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Una mujer sin amor (1952)
Low-grade first part. Great Buñuel second half.
Rosario is lovelessly married to an authoritarian man older than her. They have a little boy, Carlito,
who is also a victim of his father's excessive severity. One day, Rosario falls in love with a good and
attractive man. She decides to leave everything and follow the man she loves to Brazil. It is then that
her husband has a heart attack...
Very paradoxical, this film. For about forty minutes, Maupassant's novel "Pierre et Jean" is treated as a cheap Mexican melodrama. After "Los Olvidados", this immortal masterpiece, seeing Buñuel forced to do drudge work is a heart-breaker for the demanding cinephile. On the other hand, the popular audience of the time must have loved the string of ready-made situations, the conventional characters and the hamming actors. But when, after forty minutes, everything seems lost, Don Luis suddenly wakes up. Inspired by the cruelty of the situation imagined by Maupassant (one brother inherits a large sum of money and the other nothing), he begins to rock the boat. The one he is interested in is Carlos, the robbed one: jealous, perverse, ferocious, he sets about, like an exterminating angel, destroying bit by bit the family unit. Joaquin Cordero's chilling performance makes Carlos join the cohort of the Buñuelan characters dynamiting the established order. The mother's final discourse, claiming free love and thus rejecting the conjugality imposed by society, is also a break with the painful conformism of the first part. The cinema-lover is reassured; the popular audience, as for them, must have been disoriented and left the cinema dissatisfied. Yes, decidedly, very paradoxical, this film.
Sandome no satsujin (2017)
Interesting but a bit too slow and too talky.
The great lawyer Shigomori accepts a delicate case, the defense of Misumi, accused of theft and murder. Misumi, who thirty years earlier had served a prison sentence for murder, is now facing the death penalty. Astonishingly, the accused does not seem to care at all about his lot, the best evidence being that he does nothing to help his defender avoid it.
A specialist in childhood and family relations, Kore-eda ventures here into unfamiliar territory, the judicial thriller. The film raises interesting questions about the relativity of justice while at the same time keeping up the mystery: why does the accused, whose guilt is far from being proven, play cat and mouse with his defender and put obstacles in his way when he does everything in his power to save him from being hanged? Unfortunately, too much chatter and slowness diminishes the effectiveness of the film. But there are undeniable good points : the subtle acting of the two main protagonists, the beautiful nostalgic music by Ludovico Einaudi as well as the end of the film, a little more tonic than what preceded it. Quite a fair work on the whole but not up to the level of " Nobody Knows " or " Like father Like Son ".
Everyone he fails (one day), everyone he's not perfect!
It hurts me to admit it but I hate this movie. I would not make a big deal of it if « Chobizeness » was not produced, directed, performed and set to music by none other than Jean Yanne, one of my favorite comedians. The man's talents are so varied as to make you dizzy: among others, he is the author and interpreter of irresistible parodic songs ("J'aime pas le rock", "Si tu t'en irais"), mean, irreverent, provocative or nonsensical sketches ("Le permis de conduire", "Les routiers"), innovative humorous radio shows, the best being "When I hear the word culture, I take out my transistor". I'm a fan of his cheeky tone, of his sharp lines, of his squeaky humor. Also an actor - and a first-rate one at that - he is an extraordinary "Boucher" (Claude Chabrol, 1969) and won a well-deserved acting award for "Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble" (Maurice Pialat, 1971).
Three years before "Chobizeness", he brilliantly launched himself into film directing with the unbelievable "Tout le monde il est beau, tout le monde il est gentil" (Everybody he's handsome, everybody he's nice) in which he cheerfully brocades the world of radio polluted at the time by the Jesus-Mania. His next two films, while not quite up to what would remain his masterpiece, were funny and inventive enough. In "Moi y'en a vouloir des sous" (1973), Jean Yanne put the political world, trade unionism and all the petty tricks of our contemporaries to the test. The following year, his "I don't care" attitude erected as a philosophical system managed to put an end to the... invasion of Paris by the Chinese !... So when Yanne announced in 1975 a biting satire of the entertainment world, "Chobizeness" aroused a lot of expectation. Well, the awakening was rude!
Appalling but true, not a moment is spent laughing. Instead you feel a constant uneasiness, which seizes you as soon as of the credits, their ugly garish colors and the foul song that accompanies it, the worst ever written and sung by Jean Yanne, with lyrics as inspired as "Il a chaud bibi, du zizi jusqu'aux fesses, car il est dans le show business" (Who can't stand the heat, It's Yours Truly, Hot from the birdie to the buttocks, For being in show business)! The opening sequence, the rehearsal of a shabby ballet with sets and costumes that test the eye, confirms this first impression: the tone will be one of assumed ugliness and aggressive vulgarity. It is known for a fact that for a satire to work, however caustic it may be, it must win our support in all areas. Showing the inner mediocrity of the characters through their external ugliness is not an option, it's tone on tone.
The story of this producer who is prepared to do anything to save his theatre is worth another. It can even produce masterpieces ("The Producers" by Mel Brooks, to name but one), it is his treatment that will make all the difference. Here, in addition to the fact that Jean Yanne puts everyone in the same bag, from the porn show to the elitist intellectual theater to the music hall, is kind of exaperating. Aren't there really any talented and sincere people among the artists, aren't there any who can't express their sensibility even when working on behalf of ruthless moneylenders? One could retort that Yanne saves the character of Bloch, the upright musician whom he ends up poaching, alas! he makes such a puppet of him (whose ridiculous side is further reinforced by Robert Hirsch's over-acting) that the character indisposes us instead of touching us. No, this time « Everyone he is ugly, everyone he is mean », and that's the problem.
In such a negative context, the gags, especially verbal and repetitive ones (Bloch's large family stoning him to death as soon as he gets home, a.s.o.) just fizzle out. The worst is the finale, when this cynical producer and this gifted but pretentious egocentric composer are shot down by the CRS (equivalent of the National Guard) on the orders not of the prefect of police but of the producers of the show themselves, which is a bit hard to swallow. With their arms outstretched on the stage, like two martyrs of modern times, they lie for the whole of the end credits under the applause of the CRS!!! The sequence is meant to be surreal, it is only preposterous.
"Chobizeness" is certainly Jean Yanne's biggest failure. What do you want, everyone he fails (one day), everyone he's not perfect!
