Movies of the Week #44 (2021)

Dune (2021): The much awaited adaptation from Denis Villeneuve has finally arrived. Its limitations lie in the scope and breadth of the source material, so very difficult to adapt into even a two-part, five hour long movie. My biggest regret is that I couldn’t get attached to the characters, as so many come and go, that nuances are bound to fail to make the cut. This is in part due to the film’s structure, which also works to detach the viewer in an attempt to keep the big picture in mind, and constantly focus on Jessica and Paul and the rather traditional journey of ‘a chosen one’ walking the path. Thankfully, the duo are easy to focus on (if hard to love), the exceptional cast covering as much as possible for the processional and expositional scenes. Of course, the whole movie looks swell, a very detailed and faithful visual adaptation of the Dune universe, making it worth a visit to your local IMAX. But this was never in doubt from Villeneuve. I’d have wished for some referential scenes, something that stands out when all is (halfway) said and done. I feel hard-pressed to say which those might be. All in all, though, Dune is a solid movie and hopefully the set-up to a more rewarding second part, that’s supposed to arrive in 2023. As a fan, I have to be both discontent and grateful. And generous. 8

Ich bin dein Mensch (2021): Maria Schrader reasserts herself as a fresh voice in German cinema, in a movie that stands out on a sort of peculiarity – Dan Stevens speaking very fluent German. It’s so unusual to have English-speaking actors portray “foreign language characters”, that I can scarcely remember others who have done it. His slightly accented German suits his character very well, as Stevens plays an AI humanoid made to provide love and companionship. Alma (Maren Eggert) is trying him out for a review, but finds it hard to form an attachment for obvious reasons. The big question(s): what is a perfect partner and can he/she be perfect without imperfections and friction? Ich bin dein Mensch provides a soulful answer and even though a fluffy ending lets it down, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. 8

Owning Mahowney (2003): Going over the list of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s movies that I have yet to watch, I came across Owning Mahowney. A true story of a banker with a gambling problem, it tells of some incredible circumstances that allowed copious amounts of money to flow out of a seemingly secure banking system. In spite of this, OM is not a flashy movie, it doesn’t tantalize, both to its credit and against it, while rarely shedding light on its titular character. Thankfully, Hoffman works really well in this ambiguity, and it helps that he co-stars the likes of John Hurt and Minnie Driver, making overall for an intriguing proposition. 7

Only You (2018): In Harry Wootliff’s debut feature, Elena and Jake fall hard for each other, but struggle to keep their relationship alive when conceiving a baby proves problematic. Although heavier than I’d have liked it, Laia Costa and Josh O’Connor make for an engaging couple, whose affection and aspirations feel relatable and real. Their love is set in the modern world and works because of its detailed architecture, with doubts and doubts morphing into expected, yet palpable twists and turns. 7

Je ne suis pas un homme facile (2018): It’s not all that hard to take ‘the patriarchy’ and turn it on its head, switching gender roles – in movies, I mean. This Frenchie does just that, taking a chauvinist and placing him into an altogether different world. It’s fairly well executed and definitely has its moments, thanks especially to Marie-Sophie Ferdane’s performance. But it lacks the nuance that would’ve made it stand out, often relying on the expected twists to keep the story going and the viewer (mildly) entertained. 6