5 November 2021.
COMPARTMENT No. 6 ***1/2 (vo Russian, Finnish)
A Finnish archeology student (Seidi Haarla) who has made a few friends in Moscow wants to go to Murmansk to see some rare cave paintings. On the long train ride she has to share a compartment with a drunken Russian fellow. This case of ‘you can’t tell a book by its cover’, is a road movie – on a train – that is beautifully revelatory of mistaken first impressions and difference of class.
Her initial disgust at the vulgar fellow (Yuri Borisov, who has a strong resemblance to Putin and is a rising talent, starring in many Russian films) turns into reluctant acceptance, curiosity and finally an unlikely friendship. The stark landscape mirrors her original feelings, but her defences retreat as she realizes how decent a man he is.
This deep and delicate film by Finnish director Juno Kuosmanen, which has a strong feel of Russian cinema, shared the Cannes Grand Prix award with Farhadi’s “A Hero”, and has been sent to the Oscars as Finland’s entry. Here is a touching film not to miss.
LES OLYMPIADES **** (vo French)
Jacques Audiard is one of France’s finest and most frequently-awarded directors. He has won a Palme d’Or and a Grand Prix at Cannes, multiple César awards, a Silver Lion from Venice, a Bafta for best foreign film, plus various awards from other festivals. His films are a varied lot, from the austere prison drama, “Un Prophete” to the unlikely love story of a cripple in “De rouille et d’os” and “Dheepan”, the heartfelt refugee story that won him the Palme d’Or.
With his latest, he has picked an area of Paris in the 13th arrondissement to portray the various love relationships of today’s young adults. An oriental, a black fellow, a white girl, and a character out of a porn site. Roommates, co-workers, accidental look-a-likes in intermingling scenarios that are told with complete honesty and reality. It’s the modern day, with modern mores, done in an opaque black and white that draws us right in with each character and their desires and foibles.
There is a clarity to Audiard’s storytelling that is a breath of fresh air, whatever the circumstance. No judgement, no fake romance, just human feelings. Here’s another one that could have gone from France to the Foreign Film Oscars. Worthy and starkly beautiful.
How could Chloe Zhao, the Oscar-winning director of the gentle, moving “Nomadland”, make such an awful futuristic action flick?!
Was it for the money? Was it for the challenge? Whatever the reason, the result is a mediocre blockbuster that is actually embarrassingly bad. A new addition to the Marvel Comics franchise, it has a bunch of super heroes and a convoluted ancient yarn that you will forget the minute you leave the cinema. Save your time and money!
ALBATROS ** (vo French)
We are in a small town on the coast of Normandy. The ambiance is as gray as the sky. Laurent is a gendarme, the head of his group. He does his job diligently but without passion. He personally knows many of the desperate cases he comes up against. Ordinary people whose lives have taken them into difficulties he was able to avoid. He lives with a partner. They have been together for eight years and have decided to get married. They have a daughter as old as their relationship who is loved by both, and there is a kindly grandmother there to help them. It is a stable, happy family.
One day Laurent shoots and kills someone he knows. It is an accident. The man, in despair over his failing farm, is about to put a bullet in his head. Laurent puts one in his leg to stop him, and it does, but it goes through the femoral artery and the man bleeds to death. That tragedy, and the way that Laurent handles it, are what this film is about. And it needs some handling because he doesn’t take it easily. The ambiance gets more gray and Laurent almost loses everything until a frightening escape from himself in his boat in an Atlantic storm brings him round.
A good if not great film by Xavier Beauvois, who made the excellent “Des Hommes et des Dieux”. Quite slow moving, which adds to the heavy but realistic atmosphere. Jérémie Renier as Laurent carries it but the cast is competent. Don’t go late. There is an event at the very beginning of the film that sets the tone. Make sure you have seen this before you put any popcorn into your mouth.
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.