18 February 2022.
RIFKIN’S FESTIVAL **1/2
Anyone who has been following my column would know that I am an unconditional fan of Woody Allen’s. I believe I have seen all his films, which have come out almost annually in the past fifty plus years. He’s quite a phenomenon, as most of them are unforgettable, brilliant works, many hilarious, others deeply thoughtful and analytic, in the mode of his heroes such as Ingmar Bergman or Fellini. Obviously, he has had a few duds amongst his prolific gems, but then he is only human.
His masterpieces, such as “Purple Rose of Cairo”, “Annie Hall”, “Manhattan”, “Hannah and her Sisters” or “Midnight in Paris” have been Oscar and international award-winners, though he doesn’t collect his prizes for he believes that art should not be competitive. His various actresses have also won multiple Oscars in his films (too many to list, so Google it). As I have often said, he is our modern day philosopher hidden in a comic’s body, though he would be the first to deny any genius on his part, for he is an unassuming, most often self-deprecating man.
Rather than believing whatever twisted misinformation the media hands out, try reading his latest book, “Apropos of Nothing”. It’s an entertaining revelation written by a true artist and ‘mensch’.
And that brings us to his latest film, “Rifkin’s Festival”, since much of what you may hear in the film, he has referred to in his book, an autobiography that feels like a final testament to his life. He is, after all, 86 years old.
The film is set in the beautiful San Sebastián area in the Basque country of northern Spain during their annual international film festival. The story is about an older film professor (Wallace Shawn, playing Woody’s alter-ego) accompanying his younger wife (Gina Gershon) who is a press agent for a dashing French actor (Louis Garrel), for whom she has a strong attraction. So we’ve got this triangle, and then there is a side story that develops with the professor and a lovely local doctor, since he is feeling snubbed by his wife. You get the picture, but the premise is slight in comparison to Allen’s previous rich scenarios. Shawn’s loser character doesn’t help the morose momentum of the film, for he comes off as a whining schlemiel with no sense of humor nor the timing that a true Allen character always has.
If you’re a real cinephile and also a Woody fan, this is a film not to miss, for just as Picasso’s paintings reflected how his life was developing, each of Allen’s oeuvres show his mood and state of mind at the time of their creation. Revelatory.
“Indiana Jones” fans can rejoice, for here’s a younger, fresher version of that classic adventure yarn. And it looks like it will also become a franchise.
Two guys (Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg) set off on a hunt for the gold treasure in the sunken ships of Magellan somewhere in the Philippines. From an auction house in Manhattan to Barcelona and beyond, we follow their crazy adventures as they compete for the gold with a rich, evil Spanish character played by Antonio Banderas.
There are lots of “RoadRunner”-type thrills, starting off with our hero falling off a cargo plane and fighting all sorts of bad guys as they go down. Played by Holland, the charmer who gave new life to the “Spider-Man” movies, he has this frisky, naive look about him that makes him endearing. And then there’s the street-wise Mark Wahlberg who dangles Holland’s long-lost older brother at him as bait to get him in on the deal. Lots of twists and turns and mayhem in this improbable scenario, but finally good blockbuster fun.
MAISON DE RETRAITE *** (vo French)
If you’re looking for a quality French comedy, here’s a fine choice after many recent flops. And the kudos should go to the old pros who act in it.
An orphan (Kev Adams) grows up to be a slouch and a loser. His best friend, who has pulled himself up and become a decent lawyer, tries repeatedly to help him, to no avail. When he gets into real trouble with the police and the courts, his friend saves him from a jail sentence by getting him a three month term of civil service in a senior residence. That seems no better for him as he has a phobia of old people from his childhood.
But then the fun starts, for a small group of the still-spritely veterans slowly take him under their wing and teach him a thing or two about life. The best part of this film, co-written and co-produced by Kev Adams, is that the oldies are all wonderful character actors whom you’ll recognize from long ago – Mylène Demongeot, Jean-Luc Bideau, Daniel Prévost, Marthe Villalonga amongst them and their ring leader, played by the always brilliant Gérard Depardieu. They are a lovable lot and a hoot.
This gentle, simplistic comedy directed by Thomas Gilou has everything in it, like a sumptuous mixed salad – a feel-good film that will have you smiling with your heart as you walk out. Bet you anything that Hollywood will be buying the idea for a remake. They usually end up turning out vulgar copies.
KING * (vo French)
Try to avoid this insipid film about a lion cub (there are so many better ones out there…) that will bore and irritate both you and your children, to whom it is aimed.
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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.