21 January 2022.
NIGHTMARE ALLEY ***
This is a film noir in the hypnotic, colorful decor of Guillermo del Toro’s rich imagination.
Del Toro is one of three Mexican directors (the famous triumvirate of Alfonso Cuaron for GRAVITY and ROMA; Alejandro Inarritu for BABEL and BIRDMAN; and del Toro for PAN’s LABYRINTH and THE SHAPE OF WATER), who as friends and members of Mexico’s New Wave have created many Oscar-winning films in the past years. So when any of them comes out with a new work, it’s bound to be a cinematic treat.
Make sure you don’t miss the first scene of this film, where Bradley Cooper’s character is dragging a body across the floor, throwing it in a hole and then setting the whole dilapidated house on fire.
It is in the early 1940s, he has no money, no plans, nowhere to go and ends up in a sort of traveling freak show. Being a good-looking, sly character, he quickly rises in the ranks of this carnival world where the atmosphere is like living in a deviant family.
Del Toro has assembled a fine cast of actors besides Cooper, including Rooney Mara, Tony Collette, Willem Dafoe and David Strathairn for the first part of the film, which is a sort of apprenticeship of Cooper’s character developing into a mentalist performer.
In the second part, which has the definite feelings of film noir, we get the glamorous, mysterious Cate Blanchett, a frightening Richard Jenkins and an aged Mary Steenburgen as characters who begin the downfall of this too ambitious man who has penetrated their opulent world. The mood has changed and the stages are twisted and ominous.
Here is a stylish film with dark, violent undertones, almost a morality play. It’s a Del Toro film, after all.
RUMBA LA VIE – (vo French)
This supposed emotional comedy is the sort of film which makes one wonder why the director’s family and best friends didn’t tell him how awful it was.
Written and directed by, and starring one of France’s top comedians, Franck Dubosc, it is so amateur in its conception, its direction and acting that it’s both painful and embarrassing to watch. Save yourself all that, and don’t go.
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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.