17 February 2023.
TCHAIKOVSKY’S WIFE ***1/2 (vo Russian)
Film directors can be like the rebel directors of today’s opera productions who take a grand classic such as Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” and set it on a cruise ship; or Olivier Py, who has taken Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” and Berg‘s “Lulu” and made sexual extravaganzas out of them. These self-indulgent creators produce performances that probably have those illustrious composers twirling in their graves.
Biopics have become similar vehicles for film directors who decide to take famous figures in history, from Jacky Kennedy, Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe to Empress Sissi and give them fantasy existences in various moments of their lives. Let’s call a spade a spade – they sully these icons and distort history for their own bloated egos. And audiences fall for their fantasies if they don’t do their own research.
All this to explain that the highly talented Russian dissident director, Kirill Serebrennikov (of such sublime works as “Summer” and “Petrov’s Flu”), has in this film taken Tchaikovsky’s life with a woman he married but left after a few weeks, and has created his own version of the poor, misled wife.
The young, naive Antonina Miliukova (perfectly portrayed by the delicate Alyona Mikhailova) falls madly in love with the rising Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. It is the mid-1870s. The composer is played with the right mix of shyness and arrogance by the American-born Odin Lund Biron, who spent some 15 years in Moscow, graduating from MXAT, their famed theater school, and has acted in many of their local and international plays.
The film shows how Antonina’s love becomes an obsession as she pursues Tchaikovsky until he relents and gives in to her offer of marriage. For the composer, the marriage is a convenient cover for his homosexuality, while the young wife is eager to fulfil her marriage vows. She is hoping to make him love her, while he is repulsed by every advance that she makes. He feels incredibly stifled and she is heartbroken and completely bewildered. In a matter of weeks, he insists on a separation and divorce, something to which she never gives in. He never sees her again. And this is where the director’s fantasy of her life takes over, creating her agonising downfall without the composer.
The film is as dark and gloomy as their tragic relationship, but it is beautifully captured with typical Russian depth and drama, or what is called Russian soul. Many of the shots slip in and out of time, to better show her emotional anguish and mental confusion. The film is both haunting and compelling, but its length of almost 3 hours and its portrayal of the wife’s depravity spirals downwards in a frenzy of overkill. Pity, for it is an impressive work.
UN HOMME HEUREUX *** (vo French)
Now this French film is quite the opposite. It takes the serious, topical issue of transgender people and creates a comedy that has an intelligence and lightness which make it refreshing and the subject more comprehensible.
Director Tristan Seguela has chosen two of France’s finest actors, Fabrice Luchini and Catherine Frot, to portray the long-married couple who are going through this both difficult and hilarious transition.
Luchini plays the upright, somewhat uptight, ambitious mayor of a town in Brittany and Frot is his devoted wife who has decided to finally come out of her shell and tell her husband that she has always felt like a man and now wishes to live it fully! The opening scene in the restaurant, in which she admits all this, is precious: both of them are incredibly expressive in opposite modes – he, completely incredulous, she, wary yet finally daring. An unforgettable scene, as brilliant as the one in the rescue hut in the classic “Les bronzés font du ski”.
The scenario is clever – the mayor’s campaign for re-election is on the line, there are the curious townspeople, the couple’s grown children have to be informed, and of course the question of what to do about their sex life. Ah, but we are in a French film – experts in such matters. Run to it to be amused, delighted and enlightened…!
LE NID DU TIGRE *1/2 (in French version)
An orphan boy in a home for children in Bhutan saves a tiger cub from ruthless poachers. They bond as he tries to take the cub up to a sanctuary that he has heard of called the Tiger’s Nest.
The boy and the cub are the ingredients that add spice to this family film. What brings it down is the amateurish script, acting and editing, but in its defence you could call it an adventure fantasy, though too predictable.
ANT-MAN and THE WASP – QUANTUMANIA –
What have they done to Ant-Man, the sweetest character among the Marvel heroes? This third episode of the little guy is probably the worst Marvel film ever.
We have a short moment up in normal earth, and then we are hurtled down with the family (including a feisty Michelle Pfeiffer and a baffled Michael Douglas) to this place called Quantumania, and CGI takes over. You wouldn’t want to send your worst enemy there. Idiotic dialogue, wooden acting, constant battles with the strangest and slimiest creatures, and a new villain so Marvel can keep running to the bank. It’s hollow – forget it.
JUSTE CIEL – (vo French)
There’s nothing to say about this awful attempt at a comedy about some nuns. Just keep away, saving your time and money.
“VIVA FRIDA KAHLO” in Lausanne
Speaking of Salma Hayek’s “Frida”, here’s the real McCoy! Make sure to see this brilliantly produced, full-immersion exhibition about the mythical Mexican painter who created some of the most colourful and exuberant art despite her terrible accidents and lifelong handicaps.
Showing at the Beaulieu complex in Lausanne until March 19, the exhibition depicts her amazing life and paintings in an “immersive experience”. It combines narration, music and moving images on the walls around you, as it takes you through her turbulent, painful, short but very rich life which she shared with many world figures, but above all, her husband Diego Rivera, Mexico’s grandest painter and muralist of the early 20th century.
This is a moving experience not to miss! You can find all the info on their site – vivafridakahlo.ch.
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.