Wonder Wheel (2017)
The Wheel of Destiny
Ginny, who dreamed of becoming an actress, is a waitress in a restaurant at an amusement park on Coney Island. She has remarried Humpty, operator of the Wonder Wheel, whose big mouth and occasional violence poorly masks his great fragility. Her lover is Mickey, a handsome lifeguard with ambitions to become a playwright. Her life becomes more complicated when Carolina, daughter of Humpty's first marriage, who has long since disappeared from circulation, comes to take refuge at her father's house to escape from a pair of gangsters who are on her heels.
A dark Woody Allen film... all in colors, certainly a little loud and vulgar but wanted as such by the author and the great cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. The setting is indeed Deno's Amusement Park, one of those old-fashioned amusement parks that still offer easy fun in the early 1950s. But in this somewhat fake paradise, fun is not for everyone, not at any rate for the Jablon family. In their shack at the foot of the Big Wheel (that of Destiny?), one rarely laughs as quarrels, frustration, disenchantment, alcohol and migraines reign supreme. To say nothing of the violence that is about to break out.
A stylistic exercise certainly (a narration a la Eugene O'Neill, in the style of an ancient tragedy in a modern context, with a narrating lifeguard as the chorus), it is also and above all a human drama that goes straight to the heart. This beautiful film owes much a touching Kate Winslet as a neurotic woman who believes she is being reborn to life and a very endearing James Belushi as a pathetic honey bear.
La villa (2017)
The Twilight of Illusions
In a cove not far from Marseille, the actress Angèle joins her two brothers in their birthplace, where following a drama, she has not set foot for 20 years. All three are gathered around their father, diminished by a stroke. An opportunity for them to take stock of their lives, the evolution of society and what remains of their ideals and commitments.
As melancholy and twilight as Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard", from which the script is very freely adapted, "The Villa" sings the sad lament of lost illusions . « The Villa » is no longer about a cherry orchard but revolves around a quality restaurant at moderate prices nestled in the hollow of a southern cove. Two brothers and their sister (an actress who returns to her childhood home for the first time in twenty years) meet up with their father who has suffered a stroke. It is an opportunity for them to take stock of their lives, of the evolution of the world and what remains of their ideals. The outcome is not a happy one: just like the father's restaurant, still held at arm's length by one of the two sons, is threatened, their constituent values (humanism, solidarity, the fight for justice) are are questioned by a society that is now gangrenous with ultra-liberalism.... Robert Guédiguian's spokespersons are none other than his three fetish actors, Ariane Ascaride (all in thwarted tenderness), Jean-Pierre Darroussin (and his weary irony) and Gérard Meylan (a figure of uncompromising fidelity to his initial ideals), who have evolved alongside him over three decades. A good idea of the director is to include in the 2016 film an excerpt from "Ki lo sa", shot in 1986, featuring our three musketeers still fresh and naïve. It is both touching and striking. In the end, a disenchanted film, but not as radical as Chekhov's play. In this damaged world, there are still a few positive points left, the superb Calanque de Méjean, the gentle smile of Bérangère (radiant Anaïs Demoustier), a fisherman in love with theater, a moving reconciliation and even, in the last part, the revelation of a new battle to be fought. Bitterness certainly, but neither sourness nor boredom
Au revoir là-haut (2017)
Albert Dupontel, a big leaguer now.
November 1919. Two survivors of the trenches meet. One, Edouard Péricourt, the son of a good family disfigured during the conflict, is a genius draftsman, the other, Albert Maillard, is a modest accountant. They join forces to set up a war memorial scam.
Albert Dupontel became known for his crazy and squeaky comedies, not to everyone's taste. Voluntarily poorly made at the beginning, his biting comedies gradually gained in artistic quality. For example, the film "Neuf mois ferme", which preceded this one, was already distinguished by its elaborate direction and impressive formal finds, which only made the satirical background more abrasive. He does even better with "Au revoir là-haut", a very successful adaptation of Pierre Lemaître's best-selling novel. A dazzling opening sequence, brilliant craftsmanship, a convincing period reconstruction, and high-quality special effects: Albert Dupontel brilliantly confirms that he has become a major filmmaker.
What'is great is that being at the helm of a superproduction does mean he renounces his convictions: in this film co-written with Pierre Lemaître, as in others of which he is the sole author, he questions conformism, hypocrisy and authoritarianism while praising, as a good self-respecting anarchist, personal morality and the responsible individual's recourse to his own resources. Dupontel's main target is the self-righteousness of the time (the grandiloquent whining about the dead of 14-18, whose massacre is made up under the more presentable names of heroism and sacrifice) end the least we can say is that he bites home. Through his "sacrilegious heroes," he asks a question to which everyone will answer in their own way: who is more guilty, the two crooks, a gifted artist with a broken face and a crafty entrepreneur forsaken by the authorities, or those who turned hundreds of thousands of young people full of life into cannon fodder?
The cast is excellent and without wanting to insult the spirit of the troupe shown by all the actors, we will nevertheless singularize two performances particularly out of the ordinary: Niels Arestrup as a dominating and icy father and Laurent Lafitte, properly terrifying as a sadistic military man who, after the war, turns into a... sadistic civilian.
A deserved success, both public and critical, for Albert Dupontel, who has now entered the big league.
Untamed Americas: Deserts (2012)
One of the best wildlife documentaries ever made
Animal documentaries are legion. "Deserts" is one of them. Documentaries describing the difficult living conditions in desert environments are numerous. "Deserts" is one of them. But definitely not is not just another of them. Yes, you will find yourself on familiar ground but no, you will not yawn - not for a second: boredom is not on Andy Mitchell and his crew's agenda. Quite the opposite in fact. In "Deserts", an episode in the remarkable National Geographic series "Untamed Americas", there is surprise, there is excitement, there is passion, there is comedy, there is tragedy, there is magic. Let's put it simply, it is one of the best wildlife films ever made.
Part of the excitement noted above comes from the technical qualities of the film, though there is more to it than just that. All possible means are used to awaken, support or revive the interest of the spectator: microphotography, macrophotography, drones, speeding up, slowing down, placing cameras in the most unlikely places, editing at the perfect pace. An undeniable technical brilliance that is never an end in itself but always put at the service of its subject, propeling us into a savage world and make us a direct witness of the daily struggle of living beings for food, reproduction and sheer survival. Of course mere technque would not suffice to make what I name "one of the best wildlife films ever made". What really makes it atreat is the choice of the animals filmed, all amazingly unusual, whether it is in the way they look or in the way they behave. Among others, I would mention the half tragic half hilarious sequence of the penguins of the Atacama Desert (yes, such animals exist !) and that of the odd ballet of the pink flamingoes at the top of the Andes (No, I'm not delirious!).
