16 December 2022.
NO BEARS (AUCUN OURS) **** (vo Farsi)
Jafar Panahi of Iran has been at it again. This is his fifth film made in secret and smuggled out to the world, as he has been banned from making films or leaving the country since 2010. The authorities finally put this great, brave chronicler of truths about his homeland into the dreaded Evin prison this past summer. This is such tragic, futile injustice.
With his gentle way of entering the lives of ordinary people, simple villagers this time, he gives the audience varied but always clear glimpses of his country. And time and again he shows his need for freedom and artistic creativity despite the dangers involved.
This latest, which won the Jury Award at the Venice film festival, is a version of himself playing a filmmaker who is remotely directing a movie in Turkey, while staying in a border village in Iran. He not only has to deal with the couple he is directing via his laptop, but is also involved in a tangled love story in the village, where a girl has been betrothed to one boy since childhood, while she now wishes to marry another whom she truly loves.
And the bears? There are no bears, it’s only a lie and a superstition to put fear into the hearts of those who might want to leave the village.
AVATAR – The Way of the Water (La voie de l’eau) ***1/2
Grandiose. That’s the word that best describes this cinematic adventure created by James Cameron that is like no other, except for its predecessor. Back then in 2009, the first one, simply called Avatar, was an incredible phenomenon. For once 3D made sense. We were dazzled by its innovative technology melding the innocence of a wondrous new world and the brutal violation of a foreign power intruding upon its beauty and tranquility.
This second one continues that same feel of harmony on planet Pandora and it’s Na’vi people, this time with a new family created by the transformed earthling Jake Sully and his Na’vi wife.
They have been living in peace and solidarity until another invasion from planet Earth threatens their whole existence. And so Sully’s family is on the run again, fleeing towards the people of the water. Their fight for equilibrium and survival is the gist of this lengthy, more than three-hour long saga.
With the mesmerising beauty of their surroundings and their struggle against an overwhelming enemy, the film just flows like the magical watery underworld that Cameron reveals to our eyes and senses. The duration of the film feels like a dreamscape, both hypnotic and thrilling. It will surely sweep all the technical awards at the Oscars.
ERNEST ET CÉLESTINE – Le voyage en Charabie ** (vo French)
One wonders at times for whom such films are made. It is of course a children’s film, with well-known, beloved characters such as Ernest, a huge, impetuous bear and his best friend Celestine, a fearless, little mouse. These hand-drawn animations are lovely and soothing to look at, but in this latest episode the tale is somewhat leaden in its pace.
It all starts when Celestine accidentally breaks Ernest’s valuable violin and finds out that the only one who can fix it lives in Ernest’s home country, Charabia. So off they go on this adventure to a land where it seems any kind of music is forbidden, even to birds singing in the trees.
Of course Ernest will not abide by such forced, unreasonable edicts, even if his father is the main judge of the land. So there is rebellion, prison time and all sorts of mayhem. It’s interesting that the revolt resembles the many protests against totalitarianism arising today in the world.
So then, is this for children who may not get all the manoeuvrings, or adults who will get bored with the pace? As said before, it’s sweet but leaden.
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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.