22 September 2023.
LE LIVRE DES SOLUTIONS (The Book of Solutions) *** (vo French
What a wild, crazy, refreshing comedy about artistic creation! Michel Gondry, the Oscar-anointed French director of “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, has come back to his original language, and gives us quite a bit of his own erratic creative method in this latest work. For it’s all about a film director who runs away to his aunt’s home in the countryside with his film and crew when his producers want to meddle, change or stop his oeuvre.
Gondry has found his perfect alter-ego in the versatile Pierre Niney who has so well portrayed such varied characters as Yves Saint-Laurent; Cousteau’s son in “L’Odyssée”; a French soldier in Ozon’s “Frantz”; a bumbling spy in “OSS 117”; and Romain Gary in “La Promesse de l’aube”.
We follow his bipolar character who desperately knows what he wants, drives his loyal, mostly female crew crazy with wacky demands, and is determined to have Sting in a cameo role in his film. It’s for you to find out if he manages to get him. On top of all his technical and artistic problems in this backwater, he manages to fall in love with a girl who is not available. Despite his inherent shyness, he wants her badly. Let’s see how that turns out. It’s all wacky, hectic and quite wonderful. I would give Niney a César.
L’ÉTÉ DERNIER ** (vo French)
It doesn’t get more French than this. A woman (a mysterious, sulfurous Léa Drucker) married to a successful husband, is herself a lawyer. Worldly yet concerned in her work with teenage girls in distress, she seems to be bored with her married life, despite the many steamy, sensual scenes with her loving spouse. But then his teenage son from a previous marriage comes to live with them for some time. He is a sullen adolescent, but attractive in the way of the boy from Visconti’s “Death in Venice”. We know where this is going, don’t we?
So there are more steamy, sensual scenes that are quite unnecessary, this time with junior.
The film received lots of press in Cannes, maybe not only for the compulsive sex, but for the wife’s utter lack of responsibility, compounded with her ice-cold manipulation when they are found out. Psychologically confounding, it’s a bit of a modern-day “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”.
The utterly matter-of-fact view of this sordid tale leaves a sour aftertaste, but then it’s directed by Catherine Breillart, who specialises and revels in sexually charged films.
A HAUNTING IN VENICE (Mystère à Venise) *1/2
The mood is dark and gloomy since the very talented Kenneth Branagh (“Henry V”, “Cinderella”, “Belfast”) has moved Poirot into horror territory. A pity, for Poirot (Branagh, as both director and actor) was always such an amusing character in all his astute intelligence. As for Branagh himself, kudos to him for having brought Shakespeare to the masses, and taking us to his childhood in the wondrous “Belfast”, though he does tend to hyperbole occasionally.
This time Poirot has retired to Venice, quite happy to be relieved of all those complicated murder cases which made him a legend as a most brilliant international sleuth. But an old writer friend (a badly miscast Tina Fey) lures him into a seance in a crumbling, haunted palazzo.
Of course, there is a murder and Poirot now has to solve it, but he feels out of his depth, and so do we. Too many speedy, slanted shots of apparitions, little orphan children who no longer exist, or do they? Lots of rain, thunder, sombre Venetian sights and eccentric characters. We’re supposed to be thrilled, but somehow the useless tension weighs down our interest, and we finally don’t care whodunnit.
Branagh has, as usual with the Poirot series, surrounded himself with familiar faces – Michelle Yeoh, Kelly Reilly, Jamie Dornan. It doesn’t help much – and why do the Italian children, seen during a pointless Halloween event, all speak English? I was underwhelmed.
ASTOLFO – SECONDE JEUNESSE – (vo Italian)
Don’t fall for the title and charming poster. This Italian film directed and acted by Gianni Di Gregorio (?), about an elderly gentleman who has to move into his dilapidated country house when ousted from his apartment in Rome, is an absolute dud.
His new life – with instant friends and a quickie romance – in this quaint village, is so badly written, directed and acted that it had me cringing in my seat. Its slow pace and continuous clichés probably have the great directors and actors of Italy’s heyday twirling in their graves.
For those interested in the inimitable English violinist, NIGEL KENNEDY, rush to Lausanne’s Théâtre de Beaulieu for a unique program called HEART & SOUL, his latest mix of eclectic music from Bach to Gershwin.
Sunday, 24th September at 20h.
For JAZZ lovers – 2 concerts dedicated to the great Chet Baker, by the duo MARC PERRENOUD and DAVID ENHCO – 26 September at Geneva’s ALHAMBRA at 20h. And 28 September at Pully’s OCTOGONE at 20h.
Info at www.musika-association.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.