London

Ship of Fools

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Fredrik Wenzel

MOVIE REVIEW
Triangle of Sadness (2022)

“Triangle of Sadness” continues writer-director Ruben Östlund’s preoccupation with the upending of hierarchical social constructs – gender, race, wealth, class, chain of command etc. – in the face of disasters natural or manmade. It’s certainly the kind of stuff that plays well at festivals, as evidenced by Cannes twice bestowing on him the Palme d’or. But does anyone honestly remember what happens in “The Square,” which won him his first in 2017, without looking up the plot? “Triangle,” Mr. Ostlund’s second Palme d’or winner, has a wild ending that feeds right into the rush of the festival setting; the problem lies in the uneven two and a half hours it takes to get there.

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Death Wish

Everything-went-fine-movie-review-sophie-marceau-andré-dussollier
Carole Bethuel/Curzon Film

MOVIE REVIEW
Everything Went Fine (2022)

Broadly speaking, François Ozon directs two kinds of movies. The first are about young gay men getting themselves into a situation that ends with somebody dying. The second kind are about women in some sort of family-themed trap, to which they learn they must submit. The traps vary (a crappy marriage in “5x2,” a slutty houseguest in “Swimming Pool,” a parasitic twin in “Double Lover”) but they cannot be escaped, and writhing in the net only draws the knots tighter. The daughters in “Everything Went Fine” learned their lessons about their gilded cage in childhood, and tell anyone who asks that it’s impossible to deny their father anything. Mr Ozon must have been thrilled to option the memoir by Emmanuèle Bernheim, the late screenwriter of “5x2” and “Swimming Pool,” on which this movie is based. This is a family in which the ties do significantly more than bind.

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Score Card

Ennio-movie-review-morricone
Dogwoof

MOVIE REVIEW
Ennio (2022)

One of the great clichés available to the critic is the term “roller-coaster.” This is normally interpreted to mean that the film in question is a fast-moving, exhilarating experience with lots of emotional ups and downs. To this control freak – who’d rather undergo a marathon screening of all the “Fast & Furious” movies than go anywhere near a theme park – “roller-coaster” conjures up an entirely different meaning. It infers that the film is terrifying, nausea-inducing and only to be undertaken in order to impress somebody that you find attractive.

“Ennio” is in itself a bit of a roller-coaster but for different reasons. It starts calmly enough with the aged maestro Ennio Morricone undertaking his morning exercises – including press-ups that many men a third his age could not manage or be bothered with. But then the brakes are off and we are zipping along through the great composer’s life in a blur of archive footage, movie clips and so many different talking heads offering up opinions and anecdotes that it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, even with the captions. “Game of Thrones” was a comparative cakewalk next to this. One emerges from “Ennio” disoriented and slightly breathless.

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Highway to the Comfort Zone

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Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

An aircraft carrier is 90,000 tons of diplomacy (as they say on the T-shirts) and its smell is hard to describe. It’s an enveloping sensation that permeates the entire world around you, especially when the carrier is out at sea and a floating city for thousands of people. Below decks the air is heavy with the weight of the ship, metal and body odors, recycled air and watertight doors. The flight deck smells like salt air and overheated tarmac, wind and jet fuel. It gets under your skin like very little else.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is all about what it’s like to chase a sensation. It begins with old-school renegade expert Maverick (Tom Cruise) taking an experimental plane for a test flight before its program is shut down by an admiral so tough (Ed Harris in a delightful cameo) he doesn’t even flinch as the plane passes so low overhead it knocks the roof of a guard hut. It transpires that Maverick is needed urgently at the flight school outside San Diego, where a secret mission – think the targeting of the Death Star in “Star Wars,” only more convoluted – requires training only Maverick can provide. The training is overseen by Cyclone (Jon Hamm), a by-the-rules admiral who dislikes Maverick, personally and professionally. One of the trainee pilots is Rooster (Miles Teller, phenomenally cast and with a superb mustache, and otherwise serviceable), whose late father was Maverick’s wingman and who has daddy issues galore. Maverick’s daddy issues from the original are forgotten. As the world turns, eh? The rest of the plot is pretty standard blockbuster stuff.