Don't miss "Deserts" nor any of the three other episodes of "Untamed Americas" under any circumstances. In 46 minutes, you will have seen an incredible amount of uncommon wildlife scenes, both realistic and poetic. So, take my word for it: these 46 minutes will not have been wasted.
Committed but not dogmatic.
Committed but not dogmatic.
The whistleblower figure is popular on the big screen at the moment. and quite rightly so: no one denies the bravery of these new heroes and heroins nor their usefulness for the good health of democracy. But having a character fighting alone for the truth against a system a million times stronger is not enough to make a good film. Of course the genre guarantees suspense and highlights, but to be really successful, the writers and directors must definitely avoid the gaping trap that risks opening up under their feet, that of Manichaeism and self-righteousness. If they do mean to create a strong work of art they should then definitely avoid distributing good and bad points, pointing out the good guys and the bad guys. Otherwise their film will be worth little more than a low-grade soap opera. Regarding Farid Bentoumi's film "Rouge (Red Soil)", which falls into the category described above, we can say, if you pass me the pun, that all the lights are green. Its relevant subject to begin with: the denunciation of a secret affair of toxic discharges, polluting a chemical plant and its neighborhood as well as a lake , the whole thing inspired by real facts having occurred in Ajka, Hungary (but which can happen anywhere on the globe, including at the Lake of Gardannes in the South of France for example). Also to the point is the realistic framework in which the action takes place: the natural setting, an existing chemical plant in Savoie, a good description of the factory's working and health conditions (symptomatic is the scant attention paid to occupational medicine within its walls). Everything in this film simply rings true. Having successfully created a convincing setting, the director can now launch the young Nour on her difficult crusade for the truth to the unreserved adhesion of the viewer.. But who in fact is Nour? Well, the young woman is a hospital nurse who, following a professional problem, has become a company nurse for a chemical company. A key element is that she owes this work to her father Slimane, a specialized worker and staff representative, a respected figure who has been a fixture of the plant for decades. A blessing that unfortunately turns to a curse when Nour begins to understand that there is something abnormal going on in this enterprise. Honest to the core, the young woman soon finds herself facing an insoluble dilemma: should she put gratitude and family feelings first and thus become an accomplice to a system that damages the health of a great number of people? Or should she fight for the truth at the risk of alienating the love of her entire family ? Far from weakening the film by excessive sentimentality, this intimate drama actually gives "Rouge" more relef, while avoiding any soulless (and accordingly counter-productive) dogmatism. With such a rich psychological study it has indeed nothing of a soulless political tract. It is a million much better: a double cry from the heart, both social and sentimental, the one and the other enriching each other. There is no doubt that success could only be achieved with the investment of top-notch players; mission accomplished! Embodying Slimane and Nour, two torn characters, Sami Bouajila and Zita Hanrot are up to the task, the former pointing out the flaws of his character under a veneer of serenity and benevolence while the young actress displays a winning mix of naturalness, energy and sensitivity. To this duo of great quality is added Céline Sallette, convincing as a committed journalist with a dark side. Thanks to their art and direcctor's no one is caricatured : everyone has their reasons, including the plant manager (Olivier Gourmet, too little on screen but mesmerizing as always), who cannot be completely hated. Technically speaking, the film is classic but devilishly effective, well paced and catchy from start to finish. The scope format is skillfully used and the few color effects, including the regular appearance of the color red, both a symbol of aggression (the polluted lake, the toxic mud) or of passionate impulses (Nour's bright red wedding dress, her protective gear), are a welcome artistic plus. Go and see "Rouge", a film not only committed to a good cause but also thrilling, thought-porovoking and moving. You will see red in front of the practices denounced in this excellent work. Your eyes will be reddened by Nour's impossible choice. As for Farid Bentoumi, he has nothing to... blush about!
Les Épouvantails (2019)
Important subject. Imperfect approach.
"The Scarecrows" is an undeniably courageous film that, for this very reason, I would have liked to like more. Because when it comes to courage, its well-known Tunisian director ("Bezness", "A Summer in La Goulette") has never failed to show it: wasn't he jailed for several years for his political convictions? Hasn't he always tackled sensitive ideas in his works?
Once again, the subject he has chosen for his latest film is anything but obvious, even in one of the few countries that has remained democratic after the Arab Spring. Judge for yourself: two young women living in Tunis follow their respective lovers to Syria where what they discover is not at all the paradise they expected, just hell let loose: separated from their partners, they find themselves reduced to the state of an object, sexual in particular. They manage to escape but it is not the end of their troubles, far from that: back in their hometown a new trauma awaits them. Suspected of terrorism, they are imprisoned, interrogated harshly and humiliated like the worst of criminals.
Based on real facts from 2013, Bouzid's film tells the story of Zina and Djo's difficult reconstruction. Helped by three women (a doctor, a lawyer and Zina's mother) plus a young homosexual who knows what it means to be ostracized, will the two girls end up being accepted as "normal" citizens again?
A double dramatic case that offers the director-scriptwriter the opportunity to draw up, in addition to the psychological portrait of his two heroines, an inventory of Tunisian society. He does so without naivety, to say the least. The propensity of the authorities to punish without seeking to understand, the obscurantism of morals that are struggling to evolve despite the democratic current, the Muslim religion interpreted in its most radical aspect, the gaze of others for only moral standard, the inferior status of women, the unease of intellectuals torn between traditional morals and modernity, well the balance is dark, very dark. And at the cost of repetition, it takes courage to propose such a challenge to the citizens of one's own country.
But, if sincerity and courage are necessary to forge a great work, they are unfortunately not enough. Worth respect on the level of ideas, the film's problems lie in the field of its direction, editing and narrative. Although not that long in terms of pure duration, "The Scarecrows" appears awfully lengthy. What mars it is, for instance, an excess of hand-held camera work - tiring to watch. Also tedious is the monotonous string of similar shots (almost exclusively close-ups) as well as the complacent editing: many minutes of filler should have been cut to give the film more rhythm. And that is not all: if too many of the scenes languish, it is because of the uninspired dramatic structure, the tonality invariably remaining dramatic from beginning to end: no lighter counterpoint, no unimportant little facts that, by contrast, would give more impact to the climactic scenes. The only truly relevant artistic choice is that of evoking the violent and traumatic past through short flash backs. By so doing Nouri Bouzid does not fall into the trap that closes in on those who denounce violence by... making it a spectacle. These very brief scenes are in fact more than enough to suggest the horror of it all. A good point also for the musical score by Riadh Fehri, which avoids sinking into the melodramatic accents that one had the right to fear.
