7 July 2023.
LAND OF DREAMS ***1/2
By the renowned Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, who lives in the U.S., this intriguing film is about peoples’ dreams. Neshat goes about it in her usual mysterious, artistic style, creating a young Iranian girl (Sheila Vand) who is working for the U.S. Census Bureau. Her job is to go to people’s homes, giving them a set of questions, the main one being, “Can you recall your last dream?”
The setting is a barren Far West, the homes are as different as the people she has to visit, and obviously their answers are just as varied and bizarre. It’s a sort of a road movie dotted with dreams. But it’s also a metaphor for the diversity of pure Americana and the emotions of those who do not necessarily belong and have their own longings for what they once were.
This dreamworld of eccentric characters includes the girl’s own collection of costumes and videos mimicking the people she interrogates, her sterile office world, a typical macho bodyguard assigned to her, and a young romantic who falls in love with her, following her wherever she goes.
It’s a motley crew of imaginary types, played by stars such as Matt Dillon and Isabella Rossellini. Intriguing is definitely the word for this film that is based on a script by the late Jean-Claude Carriere along with Shoja Azari, who is also co-director. It’s colourful, inventive, a dream in itself. That’s what happens when an artist creates a film.
The one thing that bothered me was a sequence in which her bodyguard (Dillon) takes her to a secret, enclosed camp of Iranian dissidents that seem to be training to overturn their government, while mourning their martyrs. It has all the hallmarks of a group called the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), who once sided with Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. They certainly would be no better for Iran than the present regime. So why include them in this ‘dreamland’…? An enigma.
UNE NUIT (Strangers by Night) *** (vo French)
From a turbulent chance encounter on a crowded subway, a man and a woman end up spending the whole night together. Making love, talking, wandering the streets, wondering how this all will end. It’s Paris, it’s magical, it’s a celebration of ‘vive la difference’. Directed and acted by Alex Lutz and the always charming Karin Viard, it can’t get more French than this.
But then sometimes you wonder if they are only play acting and actually knew each other all along. Absorbing and romantic, it would have been perfection if shortened a bit.
NO HARD FEELINGS (Le Challenge) **1/2
Now here is a fun, feel good film that has a wonderful summer spirit to it. Simple premise – in the trendy resort town of Montauk, a young woman has become financially strapped. Desperate not to lose the home she was born in, she agrees to an ad by anxious parents who want their virgin son to be initiated before he goes off to Princeton in the fall. Jennifer Lawrence does a fine job as the person willing to do just that, but it’s the nerd, played by Andrew Barth Feldman, who steals the show with his genuine innocence and tender sentiments.
It’s a sweet sex comedy that thankfully doesn’t go down the usual vulgarity road, though one sees quite a bit of Ms Lawrence’s lovely body. There are some loose ends, silly moments and the conclusion tends to wrap up a bit too quickly, but it’s an enjoyable date film.
SOMETHING YOU SAID LAST NIGHT *1/2
We’re on a holiday with a family. Parents and two grown sisters, one a transgender. Is this person becoming a woman or a man? Not clear, the elephant in the room is never broached. All is acceptance – very good of the loving parents. But no one is terribly interesting nor really happy, except for the too-caring, pretty, bubbly mother, who is of Italian background. They are on edge all the time, trying to hang out together, but are always on their cell phones – each to his/her own diversion.
There’s a lot of non-talk, some fights, a few encounters, but it’s just dull and uncomfortable with this dysfunctional family, however loving and accepting.
So why are we watching this cheap vacation with these banal people who don’t even want to be together, except again for chirpy Mom? The title is more interesting than the film.
I wouldn’t recommend this to a friend. This being the brave new world, Rotten Tomatoes gives it 100 percent! Simply in praise of gender fluidity? Once again, how about the actual art and pleasures of cinema? Go figure.
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.