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L'état d'urgence

The-divide-movie-review-pio-marmaï
Carole Bethuel

MOVIE REVIEW
The Divide (2021)

The English title implies something that’s grown apart, while the original French title means something which has broken, which is more appropriate. This slice-of-life story, set in a Parisian emergency room on a day of the Yellow Vests protests, manages to excoriate French society at all levels while also being a kind, clear-eyed metaphor of how a nation handles its suffering.

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Small Town Mentality

Wet-sand-movie-review-bebe-sesitashvili-megi-kobaladze
BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
Wet Sand (2021)

The arrival of a city mouse into a country village is a tale as old as time, but the city mouse doesn’t usually wear a cigarette lighter on a cord down her cleavage. The village itself, on the edge of the Black Sea in Georgia, is not an easy place – the doctors and the police don’t always do their jobs properly; the men don’t always keep their fists to themselves; and the neighbors’ mouths don’t always stay shut. On the news it’s announced the national day against homophobia is now a day for families. But in the village the big news is that the elderly Eliko (Tengo Javakhadze) has killed himself, and the bigger question is what his granddaughter Moe (Bebe Sesitashvili) will do with his house after the funeral. But director Elene Naveriani, who cowrote the script with Sandro Naveriani, isn’t interested in how the dead bury the dead. This is an excellent movie about the tremendous difficulty of finding joy in a spiteful world and on how little an entire lifetime can be built.

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Gone but Not Forgotten

Jimmy-in-saigon-movie-review
BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
Jimmy in Saigon (2022)

Why would someone choose to make a documentary without being capable of facing the issues the documentary is about? This is the only question for Peter McDowell’s “Jimmy in Saigon” – Jimmy being the director’s two-decades-older brother, who died in Vietnam when Peter McDowell was five. The movie took over a decade to make and, despite the amount of time and work that went into it, utterly fails to address its own topic. This is due to the Peter McDowell’s failures as a documentarian, but also to his personal refusal to own up to his own behavior.

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Doing It

Charli-xcx-alone-together-movie-review
SXSW

MOVIE REVIEW
Charli XCX: Alone Together (2022)

This short (67 minutes) documentary about underappreciated pop star Charli XCX owes a great deal to “Madonna: Truth or Dare” (aka “In Bed With Madonna”). Well, most every music documentary is in the shadow of “Truth or Dare” but here the parallels are explicit. Alek Keshishian’s revolutionary documentary focused on the closed world of Madonna and her dancers on tour; here co-directors Bradley Bell and Pablo Jones-Soler focus on the closed world of a singer and her fans (many of whom are gay, hence the movie being shown as part of BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival) in private online spaces during the 2020 lockdown. And while Warren Beatty famously whined that Madonna didn’t want to live off-camera, there seems to be no moment of Charli’s life where she’s not performing for a camera. The key difference, of course, is that Madonna’s dancers were professionals, paid to be there, while Charli’s fans – Angels, of course – are teenagers and young adults from around the world, desperate for attention from a singer who puts that desperation to work for her.

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Steppin' Out

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Courtesy photo

MOVIE REVIEW
Walk With Me (2021)

“Walk With Me” is the New York version of “Am I OK?” which couldn’t have been more California. Both stories are about comfortable white women in their 30s who discover they are gay and collapse with anxiety as a result. And while coming-out stories never do get old, old coming-out stories don’t get any fresher in the telling.

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Game Boy

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Paramount Pictures and Sega of America

MOVIE REVIEW
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022)

It’s easy to get cynical about “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” sequel to a live-action movie based on a Sega video game character (voiced by Ben Schwartz) that travels at supersonic speeds. You may recall the original’s disastrous, universally loathed first trailer, which prompted the studio to postpone the release many months to overhaul the CGI, finally delivering it just before the global pandemic hit in 2020. Yet it’s already getting the sequel treatment, and ahead of 2019’s “Detective Pikachu,” the live-action movie based on a more contemporary Nintendo video game character.

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