Movies of the Week #45 (2021)

Bergman Island (2021): I am almost willing to say that I’m ashamed of never having seen a Bergman movie (well, does half of The Seventh Seal count?). But I openly admit being ignorant in the ways of most cinema-defining-auteurs that came before the 80s. That being said, I don’t know if I can truly relate on a deeper level to Bergman Island, even if I can appreciate its characters and the always enticing film within a film structure that it takes on. The Bergman cult is treated with both reverence and irony by director-writer Mia Hansen-Løve and the shades of unhappiness, be they artistic or from a lack of personal fulfillment, linger at just the right place beneath the surface. I found the experience less rewarding than I’d have wanted, but this is the kind of movie that will warrant a revisit in years to come. 7

Val (2021): I was unaware of Val Kilmer’s current predicament as a survivor of throat cancer, profoundly changed since last seen in a movie. What’s great about Val is that it doesn’t dwell so much on the tragic situation the Top Gun star finds himself in, but rather invites to join him in a stroll down memory lane. Using some of Kilmer’s countless hours of self-recorded footage throughout the years, the directing duo behind the movie create a warm and caring environment for its subject. Naturally, there isn’t much room for controversy, his reputation as a difficult actor being barely mentioned, whereas the divorce turmoil also only gets a scene or two. That being said, you get a good impression of Kilmer – the man, and I was left with a bit of a craving to rewatch one of his older movies. 7

Gemini (2017): Languishing on my watchlist for a while now, Gemini was the lucky winner of a random pick this weekend. Starring Zoe Kravitz and Lola Kirke, it’s a modern noir with intriguing characters and poignant twists and turns. Kravitz plays an entitled actress, seemingly shirking all sorts of demands for her person, while Kirke is her friend and assistant – a relationship fraught with imbalance. Being a noir, you know someone dies, a detective makes the rounds, the world conspires against the protagonist, albeit at a pace that most people will find challenging. But Aaron Katz brings a good eye and cinematic flair to keep you interested when the story lags, making overall to a satisfying experience. 7

Fantastic Fungi (2019): Seeing a movie based on someone else’s preference is a rare thing for me. Yet, this is what brought me to Fantastic Fungi, a documentary about the beauty, pivotal role and untapped potential of mushrooms. Whereas the first part of the doc lacks focus and simply ticks interesting facts about the role of fungi, the second hones in on the legal constraints to using mushrooms as treatment for all kinds of ailments. The movie never lacks in ambition, which makes it feel like it overreaches at times, but its reliance on the beautiful imagery of nature keeps emphasizing the mystical elements of its narrative. Maybe not quite my cup of coffee, but a decent niche story. 7

Language Lessons (2021): A #pandemicmovie, Language Lessons sets itself up as a story about suffering and sharing – from afar. Starring and directed by Natalie Morales, co-starring Mark Duplass, it gets the Zoom treatment, in a set-up that’s both practical and relatable – Adam is gifted some Spanish lessons by his lover, Will, and Careno is the lucky teacher. Things take some dramatic turns quite quickly, and the movie powers through to create a shared understanding between its leads. Adam and Careno are cute and sure tap into our willingness, even craving, to help each other, to be there for those in need. However, the stiffness in certain moments and the conformity to the expected narrative structure didn’t allow me to fully enjoy this story. 6