24 December 2021.
Two fine films for a free moment in your bustling holidays. One is American and uplifting, the other a profoundly sad tale from Iran, and both are worthy, excellent and unforgettable.
There’s also a contemplative film from Japan that has many critics enthralled (so intellectual), which I found far too long and meandering. And it dissipates quickly from one’s mind.
The new Matrix is also too long, especially in its tiresome rampant violence. The NRA must be thrilled with all the deadly weaponry.
KING RICHARD (La méthode Williams) ****
This biopic by Reinaldo Marcus Green about the famous Williams family is a wonderfully positive and energizing movie, a perfect antidote to the Covid blues. We had all heard of the exceptional tennis sisters, Venus and Serena, but never really thought how they got their talent and gumption. Well, this film shows how their father believed so thoroughly in them that he let nothing get in the way of their ascent to greatness.
Will Smith incarnates this both demanding and loving father with such conviction that one cannot help but be moved by his devotion and decency, always standing firm and moral in the face of refusals and racial situations. But his wife is also a constant partner in this quest to perfection in the game of tennis and life.
I will go out on a limb and predict that Will Smith will get an Oscar for his brilliant turn as Richard Williams, for he certainly deserves it. Sometimes life can be fair.
UN HEROS **** (vo Farsi)
Good that Asghar Farhadi has gone back to Iran where he does his finest work as scriptwriter and director, for it is at home where his creative juices come to full fruition, as in the sublime, multi award-winning A SEPARATION (2011) and THE SALESMAN (2016).
This latest, which took the Grand Prize at the Cannes film festival (among its many awards around the world) and has been selected as Iran’s entry to the Oscars, is about a decent man caught in a web of lies. As Farhadi knows how to spin multilayered stories and enter so many different lives in one film, it is also a patchwork of its many-faceted individuals trying to survive in the pressurized society that is present-day Iran.
The hero in question is Rahim (an excellent Amir Jadidi), who is in prison in Shiraz for a debt he could not repay. In the few days he gets off to go home, he tries to convince his debtor to let him off the hook so that he may get out of prison to find work and repay him, for he has a troubled son, a family who want to help him financially, a devoted woman whom he would like to marry and a certain honor to uphold. But things become complicated despite the very decent deed that he does. Let Farhadi lead you through the maze of the lives that are affected in the hullabaloo created by jealousies and the overpowering influence of the social media.
A brilliant script, superb acting and universal dilemmas make this an unforgettable work.
DRIVE MY CAR **1/2 (vo Japanese)
A happily married, artistic couple is shaken by both a sexual betrayal and the sudden death of the wife. Some time later, the grieving husband, a famed theater director, is to create a production of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” in Hiroshima. The producers insist that he must have a chauffeur to transport him around the city and its environs. His initial resentment towards his young female driver eventually turns into a closer relationship.
In the meantime there are lengthy auditions and rehearsals of the play which feel unnecessary to the actual story, especially since the film ends up being almost three hours long.
There is the usual Japanese discretion and precision of composition, but I was not as enamoured of the film as its many positive critics, as it soon dissolved in my mind.
I feel like the driver on a highway who is warned on the radio that there is one vehicle driving in the wrong direction, and he says “what, one car, there are thousands coming at me…?!”
THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS *1/2
The first MATRIX was a spiritual, technological action puzzle and made Keanu Reeves into a cool mystery star, with its aficionados hoping for a sequel. After twenty years it’s back and it’s turned into a mammoth blockbuster that is no longer spiritual but still a puzzle dwelling on reality versus illusion, choice versus fate, and all that jazz, interspersed with myriad shootouts and more firepower than an NRA dream convention.
So Neo and Trinity might get back together, or not… Reeves doesn’t really act, he just looks dazed, and it seems a psychiatrist is controlling the whole situation.
At two and a half hours, it gets really tiresome. Leave it for the 15 year-olds, though they might come out with brains that are gun-washed!
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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.