Now you understand why I have only mixed feelings about this respectable film. I deplore it but such a subject, given its importance, deserved to be treated with more artistic talent.
Imperfect but interesting
The animated movie 'Josep' must be regarded first and foremost as a sincere tribute paid by one cartoonist to another, the latter dead for a quarter of a century. The first is Aurel (real name Aurélien Froment), press cartoonist for the French newspapers Le Monde and Le Canard Enchaîné. The other is Josep Bartoli (1910-1995), a talented but too little known Catalan Spanish draftsman, whose main work, the cartoon album "La retirada", bears witness to life in a concentration camp (his own and that of his fellow prisoners). A concentration camp ? Eh yes! And a French one at that, erected by a democratic republic whose motto is, let's remember, "Liberty, equality, fraternity". Such was indeed the "asylum" provided to Franco's victims by the French government when, following the fall of the Spanish Republic, they fled to their "brother" country. For sure, if seen only from this angle, Aurel's initiative does inspire respect. By turning Bartoli's drawn work into a feature film, Aurel indeed gives it wider visibility, thus reinforcing the power of its humanist message, a heart-wrenching call for the respect of human dignity, particularly relevant in these troubled times.
A prisoner himself, subjected like his fellow citizens to unworthy conditions, malnourished, uncared for, mistreated, humiliated day after day, Josep resisted, and notably thanks to a massive "weapon of survival", an unusual talent for drawing that he put to good use: making sketches of the everyday horror enabled him to endure the ordeals engendered by the situation and at the same time to testify to the ignominy that breeds them. The resulting court of miracles of skinny, sickly, crippled, desperate creatures that he depicts is without appeal, as were those of Jacques Callot or Goya in a more distant past.
On the whole, Aurel's film gives us a good enough idea of Bartoli's graphic universe but if you aim to appreciate Bartoli's work at its true value you had better get the album. Because, however commendable it is, "Josep" has his limits. On the passive side, at least in my opinion, the rudimentary animation, far removed from the shock effect produced by Bartoli's drawings, which prevents an unreserved adhesion to the project. Seeing characters progress in successive jolts or hardly move doesn't allow for easy entry into the story, which makes "Josep" inferior to a work like "Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles" and behind masterpieces like "Persepolis" or "Waltz with Bashir". Problematic too are a certain lack of historical explanations as well as gaps in the hero's personal history which, if filled, would have made the whole thing more arresting. A defect particularly compensated for by a great art of putting things into perspective, certainly due to the screenwriter Jean-Louis Milesi. We thus cross five eras, from 1939 to 2020, and the different eras (normal continuity, flash backs and even flash forwards with Frida Kahlo), illuminating each other.
All things considered, "Josep" is perhaps, as I said, only half convincing, but half convincing is enough to recommend this film sincere in its approach as well as quite touching. Which is certain that by going to see it you won't waste your time.
A day-to-day chronicle of a major social conflict
In October 2010, workers and employees of French refineries went on strike to protest against the pension reform wanted by the government of Nicolas Sarkozy and the National Confederation of French Employers. Their means of pressure to get the government to backtrack, consisted in creating oil shortage which, if joined by the other French refineries, would mean blocking the country.
Interested in this major social conflict, Olivier Azam decided to follow it on a daily basis. He and his crew arrived on the scene on the tenth day and started filming the protesters until the end of the strike two weeks and a half later.
No doubt about it, the director chooses his side, that of the strikers and mainly one union, the CGT (General Confederation of Workers). The result is a film that is committed and, by definition, one-sided. It does not give a voice to the opposing camp, except for a phone call to the manager of the refinery who (in the director's defense) refuses to speak, arguing that the refiners' struggle has nothing to do with working conditions in the company. Knowing this, if you're waiting for an in-depth study on this strike you'd better move on to something else. But if you agree to join the group of activists and to witness their struggle for social justice, you will share their daily lives, their determination and doubts, their hopes and fears, their unity and dissensions... as if you were part of it. Immersion is indeed the main quality of this report which, not content to express social and political ideas, knows how to capture the humanity of the protagonists, I am thinking in particular of this astonishing scene where a striker expresses his delight in front of the generosity of the French who support the movement financially and morally: the brightness in his eyes on the verge of tears, the delighted smile are quite in the line of an American-style sentimental film... except that this is reality!
The film is well made, the editing skillful and meaningful. As a result, the interest, despite the austere subject, is sustained from start to finish. All in all, a valuable document on a great moment of workers' struggle, which should be taken for what it is, a day-to-day chronicle rather than a complete study of the situation seen from different angles.
Queen of Montreuil (2012)
Mourning does not become Agathe
An eccentric Icelandic poetess and her son coming all the way from... Jamaica, a friendly crane operator working cheerfully at the top of the world, a laundromat that also serves as an Internet cafe, an otter in the main character's bathroom, you would think these are the words poem by Jacques Prévert or Charles Cros. They are in fact features of Solveig Anspach's offbeat sweetly loony little film, "Queen of Montreuil". One thing is sure, burlesque as they are, these incongruities will make you smile - more than once. But make no mistake, "Queen of Montreuil" isn't just a comedy, or let's say it is a bittersweet comedy, whose main subject is death (here the one, sudden, of Agathe's spouse) and its bitter aftermath, grief, mourning and the problematic return to life.
Death is indeed a theme present in most of Anspach's fiction works. And she did know her subject since she herself had been confronted to the Grim Reaper two decades before making this film. Suffering from breast cancer during her pregnancy, she overcame the disease and gave birth to her baby girl against all odds. In 2011, when she made "Queen of Montreuil", she didn't know it yet but she would eventually die of her cancer four years later following a relapse, not without having shot in between two singular and therefore engaging films "Lulu femme nue" and "L'Effet aquatique".
But if the shadow of Death is present in several of her films ("Haut les coeurs!", which tells about her own grappling with the Crab, "Queen of Montreuil", about the sudden death of a young life partner and the trauma it ensues), Sólveig Anspach never resorts to the violins of melodrama or to raw realism, let alone to Bergman's twisting-the-knife-in-the-wound style. On the contrary, she opts for a light and offbeat tone. Thus the poor heroine of this "serious comedy" (Florence Loiret-Caille, excellent) is confronted - as mentioned before - with a completely crazy Icelandic woman (the amazing Didda Jónsdóttir), her irresponsible son, a sea lion in her bathtub and a neighbor who is in love with her... Thanks to this clever choice, laughter alternates with tears, lightness with gravity, the tangy taste of life with the pasty taste of death, both suffered and desired. Rarely has one's heart been so light-hearted when faced with the evocation of a work of mourning.It is all the less surprising when one remembers that Sólveig Anspach had managed to make bearable and even endearing the spectacle of a woman suffering from breast cancer in "Haut les Coeurs".
