24 March 2023.
JOHN WICK – Chapter IV *1/2
Apparently there is one kill per minute of runtime – bodies being shattered and smithereened – in the latest instalment of this brutal franchise. That really says it all. The film, almost 3 hours long, is pure mayhem, with a few moments of respite in sumptuous, international surroundings – from Paris to Japan, via New York and Berlin – trying to prove it’s taking itself seriously. There are evil masters somewhere in the background, an elegant one upfront, different gangs vying for power, and one amoral, vengeful ‘saviour’, who never dies, like Beep Beep, the Roadrunner.
That would be its star, played by Keanu Reeves of the mask-like face, who should be given a ‘golden raspberry’ for the stiffest, worst acting ever. And he gets millions for this? The film and franchise have been directed by a former stuntman, given full rein to flaunt his killing art. And it has become a cult phenomenon. How discerning of the masses.
This is of course programmed for the youth of the world, while the director and producers run off laughing to the bank. And then we wonder why youngsters kill each other in schools. And don’t tell me psychiatrists say all this has no real effect on audiences. All this hype makes the violence banal and the norm, if watched often enough as teenagers do with video games that are veritable killing manuals. This film is just a more sophisticated, rampant version of those.
An influential BBC female critic gave it flying colours. Where is morality in today’s world?
LE BLEU DU CAFTAN *** (vo Arab)
Despite all the misery in our present world, it is, at times and in some places, becoming a better, more equal society.
Proof of it is in this tender yet daring Moroccan film written and directed by a woman (Maryam Touzani) about love in its different forms, including homosexuality.
A deeply thoughtful film, it is about a loving, very complicit couple (Lubna Azabal and Saleh Bakri) who own a store specialising in hand sewn caftans. The husband stitches the fine embroidery on the caftans as in the old days, and the wife runs the business upfront, but she is quite weak from cancer. They hire a young apprentice for the husband who has a backlog of orders for his elaborate handiwork. The wife sees the attraction between the two men, but almost welcomes it, since she knows she will be gone soon.
Despite its heavy, slow atmosphere, the film shines, both in its deep colours and in its understanding of humanity.
SUR LES CHEMINS NOIR **1/2 (vo French)
Based on the book of the same name by Sylvain Tesson, the famed French explorer and travel writer, this film is the remarkable tale of a trekker named Pierre who, after a horrendous accident which broke much of his body, promises to walk the whole length of France if he recovers.
Against the advice of family, friends and doctors, he starts off on his journey even before he is fully healed. This film is his both torturous and rewarding odyssey.
Played and narrated by Jean Dujardin, this is a solitary journey of a driven man who traverses much of France through its many valleys, gorges and mountains. Directed by Denis Imbert, it’s a film that will be thrilling for avid hikers and nature lovers, but might have the comfort-loving urban dweller dozing off. Dujardin is as always excellent, but the pace of the film feels too monotonous.
SUR L’ADAMANT **1/2 (vo French)
This kindly documentary, about people with mental disorders who come together daily on a houseboat called the Adamant in the middle of Paris, won the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival. The care and efforts of the counselors and psychiatrists for these muddled individuals are worthy and virtuous, and should be documented, but I question its choice as the best film of a prestigious festival.
Director Nicolas Philibert positions his camera on one person at a time, letting them talk out their problems. There is empathy and patience in all forms of exercises for these lonely souls who come daily like gathering birds to this large houseboat to find warmth and comfort. There are art classes, group therapy sessions, musical moments and even learning about the finances of this particular houseboat on the Seine. They all seem quite free to express themselves, and sometimes the lines dissolve between the therapists and their troubled charges. It is a safe and secure place for them, and it is humane and egalitarian. And that is probably why it won the top award – in honour of diversity. High or low – giving everyone a chance. Noble thought, but that does not compensate for the excellence, or lack, of a work.
For where is the presence of real cinematic quality – a brilliant script, highly talented actors, evocative cinematography? Will it remain in one’s memory and become a classic? All that no longer counts, as long as you feed the new master – multiculturalism. Which is why 7 Oscars were given to a frenetic, nonsensical film that goes all over the place, but has Asian performers, and this apparently was their year to reap the rewards. That’s going overboard.
Sorry, I am getting carried away, but I miss seeing genuine talent honoured. At least the BAFTAs accomplished that – 7 BAFTAs for the awe-inspiring, multifaceted anti-war film “All Quiet on the Western Front”. Bravo and Amen.
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.