Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Parasite - you've got to be kidding

It was a long flight, long enough to watch at least three films on the in-flight entertainment system. Herewith are reviews of these three movies, which helped pass the - interminable - time.

Parasite (Bong Hoon-ho, 2019) I’d been avoiding this film all fall, despite it’s incredible accolades. Unanimous vote for best picture at Cannes, 99 per cent approval on Rotten Tomatoes, numerous critics’ best film of the past year, and who knows how it will do at the upcoming Oscars? Why have I avoided? The main plot line of a poor family subverting a wealthy family is a well-trod tale of class conflict. The only difference is it’s a Korean Marxist-themed film. But, hey, I’m on an aircraft and Parasite was available free-of-charge so, hey, let’s see what all the fuss is about. As it turned out the movie was worse than I expected. Parasite is basically a stage play, a black farce that pits “Les Misérables” against the nouveau rich. Sure, there is some charm and ingenuity in the way the Kim family carries out their messy subversion. But there’s also some, uh, gruesomeness. But that’s basically all this film is - the downtrodden Kims infiltrating the Park family’s sleek opulent designer home though various forms of playful deception, with varying results. It left me looking at my watch and yawning. 

Alice and the Mayor (Alice et le Maire) (Nicolas Pariser, 2019) This is a much better film, for any number of reasons.  It stars Fabrice Lucini, one of France’s best and most popular actors, along with a younger Anaïs Demoustier, no slouch herself in terms of filmography. The setting is the City of Lyon, in particular city hall. Lucini plays Mayor Paul Theraneau, a dedicated but burned-out veteran politician whose ideals have given way to the routine of signing bylaws and posing for ribbon cuttings. Demoustier as Alice, a philosopher and yes, idealist, is hired to give “ideas” to the mayor on how his administration and hence, city, can be improved if not transformed. They form a quick bond and Theraneau eventually finds new inspiration. The film’s acting is startingly real; it’s very easy to imagine the real staff of a city hall interacting the way they do. Sure, the themes are leftist politics. But there is a seriousness, and depth, brought to issues, seldom seen in even more pointed political films, almost like reading a theoretical journal.

C'est ça l'amour (Real Love) (Claire Burger, 2018) This a sweet touching film and all because of the pain and angst that its protagonist, Mario Messina (Bouli Lanners), a mild-mannered civil servant and father of two teenage girls, is put through. After his wife Antonia (Antonia Buresi) walks out on the family, Mario is left utterly emotionally alone. For whatever reason he can’t cope as a single dad. His bratty daughters mock him and his lack of parental competency can’t counter their antagonism. Yet, we sympathize with him throughout. The only problem in that this drama is all of one note: the hits just keep coming against poor Mario. But, alas, there is redemption, of sorts, in the end.

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