29 September 2023.
Luc Besson is back, and as always his work is straight from the heart. Mostly innovative and accomplished, as with “Le Grand Bleu”, “La Femme Nikita”, “Léon” or the sensational “Fifth Element”, sometimes over-the-top, as happens when your heart leads your head.
Here he gives us a mesmerizing ride in this both tragic and violent tale of a cripple who loves his perfectly trained troupe of dogs above all, especially in his crusade to avenge his horrendous childhood and the downtrodden around him.
At times exaggerated, this fable is nevertheless riveting in its intensity – the brilliant, multi-layered acting of Caleb Landry Jones as a man torn by destiny (Best Acting award in Cannes 2021 for “Nitram”); the moving soundtrack by Besson’s loyal composer Eric Serra; Jones’ hypnotic drag performances as Marilyn and Dietrich, and those uncanny, faithful dogs.
It’s a mixture of moving, beautiful feelings, an exhilarating thriller, excessive in its recounting of Jones’ childhood, and the melodramatic ending that becomes almost laughable in its religious embellishment.
But Besson is an artist who lives in hyperbole, somewhat in the genre of the other explosive creator, Baz Luhrmann. This work had me in tears at times. You’ve got to give him, and his talent, leeway.
COUP DE CHANCE (Stroke of Luck) *** (vo French)
Woody Allen is also back at 87, with his 50th film (!), fresh from the Venice film festival in late August. That’s where such talented creators as Roman Polanski, Luc Besson and Allen, who have been badly maligned in the press, were welcomed by the courageous director of the festival, Alberto Barbera, who believes above all in the work of artists, insisting on bringing their latest films to the public.
Allen’s latest opus harks back to his oft-used theme of luck and coincidences, which he applied brilliantly in his 2005 “Match Point”, set in London. This one has him again in Paris, with an all-French cast, speaking entirely in French. It starts off in a monied Parisian society, where much champagne flows, wives are spoiled and the conversation is of their latest far-off travels and hunting parties in country estates. But he zeroes in on one young couple, where the husband (Melvil Poupaud) is adoring and most possessive of his young and more bohemian wife (an excellent Lou de Laâge), who seems somewhat bored. By chance she meets an old schoolmate who always had a crush on her, and they begin to see each other for lunches in the park.
The beginning feels a bit static and too controlled, but the tale takes on a different mood and rhythm when the lunches turn into a more serious affair. Enough said – no spoilers here, so you may fully enjoy the twists of fate of which Allen is quite the master. His old, typical touches are all there, except in another language, but though it’s not a comedy, one walks out with a quizzical smile on one’s face….
(Showing at the Cine17 and Empire Cinemas)
FALLEN LEAVES *1/2 (vo Finnish)
I must be living on another planet. This most recent Aki Kaurismaki resembles his many other works – all about silent, lonely people with their miserable moods, who never crack a smile, usually living and working in ugly surroundings. But he does add touches of colour to indulge his audience, and a bit of music at the right moment. It concerns his home country, his own Finland, and his depiction of the common folk. But I was in Helsinki this past August, and the natives there were alive, friendly and talkative (!), in their vibrant, beautiful city.
Yet the critics keep showering him with praise for repetitive works that are simply depressing, for he is lauding the working man in his ‘Proletariat’ series. Well, Ken Loach also shows the misery of the working man, but he does it with heart, warmth and depth.
Kaurismaki’s latest won the Jury Award at Cannes – he is definitely a favourite of the “intelligentsia”. It’s about a labourer – a loser who is an alcoholic, and a lonely young woman who works and lives in desolate isolation. Glum people who know little of joy, ease or conversation. The whole dialogue of the film could be on one page. Instead we get a great deal of news of the war in the Ukraine. And then wonders of wonders, they somehow meet. How sweet and clever. Oh no, but we need some turmoil, so there are minor hindrances. Let’s give this incredibly slow, dull film a big award and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Oh well, I do believe I live on another planet.
NOUVEAU DÉPART * (vo French)
Here’s another one of these lame French dramedies they keep cranking out to keep their film industry thriving. A pity when an excellent actress like Karin Viard stoops to such a base character as a wife gone bonkers when faced with her 50s and possible menopause.
Despite an adoring husband (Franck Dubosc), she falls for all sorts of silly distractions. Some will think the sexual romps are just fun and games, but the whole thing is simply foolish and even debasing, as when her best friend zeroes in on the bewildered husband. Are these middle-aged women really so sex-hungry? This feels more like a dumb, below-the-belt American comedy – in the style of Judd Apatow – than an intelligent French spoof.
If you have the time and inkling, jump on a train and go up to the Zürich Film Festival which goes from September 28 to October 8. For me, this has become the top film festival of Switzerland, overtaking Locarno with far better films, glittering stars, excellent masterclasses by top guests and the rich setting of Zurich.
Check out all their info and schedules on ZFF.COM
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.