Well, do not hesitate to enter the personal and endearing world of Sólveig Anspach: your heart will sink and at the same time you will laugh. Supreme elegance!
À 2 heures de Paris (2018)
Poorly exploited potential
The return of a character to their hometown and their settling their accounts with those left behind is reminiscent of a model of the genre, "Un Revenant", by Christian Jaque (1946). A woman revisiting her old flames recalls another great film, Julien Duvivier's "Carnet de bal" (1937). "A 2 heures de Paris", the first theatrical feature by Virginie Verrier (who also produced and wrote the screenplay) is a distant cousin of these two memorable works but certainly gains nothing by being judged against them. This modern "revenant turning the pages of her old dance card" will certainly not survive oblivion the way the two classics mentioned do.
For sure, Sidonie, an air hostess in her early thirties, comes and sows disorder and conflict in the small Somme Bay town which she left at the age of 16, but the score-settling lacks relevance and sharpness. Agreed, the rebellious heroine kicks over the traces but she does not really rock the boat. Her revolt sounds hollow and accordingly the film soon gives the feeling to be running on empty.
I have just called Sidonie the heroine, which she is but which, in this writer's eyes, she should not be. She has indeed a fifteen-year-old daughter, Lolo, born of an unknown father. And if, after all, Sido finds herself in her hometown, it is at her request. Brought up by her single mother, Lolo has indeed reached the age where she would like to know who her biological father is.Which means that without her, Sidonie would never have returned to the small town where she once "fell into sin". From such premises, one could reasonably expect rich exchanges between the thirty-something and her teenage offspring.This is not the case as Virginie Verrier gradually forgets about Lolo in favor of her "righter of wrongs" progenitor, and that's a shame.
There lies the general problem : the writer-director struggles to make the most of a story and of characters yet full of possibilities. Likewise, she does not particularly highlight the beautiful region of the Bay of the Somme, which she films in a rather impersonal way. Nor does she sufficiently flesh out the characters of the local inhabitants. Even worse, she treats them without benevolence, like hillbillies who have not been able to extricate themselves from the mediocrity of their dead loss. Just like her heroine, she considers them from the height of her Parisianism. But if her characters are indeed mired in a sterile immobility, in what way is this vituperative "free woman" superior to them? What does she do that is particularly interesting in her life apart from flying from one stopover to another and flirting around with men?
This is the big weak point of this film, which on the other hand is rather well made and can be followed without boredom. But if you miss out on "A 2 heures de Paris" the loss will not be very great.
Encore heureux (2015)
Smart entertainment not to be snubbed.
Two qualities bring out "Encore heureux", the third film directed by screenwriter Benoît Graffin, from the standard French comedy: on the one hand a script that is both light and serious, with subtle developments and cleverly interwoven sequences. And a perfect cast on the other hand.
If the scenario arrests you from the very first minutes it is thanks to its perfect combination of lightness (apparent) and gravity (underlying). Light are the offbeat tone, the black or harsh humor, the depressive nonchalance of Sam (the father) interspersed with whiffs of derisory enthusiasm, the repeated anger of Mary (the mother). At the same time, serious (not to say dramatic) is the situation in which the family depicted find themselves: the depressed father who cannot find work, the mother whose salary is not enough to boil the pot, the threat of eviction, the children destabilized by their parents' problems and endless arguments. In addition, we spectators are confronted with the moral problem facing the characters: what would we do if we were them? Would we remain honest at all costs at the risk of losing our homes, of starving, or at least of depending on the charity of others? Or in order to survive would we not accept like them some small arrangements with the law, such as cheating, stealing, lying or even... hiding a corpse? By so doing, Benoît Graffin appears as the Molière of modern times. He indeed provokes thought through the fun he gives.
As for the construction of the scenario, it is close rather to Labiche or Feydeau in its precision, its rigor and therefore its efficiency. When, for example, in the middle of the story, the family has become entangled in a situation that seems inextricable, one wonders how the poor screenwriter will get out of it without resorting to the easy way out, in particular the detestable "deus ex machina" expedient. Well, he does get out of it, and with honors ! The twists and turns follow one another with an unstoppable logic until the resolution, funny and unexpected.
Another pleasure is the film's top-of-the-range distribution, with Sandrine Kiberlain's petulance ideally suited to Edouard Baer's natural nonchalance. Bulle Ogier, for her part, composes an irreverent dryly humorous old lady, speaking with communicative jubilation Nicolas Bedos' incisive dialogues. Also remarkable are the two young actors, Carla Benaïou and Mathieu Torloting,
who know how to convey their mute concern and dismay without unnecessary insistence. A mention as well for the faithful and understated companion of French cinema, Guilaine Londez, as the building's janitor, a role that allows her to move from the funny to the dramatic with disconcerting ease.
All in all, although it does not break new ground on the cinematographic level, "Encore heureux" offers us an hour and a half of intelligent entertainment, which is not, you will agree, to be scorned. Just don't deprive yourself of such a pleasure.
Kingdom of the Blue Whale (2009)
Peaceful Moby Dick. Benevolent whale hunters.
The blue whale, this giant of the seas, is an endangered species. Overhunted for too long, it may be protected, but its meat can be found on Japanese markets. It may be immense, but it is no match for ever-larger, ever more numerous ships. Protecting them is a challenge that a certain number of specialists are trying to meet. A team of three of them, featured in the film, spend several weeks in the Santa Barbara Channel, one of the blue whale's larders. Their objective? To discover the place where they give birth to their calves, thereby establishing the route they follow so that they can better protect them in the future.
This is what "The Kingdom of the Blue Whale" undertakes to illustrate, but it does not do it in the way of a classic documentary, which is a good idea insofar as 1 hour and 33 minutes of pure pedagogy might well be tiring!. To avoid boredom, Sue Houghton, the director, has in fact had the excellent idea to resort to the thriller form . How does she go about getting the spectator hooked (pun intended)? Well, a riddle is asked at a time (for example: will the three specialists be able to locate the spot where the blue whale will give birth to its calf?) but the key to the puzzle will not be given before a number of twists and turns have happened to the protagonists. Such is the task assigned to he narrator, Tom Selleck ( no less): he duly asks a question with an unknown answer, tension builds up and interest is kept sustained. Among the other suspense-inducing questions: where do the whales go when they leave the Santa Barbara Canal ? Why so many dead whales ? Why can blue whale meat still be found on certain Japanese markets while the species is protected, will our three heroes succeed in filming for the first time the birth of a whale calf) ?
