5 August 2022.
I’m off to the Locarno film festival which goes from 3-13 August.
BULLET TRAIN, the opening film shown on the their famous Piazza Grande, which holds up to 8000 spectators nightly under the stars, is also being released this week in the Suisse Romande. Starring Brad Pitt and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the festival gave their Excellence Award on opening night to their special guest Taylor-Johnson. (What does the word ‘Excellence’ really stand for these days?). He was also presented to the public the next day at the open Forum in a Q&A interview.
That’s one of the specialities of this very public-friendly festival – the Forum that allows the entire audience (and not only journalists) to meet the stars and crew after each of the films being shown there. There will also be Hollywood star Matt Dillon and the international German actor Udo Kier in the coming conversations, there to receive their various awards. Looking forward to those.
How can I describe and evaluate this bombastic blockbuster…?
BULLET TRAIN **
Bombastic it is, but it also has more inventive killings and bloody scenes, along with constant garbage language, than the ordinary thriller.
But then it’s directed by David Leitch, originally a stuntman, who also did “Atomic Blond” and “Deadpool 2”. So if those were your kind of thrills, you’ll be loving this one, especially that it has Brad Pitt, always the innocent scene-stealer in all his low-key charm. And of course Taylor-Johnson, along with his black best buddy (Brian Tyree Henry) as notorious, vicious killers.
The story? Just an excuse for a bunch of assassins stuck together on the high-speed Japanese Bullet Train – what else?
There’s a lot of amusing banter – some of it will need subtitles to decipher – and more crushing mayhem. It actually ends up almost as a rousing comedy. But then this is the culture we’re raising our youth on – making light of brutality and destruction – and we wonder at the violence the world is producing daily…!
Ok folks – I wrote the above before the Q&A…
I wrote the following after the Q&A :
I was there way in time – waiting at the Forum for the young 32 year-old Taylor-Johnson, about whose Excellence Award I had been sceptical. He arrived just a few minutes past 11.30 – friendly, relaxed, open. He almost introduced himself, thankful for being there, so appreciative of the honor awarded him, sharing our misery in the heat wave. Approaching him in the crowd after the Q&A I needed to ask him about his film that he described as “Joy and Light” – I asked him if he would show this film to his young daughters and he replied with a shake of his head , “No Way”.
Questioned about what started him on an acting career, he recounted how he had started at the age of 6. The incentive came from his mother, his own high energy and his curiosity about life and its possibilities. At 10, he got a part playing twins, even though there were actual twins competing for the role. It just went on from there, with him choosing to give up a career in gymnastics, at which he was excelling. Theater, TV, commercials and more films followed. The one that got him really noticed at age 18 was “Nowhere Boy”, in which he portrayed the young John Lennon, and first met his wife, who was directing the film. He went on to make the hilarious super-hero film, “Kickass”, and then a Golden Globe award for his role in Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals”. He also received the Empire award for Best Newcomer in 2010.
He told us he had never been to drama school, but rather learned from his directors, fellow actors and by carefully studying the background of each role. He was articulate, earnest, incredibly charming, and finally had us all in his pocket. And yes, he did deserve that Excellence Award for his diligence and his ever-growing talent.
The moral of the story is never judge a book by its cover, or more simply, make sure you know the whole story before you decide.
In the meantime, if you have not yet seen them, catch up with these excellent ones still on our screens, (all already reviewed)
EL BUEN PATRON ****
THE DUKE ***1/2
EN CORPS ***
(Do look up their schedules on cineman.ch)
PETER VON KANT ***1/2 (vo French)
A film by French director François Ozon is always an event, and his works are usually in top festivals such as Cannes. This one opened the 2022 Berlin film festival. As an auteur, he is known for the elegance of his works, twisted tales concerning relationships often pertaining to homosexuality, and his masterful direction of actors in such films as “Gouttes d’eau sur pierres brûlantes”, “Potiche” or “Frantz”. At 54, he has made more than 20 feature films since 1998, having started ten years before with numerous short films. That makes it almost a film a year, like Woody Allen.
In this latest, a fascinating huis clos in the sumptuous Berlin apartment of Peter von Kant, a film director, we are witness to the power play that is Kant’s rule of thumb. He has a young secretary/butler, Karl (Stefan Crepon), whom he mistreats terribly. He has a muse, a beautiful actress past her prime, played by Isabelle Adjani, whom he dotes upon. And then enters the young, arrogant Amir (Khalil Ben Gharbia), whom he falls for immediately and who soon moves in with him and becomes his protégé and his adored lover. The juxtaposition of these relationships and the slow shift of power and desire are beautifully constructed by Ozon, loosely adapted from one of his idol’s works, “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant”, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 film. But Ozon has switched genders here, making the hero a male, different from the original all-female cast. He has kept the theatricality, but given it more dark humor mingled with the pain. And as a tip of the hat, he has brought in Hanna Schygulla, Fassbinder’s favorite actress, as Kant’s mother.
Denis Menochet (revealed in Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” and Ozon’s brilliant “Grâce à Dieu”) is magnetic and overwhelming as the powerful yet tragic hero. He perfectly personifies the anxieties, needs and egocentricities that come with ambition and fame. This is a tour de force of mood and performance.
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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.