awards (check out his moving acceptance speech on YouTube).
THE COURIER (Un espion ordinaire) ***
A bit in the vein of “Bridges of Spies”, this true tale of an ordinary British businessman who slowly became enmeshed in the murky and dangerous world of espionage will have you on the edge of your seat. And as in that latter film, this one somehow has the secondary figure of the Russian spy (played by the compassionate Russian, Merab Ninidze) overshadowing the main character portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, as Mark Rylance’s character became more memorable than Tom Hank’s role in “Bridges…”.
The interest of “The Courier” is that it highlights the crucial role these two men played in unraveling the tremendous danger of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This slow-simmering film builds up to a clarifying portrait of dedicated men behind international headlines, and the terrible ordeals they endured. Check it out at the Cine17.
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.