The advantage of this method is that it makes the medicine go down easily, despite the film's unusual length and for all its redundancies, banalities or filling scenes. To say nothing of the music, which is regrettably all-purpose. But as the whole is well filmed and very interesting from a documentary point of view, the small flaws noted will not prevent you from thinking that the time spent in the company of these benevolent hunters and peaceful monsters was not wasted.
Berlin is in Germany (1998)
A brief version of a great film to come
In 2001, the young German director Hannes Stöhr made his first feature film, both sociological and humane, set in a place and time at once precise and metaphorical, entitled "Berlin is in Germany". It was about a man who had been imprisoned while the part of the city he lived in was still in the GDR. Ten years later, East Berlin no longer existed: everything had changed, from the currency in circulation to video games, from invasive English names to triumphant mercantilism. Back in 1989, the hero had a girlfriend but she was with another in 1999; moreover she had been pregnant at the time with a child who was a ten-year-old stranger to him then . A very rich film with a discreet but quite clear political content, with a very precise sociological tint (the conditions of release of a prisoner on parole, his follow-up by a social worker, his difficult conditions of reinsertion) as well as with thorough psychology (the reasons for each character were explained). But few are those who know that the same Hannes Stöhr had already dealt with the subject in a short work of the same title, which was in fact his graduation film. This is what the viewer can discover thanks to the Absolut Medien DVD which offers the fifteen minute prequel as a bonus to the feature film.
The situation is the same (the prisoner released after a decade or so, his maladjustment to a new world, his desire to reconnect with his wife and to discover his son) . The trouble is that with only six times less runtime available, Hannes Stöhr can afford neither to refine nor to develop. The "Berlin is in Germany" of 1998 is therefore only a sketch of what the feature film will be, drier, more to the bone, more naked, without any dialogue other than functional. The fact is that, as the writer-director is unable to go into detail, everything is reduced to the initial situation: no friends as in the long version, no ups and downs, no nuances . As for the end, it is sharper, more desperate, and maybe easier also because lacking subtlety.
Needless to say that I prefer the feature but one can assume that without this short version the long one would probably not exist.
Offbeat, fun, suspenseful and thoughtful
"Felicità" is the title of a popular Italian song from the 1980s, whose translation is "Happiness". It is heard at a telltale time in Bruno Merle's comedy of the same title. Hence the question raised : can one be happy as a family if one is marginal and lives on expedients or bread and butter jobs, or if the father of the family has already been in prison and can go back to it at any time? The answer of director-scriptwriter Bruno Merle (his second film after "Héros" with Michaël Youn in an interesting rôle against type) is clearly yes. Oh, a happiness full of shadows, roughness, ups and downs but a happiness all the same, made possible despite the irregularity of family life only because love circulates between the three members. The other question of "Felicità" concerns the education of little Tommy. Can the already mentioned father who has done bad things against the law help his daughter to structure herself? The answer again is yes, if only because Tim comments on his misdeeds, showing her that in life one should not follow others like a sheep but try to determine at the moment of a crucial choice what will result from one's decision; one should simply never follow an inclination or let oneself go because of weakness of character or impulsiveness as he did.
The theme is made all the more interesting by Bruno Merle's mastery of storytelling (the unfolding of the action is so full of twists and turns that it is impossible to guess how it will develop). The helmer also knows how to choose his actors and direct them with a sure hand. The trio, at once accomplice and unnerving to the others, is very well chosen and interacts with finesse. Pio Marmaï, a sort of mix of Gable and Belmondo, Camille Rutherford, both mature and playful, Rita Merle (the director's daughter), alternately sulky and laughing, serious and dreamy, are entirely convincing. Add to this a good dose of offbeat humour (especially the cosmic jokes played on the others either by Tim or his girlfriend Chloé) that always puts the film on the side of the viewer's pleasure even if the sword of Damocles of drama hangs over the characters at all times.
With "Felicità" one laughs, trembles and thinks about it all at the same time. A winning cocktail in the end.
Animal Roc (2001)
Stone animals with a soul
Anne and Erik Lapied, a couple of filmmakers from Savoie, in the French Alps, passionate about nature, mountains and wildlife, just couldn't miss out on Serge Lombard, a sculptor from their region, a talented artist who manages to bring out amazing specimens of local wildlife from the rough stone. Not only is the animal represented (eagle, frog, chamois, fox, etc.) faithful to nature, but it also has its own personality - as if Serge Lombard captured their souls in the process.
The only problem with this otherwise fine documentary is that Anne and Serge Lapied have left the bridle on Lombard's neck. Every foot of film is indeed commented on by the artist, which is too much for a single man. To put it mildly, if Lombard can make the stone speak admirably, he is rather confused when it comes to oral expression. Serge Lombard may understand himself but the viewer does not always follow him through the meanders of his thought. Serge Lombard, a good carver but not Carver!
"Animal Roc" is nevertheless a film to be seen. For, however poor the sculptor's verbal expression is you wouldn't wish to miss out on a genuine artist, would you ? His work speaks for him.
A very engaging filmed portrait
In 1999, Maya Plisetskaya, the Russian star of the Bolshoi Theatre, agreed to appear before the cameras of filmmaker Dominique Delouche. A unique opportunity for the prima bellerina assoluta to tell about her person as well her persona from her green years to the age of 73.
Thanks to Delouche and through her keen participation, we spectators are made to follow her through the streets of Moscow where, without or within buildings she lived or worked in, she sheds light on her memories : life as a little girl with her father and her movie actress mother, the trragedy her parents went trhough them as of 1937; her training as a dancer at the Bolshoi school, her long and brilliant international career as a ballerina. In doing so, she hides nothing about Stanilist terrorism, nor about the difficulties she had with the control-freak Soviet regime all along.
Of course, what matters most in rich this documentary is Maya's own articulation of what her style actually is. Admired and copied by many (which both delights and irritates her) we learn that her way of dancing is the mixed product of exceptional gifts, of extreme rigor and of fruitful instinct.. One valuable contribution of the filmmaker, apart from filming his subject with love, consists in illustrating Maya Plisetskaya's words by numerous and well-chosen archives, among which clips from ballets like "Don Quixote", "Romeo and Juliet", and the famous, daring and ultra-complicated "Ravel's Bolero", choreographed by her friend Maurice Béjart. Without forgetting naturally the one which brought Maya Plisetskaya undeniable glory, "Swan Lake". Nobody has indeed forgotten the winglike flapping of her arms gradually changing into the slight frizziness of the water. Maya was, is and will indeed remain Odette forever.
