7 April 2023.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, long-time friends from school days in Massachusetts, have always been powerhouse actors and creators, especially while working together, as they did in 1997 when, on their first collaborative film, they won screenwriting Oscars for Gus van Sant’s “Good Will Hunting”. Well, they’re back together again, and this time it’s about the true story of Nike acquiring the young Michael Jordan to represent their basketball shoes. This was in 1984 and the 21 year-old Jordan (considered the greatest basketball player of all time) was on the rise, while Nike’s sales were struggling against athletic shoe giants like Adidas.
The first half-hour of the film, which is directed by Affleck, feels like a niche film about American big business, with much basketball jargon, making it a bit distant and cold. But as the real-life Nike executives – played by Affleck, Damon, Chris Tucker and Jason Bateman – start to warm up the screen and our interests, the film begins to fly, as Jordan often did on the basketball court.
Viola Davis plays Jordan’s influential mother, while the film unfortunately never shows Jordan as a character, possibly due to licensing laws (the man is worth over 2 billion dollars today).
That collaboration was the brilliant idea of Damon’s character, Sonny Vaccaro, who insisted against all odds that Nike must partner with Jordan. That made history for both the shoe giant and the iconic athlete. You will get all the financial figures when you see the film, but beyond all that – check out Damon’s heartfelt performance which definitely deserves a nod at Oscar time.
SEIS DIAS EN BARCELONA (The Odd-Job Men) ***1/2 (vo Spanish and Catalan)
Once again the title says it all. It’s not about love, thrills or violence, but an almost documentary-like little tale about a decent Arab immigrant looking for a job in Barcelona, and his six day trial along with his two plumber colleagues – one older and welcoming, the other a nasty bigot.
Neus Ballús, the Catalonian director whose previous films have won numerous awards, has based this one (which participated in the 2021 Toronto film festival) on her own father’s recounting his experiences when he worked as a plumber. For him, each day would be another venture into different peoples’ homes and lives, witnessing their problems, hangups and quirks. Ballus has used here mainly non-actors, and the authenticity of their performances illuminates this charming, touching tale of ordinary workers who encounter special moments each day. She also wanted to show how people acted towards those who were unlike themselves, negatively or positively – unvarnished humanity. The Moroccan Mohamed Mellali, who plays the Arab character, has deservedly won 3 best actor awards for his role, one of them at the 2021 Locarno film festival.
There is humour, pathos and a patient look at these varied experiences during these six days in Barcelona. Wonderful!
D’ARTAGNAN – LES TROIS MOUSQUETAIRES *** (vo French)
If you’re looking for swashbuckling excitement with sumptuous period decor of the 1620s in royal France, this would be your film. There have been many cinematic versions of this grand novel published in1844 by Alexandre Dumas, for it has all the ingredients needed for thrilling entertainment – history, camaraderie, treachery, romance and above all, unconditional heroism.
In this latest opus, which is the first of a two-part tale, director Martin Bourboulon (of the excellent “Eiffel”) has honoured well the tradition of serious escapades with brilliantly convincing actors such as Vincent Cassel playing the elder musketeer Athos, Romain Duris as Aramis and Pio Marmai as Porthos. When they all (teasingly) welcome the naive but feisty recruit D’Artagnan (François Civil) into their fold, that first initiation is a riot. The film takes some cinematic license with the original tale, but only to enhance the adventure.
Eva Green (once Bond’s love interest) plays the conniving aristocratic Milady, while Lynda Khoudri (“Houria”) portrays D’Artagnan’s damsel, Constance. And the king they all serve with such fervour
is Louis XIII, played by the ever-present Louis Garrel. The final part, entitled “Milady”, should be released end of 2023.
MON CHAT ET MOI, LA GRANDE AVENTURE DE RROU *** (vo French)
Here’s a delightful film for the whole family, especially for those who love cats.
The editing, music and real-life photography of the kittens and the growing Rrou are exceptionally accomplished. A sweet film for our difficult times, with an apt message.
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.