Movies of the Week #35 (2021)

In the Same Breath (2021): Nanfu Wang follows up the traumatizing One Child Nation with an infuriating documentary about the early days of the COVID pandemic. There’s something in Wang’s style that feels off-putting at first, a personal angle which seems limiting, only to prove the key to unlocking the immediacy and absurdity of a reality that’s totally foreign to my “Western” mind. ItSB starts in December 2019, when the first cases showed up in Wuhan and the Chinese government was doing its utmost to keep a lid on things, while people were dying left and right and hospitals were already overflowing. We get to know victims or relatives who suffer immensely and are evidently treated with disdain by the authorities, only to remain stoically loyal and thankful to the regime. A pattern that finds its equivalent in yesteryear’s Trumpistan, making it painfully obvious that things could have been different, had there been more transparency in those early weeks and months. The movie is an indictment of the web of global politics that paved the road for this disaster inflicted upon humanity. The underlying mindset is going to cost us a lot more in the decades to come. I really thought all my feelings of anger re: COVID had been tapped up, but ItSB proved me wrong. 9

Swan Song (2021): This is one of two acclaimed movies that Udo Kier has led in the past few years, the other being Bacurau (2019), which remains on my watchlist. Here he feasts on the part of Pat, “a formerly flamboyant hairdresser who takes a long walk across a small town to style a dead woman’s hair.” It’s a tale about aging, purpose and friendship, sometimes uneven in its execution, but always entertaining thanks to Kier’s performance. It feels intimate, personal, and relatable, irrespective of age or gender, which makes for a beautiful movie. 8

Charming the Hearts of Men (2021): A movie that starts deceptively familiar, only to find an unexpected angle to help it stand out. Set in the 60s, as the US was preparing to take its step forward towards racial equality. In the mix came a struggle for women’s rights, seemingly not prioritized at the time, and the movie places itself at this interesting junction between the two. While it lacks nuance, due in part to taking on a hefty challenge of cutting through so many social layers, solid performances from the likes of Anna Friel, Kelsey Grammer or Aml Ameen make for an appealing watch. What one could call problematic, though, is the poster of the movie, which includes only white characters, even Sean Astin, who barely features. Cough, cough. 7

The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (2021): As a fan of the Witcher gaming franchise, it’s been an interesting past few years. I enjoyed, but did not love the first season of the series starring Henry Cavill, so I was weary approaching NotW. An animated movie, retelling the story of Geralt’s mentor Vesemir, it has an ok story, good visuals and gels together well, which is more than I’d hoped for. What it lacks is an emotional punch, something to really get us invested in the world and all its feuds and machinations. For fans, a good addition, for non-fans, hard to say. 7

Stillwater (2021): Matt Damon is a sight to behold and almost makes Stillwater interesting enough thanks to his presence. Almost, though, because the movie is long, unfocused and doesn’t really know the story it’s telling. It is supposedly about a father who travels from Oklahoma to Marseille, where his daughter is in prison for supposedly murdering a friend/lover, and his attempt to clear her name. It’s also about him opening his mind to new experiences, in spite of a history of trouble, and when everything clicks the movie proves quite interesting. Unfortunately, it doesn’t click often enough. 6

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