29 October 2021.
In the past two weeks we have had six excellent films released, four of them French. This week is unfortunately the opposite, with three disappointing films from important directors and one crazy black comedy. Even known talents can’t win all the time. Next week has a few fine works coming out, so don’t lose hope.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO **1/2
The English director Edgar Wright has been known for action thrillers with a twist of comedy and wholesome romance to them, such as “Hot Fuzz”, “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” and the exciting cult film, “Baby Driver”.
Here he has gone somewhat retro with an innocent English girl who wants to become a fashion designer. She has been accepted to a design school in London, but that’s where her troubles start. In her new lodgings she begins to have dreams of turning into another girl who lived in 1960s swinging London. Her dreams slowly turn into nightmares as she experiences the degrading life which her more sophisticated clone was living, and the film descends into horror.
The best part in the movie is the 60s girl played by the hypnotic Anya Taylor-Joy, who portrayed the young chess champion in the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit”. It is she who gives this intriguing yet too twisted and gruesome tale its bit of class and pizzazz.
THE FRENCH DISPATCH *
Despite the multitude of super stars that Wes Anderson can always attract to his whimsical and loopy films (like the delightful “Royal Tenenbaums”, “Isle of Dogs”, “The Darjeeling Limited” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), this latest is a tiresome disaster due to a nondescript scenario and convoluted cinematography that drowns out their collective talents.
The usual suspects this time include his regulars Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Frances McDormand, plus some big time newcomers such as Timothee Chalamet, Benicio del Toro, a very nude Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz and Cécile de France, amongst many others. Now that is an amazing cast, but to no avail.
One could call this a runaway conceit by Anderson, who gives us this mess – a supposedly nostalgic tale about an American newspaper that existed many years ago in a small French town with Murray as its editor. The film is dissected into complicated chapters on the stories carried by the paper, none of them connected nor making any sense, and finally we give up caring about them or any of the characters.
You might be tempted to see the film for those marvelous stars, but you may not even recognize some of them, such as Del Toro who is covered with a huge beard and hairdo, and Swinton who is filmed in such long shots that the stage becomes more important than she.
I was looking forward to another quirky, fuzzy-warm comedy that Anderson does so well, but was terribly disappointed. Hope he gets his act together for the next one.
LUI *1/2 (vo French)
And then we have the latest film from one of France’s top actor/writer/directors, Guillaume Canet.
He of such successes as “Les petits mouchoirs”, “Rock ‘n Roll” and Nous finirons ensemble” has unfortunately created here the boring, navel-gazing story of a composer who has left wife, lover and friends to come to an isolated island off Brittany.
He is apparently in a midlife crisis and needs to be alone. But in his mind he is visited by his beautiful wife, his seductive mistress and his best friend, sometimes all together, nagging his guilty conscience. And we as audience are witness to all this psychological claptrap plus the usual casual nudity that the French so relish. Virginie Efira, playing his phantom wife, is especially lovely. This continuous parade of his hangups and tired lovemaking weighs heavily upon the viewer. And do we really care? Sorry to say, it’s simply a dull ego trip.
BARBAQUE ** (vo French)
Are you into cannibalism? Probably not, but this film may just whet your appetite. And might remind you of “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street”, which was far better.
A couple running a butcher’s shop somewhere in provincial France are in a bad state. The business is failing and so is their marriage. To add to their woes the shop is ravaged by a band of extreme vegans. The husband kills one of them, accidentally, when he reverses his car over him one day. So, what to do with the body? Well, if you’re a butcher there’s only one answer to that, isn’t there? It’s in the cleaver, the hacksaw, the knife and the mincer, the use of which tools is all very starkly shown. What emerges is something so good that word gets around, queues form outside the shop and this new pork he has come up with is a huge success.
But it soon runs out, of course. There is only so much meat on a human body and the dead vegan wasn’t even that big. The butcher wants to end it with the one, but his more commercially minded wife, who can see at last some money coming in, persuades him to do otherwise. And here begins the meat of the film, if I dare say that.
The vegans in the neighborhood get hunted down, murdered in an imaginative variety of ways, and end up as mince, ragout or pressed ham, in the butcher’s display. Success breeds success, and murder breeds murder. Its quite an awful film really, full of people being slaughtered quite gruesomely and very coldly, while they go about their daily business. Some cinema goers will be disturbed by it and may vomit on the seats. Some will find it a stupid waste of time and go off to do better things. But some will be amused by the black comedy and by the jibes at hypocritical sensitivity and political correctness with which the film teems.
How does it end? Well, the couple get their comeuppance of course because such idiocies as this film perpetrates cannot go on forever. But how? Well, that would be telling, which I shouldn’t, but watch it and you will not eat another bacon sandwich.
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.