Now that Maya has joined the firmament of vanished stars (she died in 2015 at the age of 89), to see her again so full of life, passion and humour is all the more moving, for which we can only thank Dominique Delouche, who has worked so hard to ensure that the greatest names in 20th century music and dance are documented, seen at work and listened to.
Les deux Fragonard (1989)
Interesting but morbid
Not uninteresting but morbid.
Philippe Le Guay's name is associated with comedy. Quality comedy, funny but also well written, subtle stories in tune with our times. Titles such as 'L'Année Juliette', 'The Cost of Living' 'The Women on the 6th Floor', 'Bicycling With Molière' immediately evoke this notion of intelligent humour which is peculiar to their director, whose surname (The Gay Guy) seems to want to confine him to the field of comedy. That would be forgetting on the one hand a certain darkness that always runs through his funny films (the harmfulness of money, class struggle, difficult human relations, old age, the fate of peasants, etc). It would also mean overlooking his downright dark films, which, even if there are only two of them, do exist. Superior to all his other works, there is the extraordinary 'Nightshift' (2001), a film that blatantly describes the dominant-dominated relationship between a worker and the foreman who shamelessly mistreats him. Without a doubt the writer-director's cruelest and most beautiful film work to-date. As for his first feature film 'Les deux Fragonard' (1989), it is not a comedy either, but contrary to 'Nightshift' twelve years later, it cannot boast the noun of masterpiece. Not that 'Les deux Fragonard' is uninteresting, on the contrary. Indeed, it introduces us to two important historical figures, the painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard (Joaquim de Almeida, quite convincing) and his cousin, the anatomist Honoré (renamed Cyprien for reasons of understanding) Cyprien Fragonard (Robin Renucci, dark and tortured). By bringing them together for the sake of fiction, Le Guay offers us a reading of the 18th century, far from the exact but fragmented image of the Enlightenment. As the bicentenary of the French Revolution and its procession of good thinking was about to pass (the filming took place in 1988), the director chose to tell us about the drifts of this new thinking (the liberation of all morality and the realization of the most extreme fantasies leading to sheer horror, the libertine spirit not ensuring happiness) rather than its contributions to it ( limited to the condemnation of a decadent nobility, and the virtues of the progress of science and knowledge). A commendable sincerity and refusal of opportunism. Nevertheless, this is not a really successful film. The period reenactment is good, the cast is good and the performances are overall fine (besides the two Fragonards, Sami Frey impresses as a dark nobleman with perverse tastes, and Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu brings a welcome freshness in the heavy atmosphere of this funeral tale). For a first feature film, the directing is quite correct, without however giving this Cronenberg-style subject a sufficient relief on the subject. Another negative point is the intrusive and uninspired music by Jorge Arriaga, coloring this macabre tale with fake romanticism. But the main flaw may well consist in a certain imbalance between the two parts of this diptych. The project was, it seems to me, to evoke through Marianne, the washerwomanturned model, the dialectic of the impulses that run through every human being, that of life and that of death. By following the frivolous and libertine painter, the young girl first lets her body and her heart full of life speak,. But later, growing disappointed by Fragonard, who is more interested in her as a model than as a human being, she begins to conceive an interest in the dark aristocrat who abducted her, Simon d'Anglas as well as in the other Fragonard, the one dissecting corpses, going so far as to wound herself voluntarily and almost die of it to attract his attention. In the end only, life will triumph, but that won't be enough to counterbalance the whole heart of the film, painfully morbid. To condemn the taste for morbidity when it has deleterious effects is one thing, to make a spectacle of it is another. The fact remains that 'Les deux Fragonard' has enough qualities not to reject it entirely. But it is important to know that it will not be a pleasant show, unless you share the fantasies of d'Anglas naturally. Otherwise, pick any other "light" film by Le Guay, no doubt you'll have a good time.
Étranges étrangers (1970)
Technically faulty but very sincere and enlightening committed documentary
Don't expect anything from this film from an aesthetic point of view: « Étranges Étrangers » is indeed made in a very amateurish way, its editing non-existent, its sound recording polluted by background noises that sometimes make it outright incomprehensible, ; the lighting - especially at night - is very approximate as well, to say nothing of the colors which, the copy not having been restored, have faded desperately.
But if the form leaves to be desired, the substance by compensation is more than just rewarding. Judge for yourself : shocked that five African migrant workers died asphyxiated where they were crammed into a pile of fifty, directors Marcel Trillat and Frédéric Variot set out to investigate the living, working and salary conditions of the migrants that France, in the 1960s and 1970s was bringing in hundreds of thousands as labourers in industry, mining and construction.
In their wake, the viewers first discover the reception of Portuguese families upon their night arrival at the Austerlitz station (only gendarmes and taxi drivers are waiting for them, apart from one or two association volunteers). They are then invited to visit the slums to which these same Portuguese people are relegated (one man interviewed reveals that he has been asking in vain for a decent apartment in a social housing project for ten long years). After that, they are introduced to the "sleep merchants" who cram Africans into hangars (no big deal, according to one brave lady interviewed, since they "like that" !) and make money off their ignominy. In the last part of the report, the viewers go to the scene of the Aubervilliers drama in an atmosphere bordering on riot, before at last visiting a building site that employs a maximum of foreign workers.
In the meantime, the spectator will have been offered interesting interviews notably with André Karman, the communist mayor of Aubervilliers, and on the opposite side, with the powerful boss of a construction company , Francis Bouygues, whose arguments are not convincing but who at least had the courage to face a hostile camera).
In the end, these 58 minutes of committed reportage will have enabled us to draw an unlenient portrait of the undignified way France treated (and sometimes still treats) those coming from beyond its borders to carry out the ungrateful and tiring tasks the French will not do any more. Nothing to be proud of for the Country of Human Rights, to be sure.
So that in the end, substance having prevailed over form, you will probably feel neither annoyed nor frustrated. Just enlightened.
