24 February 2023.
THE FABELMANS **1/2
Steven Spielberg – scenarist, director, producer – is no doubt one of the greats of filmdom. From his first thrilling “Duel” in 1971 at the age of 25, to “E.T.”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Catch Me If You Can”, and his ultimate masterpiece “Schindler’s List” (to list only a few from his vast output), he has dominated both the box office and the imagination of the public.
Now he has come out with the story of his own childhood and the memories of his supportive and loving family who were dealing with their own problems while he was immersed from an early age in the wonders of moving images. It’s a sweet film, with a feel for the era, one that seems to have enchanted the critics, and will do the same for many viewers. It has garnered 7 nominations at the Oscars and already won Best Drama and Best Director at the Golden Globes. However, for me it felt too much of an ego trip, intent mainly on charming his audience. An entertaining melodrama, it left me underwhelmed and disappointed that it was not one of his exceptional works. But it has been snowballed into a hit.
Once again, to each his own – often depending on one’s sensibilities, mood and moment. Now for you to decide.
PAMFIR *** (vo Ukrainian)
Here’s a Ukrainian film started before and finished during Russia’s invasion. Pamfir (an imposing Oleksandr Yatsentyuk) is a loving husband and father to a teenage boy. He has been working abroad to make money for his family, and has now come back home and promised his wife he would lead an honest life, without the smuggling and contraband that his younger brother engages in. It’s carnival time in his rural town in western Ukraine and everyone is gearing up for the festivities. There are poignant scenes of his mother’s love for him, his own concern for his son and passion for his wife.
Due to unfortunate circumstances, he ends up financially beholden to their local church. And so he is drawn into the contraband trade against his will. He is a good, strong man but the corrupt politician who runs the town and all its hoodlums is after him.
The stench of vice which permeates the whole region contrasts with Pamir’s loving family ties. An impressive first feature film by Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk, this is a harsh yet touching window into what rural life was like before the war, and it almost feels like war itself.
(At the Grütli)
LES CHOSES SIMPLES **1/2 (vo French)
Two excellent actors make this film – Lambert Wilson and Gregory Gadebois. It’s a gentle film about two men with opposite characters who meet (supposedly) by accident – one, a charismatic, urban, hugely successful businessman; the other, a hermit-like guy up in a chalet in the hills.
The businessman’s snazzy roadster breaks down on a deserted road in the mountains. A robust fellow on a motorcycle comes to his aid, and so starts the film, their encounter and the incongruous relationship.
Director Eric Besnard has created here a revery on the simple life versus money and power, with a bit of a twist, a soupçon of romance (Marie Gillain), and even a kid and a dog thrown in. It’s pleasant and watchable.
BALEINES – Les gardiennes de la planète * (vo French)
There have been many superb documentaries about the oceans, the natural world and the issue of ecology. There were “Becoming Cousteau” by Liz Garbus; “Océans” and “Les Peuples Migrateurs” by Jacques Perrin; “March of the Penguins” by Luc Jaquet; and of course the many brilliant nature documentaries by David Attenborough. Those films were all thrilling and illuminating.
This one tries to be, but misses the mark – its premise that whales are the saviours of the oceans and planet never quite pans out, and the repetitive, slow underwater images of these giants are good for dozing off.
MOTHER TERESA & ME (Kavita & Teresa) ***
This film is the story of Mother Teresa’s early years in India (from the mid-1940s) trying to care for the poor, sick and dying, alongside the modern life of Kavita, a young English girl of Indian origin who travels to India to find answers to some major questions. This intriguing tale of intertwined destinies is directed by the Swiss/Indian Kamal Musale, known for films such as “Curry Western” and “Millions Can Walk”.
The historical parts about Mother Teresa are brilliantly documented, at times in black and white and played soulfully by Swiss actress Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz, while the modern story of Kavita is portrayed in colour by the Welsh/Indian Banita Sandhu.
The juxtaposition of these two lives is the basis for the film, though at times the two parts feel somewhat alien to each other, for the Mother Teresa part is heartfelt and important, while the modern tale is a fictitious melodrama of a muddled love life. But the film is nevertheless a significant one, for any account of Mother Teresa’s life is immensely worthy, and this one has added a contemporary colour to it.
(To learn more about the exceptional Mother Teresa, run to it, as the Cinerama Empire will be showing it only for 3 nights : Tuesday, February 28 at 18h will be a special screening in the presence of the film team and a debate afterwards. Plus two extra screenings on March 16th and 30th at 18.30h – put it in your agendas.)
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.