28 October 2022.
BOY FROM HEAVEN (LA CONSPIRATION DU CAIRE) **** (vo Arabic)
This gripping, eye-opener of a thriller, by the Swedish/Egyptian Tarik Saleh, takes you into the most important stronghold of Sunni Islamic theology, Cairo’s prestigious Al-Azhar University. Saleh’s spinning of this tale of both religious fervor and hypocrisy is impressive in its intricate script (which won the best screenplay award at Cannes), along with the brilliant cinematography of the grand edifice of the university which looks utterly authentic, but was actually filmed between Turkey and Sweden.
Also the huge cast of devout students and their teachers makes one feel part of all the rituals of the faithful. It is simply intoxicating in its grand scope of the opposing powers of religion and government.
But it is the personal intrigue created by using Adam (Tawfeek Barhom), a novice student from the provinces, as a spy between the religious leaders and the politicians, that makes this film breathtaking. Adam is picked because of his innocence and inexperience, and is forced to infiltrate a group of the Moslem Brotherhood at the university. The ruthless power play never lets up. With shades of a John Grisham page-turner or an Eastern Le Carré thriller, this a serious study of the highest echelons of manipulation
LE SIXIÈME ENFANT ***1/2 (vo French)
The young French director Léopold Legrand has directed here a deep and moving film about two completely different couples who somehow connect because of a forthcoming baby.
One couple is childless, while the other has five children, with another baby (which they cannot afford) on its way. The first couple is well-to-do, both being lawyers, whereas the other couple’s breadwinner has just lost his menial job and their financial situation is more than bleak. The one thing that these four share is their belief in family, and so they eventually come to a precarious decision for the childless couple to illegally adopt the expected child.
This delicate film which emanates love on all sides slowly turns into a downward spiralling thriller. The four protagonists are absolutely brilliant in their difficult roles, especially Sara Giraudeau (daughter of Bernard) who plays the barren lawyer obsessed with adopting the expected child, despite her husband’s warnings. This is a touching and beautifully conceived story that remains long in one’s thoughts.
L’INNOCENT *** (vo French)
How do you make a family drama, a prison thriller and a wacky, romantic comedy all in one film?
Not an easy task, but the talented young French actor/director Louis Garrel has managed here to pull it off with great panache.
When a drama teacher who works in prisons falls in love and wants to marry one of the prisoners, her son (Garrel) begins to have suspicions about the wisdom of her decision. Is the fellow (Roschdy Zem) really rehabilitated and can he be trusted? He goes along with the marriage, but keeps an eye out for any trouble by closely following the now-released new husband. And he recruits his old friend who was also his deceased wife’s girlfriend to help him spy on the fellow.
As things start to look as though a heist is being planned, the plot thickens into both a thriller and a sort of madcap comedy à la Coen brothers, with a flower shop, stolen Beluga caviar and a budding romance mixed into the whole equation. Garrel has really come into his own as director in this clever tale that is a surprising delight.
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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.