3 December 2021.
We’re in good hands this week with 3 excellent directors who give us a taste of their worlds. Run to them.
THE HAND OF GOD (ESTATE LA MANO DI DIO) **** (vo Italian)
As for any great master of his art, Paulo Sorrentino’s films are a special event. He, who is always selected and often awarded at top festivals as Cannes or Venice with such superb films as “Il Divo”, “La Grande Bellezza” (Oscar for best foreign film), and “Youth”, has come up this time with his most personal film.
As a semi-autobiographical reminiscence of his adolescence in Naples, it’s full of beauty, humor and immense emotions, often with surrealistic undertones, about a typically frenetic extended Neapolitan family. But it’s mainly about the coming of age of the boy who begins to realize that above all he wants to make films like his idol, Fellini.
It’s all the wondrous but tragic experiences he has with his loving parents; with the troubled woman who enjoys exhibiting her magnificent body; with the aunt who is hysterically foul-mouthed when antagonized; and of course the miraculous arrival of the great Maradona to Naple’s football club that create in him this urge to spin tales in the magical world of cinema.
This is a film to see once and come away enchanted, but then to go back and see it again for all the touching, surprising and amusing details you may have missed. A masterwork.
PETROV’S FLU ***1/2 (vo Russian)
The Russian rebel director Kirill Serebrennikov seems to be taking revenge for his arrest on trumped-up charges with this hallucinatory panorama of the tortured Russian soul. In scene after disparate scene, he has his hero Petrov going from a freezing, crowded bus with tragic characters spouting their woes, to a street scene of an unexplained firing squad, to a genteel literary meeting with a female balladeer at the library where his lovely wife works. But the readings turn into violent mayhem after an aggressive critique of a poet’s work. There’s also clandestine lovemaking going on between the bookshelves. This and much more make for the kinetic, surrealistic energy that drives this mesmerizing film which feels fueled by vodka.
Petrov is a cartoonist, he has a terrible flu in a dark city that seems to also be infected. And we follow his odyssey through ugliness, but also passion, tenderness and fairy-like celebrations involving myriad characters that swirl in our minds and hearts with a feverish anticipation of the next scene.
Here is a young master displaying his furious passion for cinema. More Russian than this you cannot get!
(Showing at the Grütli cinemas)
MADRES PARALELAS *** (vo Spanish)
Pedro Almodovar’s warm decor and flamboyant colors are here; as are his favorite actresses, Penelope Cruz and Rossy de Palma; and the usual twists and turns of his engrossing stories, most often about women. This one is about two of them who meet at the hospital where they are giving birth. One is too young and quite afraid, the other is older and happy to be having her first child. Both are single mothers and they bond in this, their moment of joy and apprehension.
Parallel to this is the story of the excavation of bodies that were buried en masse during the Spanish Civil War. It seems to be Almodovar’s plea to close the wound from so many years of denial of the atrocities that happened during those years. It’s maybe this recurrent insistence of his that distracts from the original tale. It’s as though one is oil and the other water, and they don’t quite mix, though both stories are important. It’s a good film, not one of his greatest, but as always, intriguing and surprising.
GHOSTBUSTERS – AFTERLIFE **
A clever (fourth) look back at the cultish Ghostbusters which first came out in 1984, this is written with witty dialogue and fun moments, but quickly forgettable. It’s directed by Jason Reitman, the son of the original director, Ivan Reitman, and stars Paul Rudd.
With so many excellent, solid films arriving and lining up for the upcoming Oscars, you can leave this one to the adolescents.
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.