16 July 2021.
THE MAURITANIAN (Désigné Coupable) ***
There have been too many lost lives hanging in limbo in the shameful, secretive prison of Guantanamo. It is a modern day stain on anything considered human. Yet it is legitimate in the eyes of a great power. And continuing.
This film by director Kevin McDonald (“The Last King of Scotland”), starring Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim and Benedict Cumberbatch, tells the true story of one inmate, Mohamedou Slahi, who was captured after 9/11 in 2001 and released only in 2016! It is based on his diaries which were published as the book “Guantanamo Diary”.
The film follows a lawyer, played by Foster, who feels strongly about defending Slahi (Rahim), who has been detained for so long without any credible charges. Along the way, the military prosecutor (Cumberbatch) also begins to realize the injustice of the whole affair. Well acted and directed, it is yet another important testimony to history’s many discriminations.
SEIZE PRINTEMPS *1/2 (vo French)
Oh dear, a very French romance written, directed by and starring a 16 year-old. Yes indeed, and it’s about a shy loner of a teenager falling for a brooding, thirtyish actor. First love. How sweet. Pudique, as the French would call it. But how dull and nombriliste, as they also say in France…
A bit of Françoise Sagan, a touch of Charlotte Gainsbourg, not yet ripe nor worthy enough.
It would have gone nowhere if the 16 year-old wasn’t Suzanne Lindon, daughter of the famous Sandrine Kiberlain and Vincent.
Someday her talent may fully blossom.
I seem to be in the minority here, for even before the film was shown in Cannes as its opening spectacle, the media were talking of a chef d’œuvre with international stars and in English by the rare, controversial French director Leos Carax. Ah, the ruse and attraction of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. And as in the old fable, the masses fall for the hype.
Even the level-headed, very esteemed critic, Peter Bradshaw, has fallen for its crazed, supposed charms and went on a detailed rave of comparisons with other works. The draw might have been the glittering mood of the Cannes opening, but as I am not there this year, I saw it here in Geneva in an almost empty theater, and left terribly disappointed.
This frenetic, surrealistic musical is about the romance between a belligerent, arrogant comedian (the towering American, Adam Driver) and a delicate opera singer played by the French actress Marion Cotillard. The comedy is flat, the acting is stilted and there is no attraction or magic between them. It’s supposed to be a grandiose musical in the mode of a Lloyd Webber extravaganza, but the songs and melodies are mediocre, especially its tiresome refrain, “We love each other so much” that is supposed to lull us into believing it…
Carax, of delirious amour in “Les amants du Pont-Neuf” and the bombastic “Holy Motors”, goes off into all sorts of themes here. There is the pull and jealousies of celebrity, a killing à la Othello, a controlling father as a Svengali, and finally the resolution of Crime and Punishment. It’s all overdone, overlong, and fake, like Cotillard’s short wig.
But that’s only my take – maybe you will fall for the Emperor…
MYSTÈRE À SAINT-TROPEZ – (vo French)
I really won’t go on about this embarrassingly bad comedy which tries so hard to be an Inspector Clouseau-type farce. Absolutely useless. The only mystery is, how could such fine, successful actors as Depardieu, Poelvoorde, Lhermitte and Clavier agree to be accomplices?!?
The dash, by the way, means zero.
TITANE ** (vo French)
Well ! This one will stir the beans.
Take a young woman, played with impressive fervor by Agathe Rousselle, who has a brain implant from an accident as a child which has lead her subsequently to, let us say, unusual behavior. Take an ageing commandant des pompiers, played with a little uncertainty by Vincent Lindon, who has lost a son he knows not where and developed a taste for heroin as life has told on him. She has a penchant for flashy cars and can reach a spectacular orgasm just by sitting on the leather of one that takes her fantasy. She suddenly likes killing too, and goes on a spree. An admirer, her lesbian lover, people who share her home, people just visiting her home, all with no apparent reason. Her weapon of choice is a long needle which she pulls from her hair, and the deaths tend to be long and gruesome. Oh, and she also sets her parents on fire, just because she doesn’t like them. At least there was a reason there.
She has to flee of course and in her flight comes across Lindon. Because she has disguised herself by cutting her hair and taping up her breasts he believes that she is his long lost son, although in the state he is in he would be capable of believing pretty much anything. He introduces her to the team. They are skeptical but out of respect for their boss they take her in. They dance with her/him (and for a group of firemen they do quite a lot of dancing) and it is clear from her erotic movements that she/he is not what they’ve been sold. When he finally sees her breasts and her growing belly even Lindon grasps the truth. The pregnancy is never explained. She has tried to stop it with the same hair needle she used for the murders but failed. The baby is born, Lindon helps her bring it into the world and takes it up with a passion while she, I think, dies in the process. The screen turns white and we are released.
As I said at the beginning, this will stir the beans. There will be those critics who love it as they loved Julia Ducournau’s first film “Grave”, that delved meatily into cannibalism. The pun is intended. There will be those who deride it as a lot of nonsense dressed up to appear arty and intellectual. In fairness the film is well produced. It is well acted, well directed, fast moving, colorful, interesting. It is also silly of course, because one searches for meaning and purpose in the film and doesn’t find it. At least I didn’t. This film is about horror, but it doesn’t go quite over the edge in that. It is about sex, but it doesn’t go quite over the edge in that. It is about filial affection I suppose, and there some kind of useful statement is made. Unfortunately it gets lost in everything that has gone before.
Not a film for the faint-hearted. See it at your peril. It is unlikely you will feel good at the end.
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.