Carnets de voyage: Cuba (2007)
Cuba off the beaten track
The original (and very pleasant) concept of the "Carnets de voyage" series consists of having a graphic designer visit a country, follow him or her with a camera and then offer the viewer the vision of the guest artist, whose gaze is by definition sharper than average. The country here is Cuba and the artist is the young French illustrator Carla Talopp. If Marc Temmerman, the director, has taken up the challenge of this particular episode. He owes it in great part o the benevolence of Ms. Talopp, who knows how to be accepted by the natives, from the child to the old man. This allows us to discover deep Cuba and the real people who live there, far from the wooden locutions of the official political discourse. At regular intervals, drawings by Carla are inlaid into the image, creating an effect that is unique to this series.
The other great asset of this report is the quality of its itinerary. There are of course two star destinations, Havana and Santiago de Cuba, but in between there are only places whose charm vies with their anonymity. Not sure that Vinales, the province of Pinar del Rio, Surgidero de Batabano, Trinidad, Camargüey appear on all the travel agencies' flyers!
This tender and nonchalant documentary is to be seen and enjoyed for its original approach, tone and execution. Definitely.
Sois jeune et tais-toi (2003)
A bizarre short film, whose author's point, at least in this writer's eyes, is unclear.
What we are given to see, and that is nothing new, three boys playing fast and loose in the streets of Paris. Bad tricks galore, meh... The only originality consists of a more or less dreamlike sequence in which two of the rascals start to play "Cinna" in an empty theater before a female figure suffused with an unreal light appears and starts dancing with Jean, the little hero, in her arms. Original, of course, but I personally did not perceive its relevance. This series of scenes, meant to be poetic, in fact just left me perplexed. Allegory of the ideal mother? But then why does Olivier Torrès show us, during the final meal, the little boy's mother as attentive and interested in the story of her little boy. In reality, it is the father who is the problem. Violent, he hits Jean before attacking his wife. Then what?
"Sois jeune et tais-toi" (Be Young and Shut up) is well directed by Olivier Torres and well played by its young cast but what exactly does the director mean? Personally, I do not get his point.
Interesting but frustrating
Here is a documentary that is far from being uninteresting. Cab Calloway is an outstanding musician-singer-dancer whose reputation is - quite unfairly - inferior to that of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. It was therefore legitimate to make this exceptional being better known, for his sense of rhythm, the staggering swaying of his enthusiastic body always in motion, his humour and contagious joie de vivre. Even if we know little about Cab, we haven't forgotten "Minnie the Moocher", well representative of his 1930s style, with its audacious lyrics, rich in the slang of the time (often tackling openly the subject of drugs). But who remembers, apart from the specialists, that from 1948 Calloway gave up his orchestral activities to devote himself to the musical? And in important works at that ("Porgy and Bess" to name but one title). Rediscovered by John Landis, Calloway triumphed afresh in the cult "Blues Brothers" at the end of the 1970s before falling again into (relative oblivion) afterward. Nowadays, at least in France, he is still too little known.
In this respect, the director Gail Levin can call her mission accomplished. In front of her camera appear witnesses, critics and family members and thanks to them, it is undeniable that we learn things, notably the existence of Blanche, his singer -composer and even orchestra leader-sister, just as crazy as Cab himself. But the big problem with this film is that it is talkative, too talkative. Most of the time, people describe what Calloway's personality and style are while the illustration of their words comes second (if at all!). Too often, we are told how great Cab is, and... we hardly see him! The viewer takes their word for it naturally, but would nevertheless like to judge on performance! Not even the contemporary dance sequences and the scenes about the cartoonist who sketches Calloway's portrait, talented as they are, can be fully enjoyed in that they distract us from the essential.
All in all, a documentary as informative as it is frustrating. But to be seen in spite of everything for its wealth of information.
Scenes in the life of a cursed village
The setting is a remote village in Calabria where, six years after the end of the Second World War, the inhabitants live in misery. Transferred teachers who do not stay, no doctor (a woman in childbirth has just died for this reason), it is the end of nowhere. Hope is reborn for a moment when a teacher (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, more sober than usual) comes to fill the post with the idea of transmitting emancipatory knowledge, and even more so when the villagers unite to build a road connecting them decently to the capital in the valley. Unfortunately, these positive forces are quickly flouted by the armed opposition of a local tyrant (Sergio Rubini, chillingly arrogant and brutal).
From then on, despair takes over again and all the ingredients seem to come together to produce an awfully depressing story, either in the form of a Greek tragedy or a dogmatic Manichean political film. Or else of a whiny melodrama with complacently spread out pains, underlined by a thousand violins. Fortunately, this is not so. Thanks to Mimmo Calopresti, a native Calabrian, who excels in both documentary ("Alla Fiat era cosi", 1990; "Where is Auschwitz?", 2005) and fiction (nobody has forgotten "La seconda volta"). For his new film, Calopresti refuses to enter a particular genre. His ambition is higher: in "Aspromonte" he tries nothing more or less than to achieve a perfect synthesis between the different possible approaches to the subject.
To begin with, no undue miserabilism: the sobriety of the tone never prevent the viewer from feeling the effects of poverty fully. No need to spread them out flat, the director instead moves forward delicately, with small touches (the difficult climbing up of the steep hill by the teacher opening the film, the discovery of the interiors and their minimalist furnishings, the rain and mud, etc.). At the same time, he never forgets to sing about the beauty of the natural environment, infusing the audience with his love of the place. Assisted by an excellent cinematographer (Stefano Falivene), in total harmony with him, Calopresti portrays the landscape with a palette of colors that do justice to the vegetation, the stone and the sea below.The wide screen and fluid camera pans make us move smoothly in this setting as wild as it is beautiful. Which, by contrast, will make the abuses to which the inhabitants will be subjected all the more intolerable. To insist heavily would have been counterproductive.
No political partisanship either. Of course, this is a committed film, which chooses its side, that of the oppressed. But it does so without slogans, without disembodied speeches. It is a fact that Mimmo Calopresti always prefers the warmth of humanism to the coldness of ideas, generous as they may be.The characters in "Aspromonte" are first and foremost flesh-and-blood people, with their strengths and weaknesses, their unselfishness and their prejudices, not living clichés or ideas on legs. And this is as true for the grown-ups as it is for the children (You won't forget anytime soon the young actor playing Andrea, the son of the protest leader).
Based on real facts (the case of Africo, made public by a famous 1948 report) as well as on the novel by Pietro Criaco, another Calabrian by birth, this touching, not to say poignant, film, performed by a remarkably homogeneous cast, is a total success in that it manages to bring together in a single work documentary and fiction, psychology and sociology, political commitment and humanism. One must be called Mimmo Calopresti to have achieved such a feat and... "Heart of Stone" to resist all its beauties.