Movies of the Week #10 (2023)

Aftersun (2022): This father-daughter holiday is a throwback to the days of Macarena and Dr. Jones, of flimsy arcades and dodgy lodgings in foreign lands and, unfortunately, of underlying trauma. The movie drips with nostalgia within the warm haze of gentle summer days, but leaves a door ajar at the other side of which an undefined existential menace lingers. With a view of how little we knowingly keep with us from the experience of growing up, how sparse, random and occasionally unreliable our more tangible memories are, Aftersun felt like opening Pandora’s box. The slow burn might be a challenge for some, but if you allow yourself to make the journey, the finale has good odds of tearing you apart. Do check out Yoanna’s full review and my afterthoughts as well. 9

Charade (1963): There’s something just instantly pleasant and warming about some of these 50s and 60s Hollywood affairs. Usually starring one of the big names of the day (if not two), they feature characters with sharp tongues, entertaining plots and some all around clever filmmaking. Charade both takes and doesn’t take itself very seriously and it does so with disarming charm. The story is about some missing money, distrust and includes a lot of misdirects. One of Cary Grant’s last films, he’s joined by Audrey Hepburn as well as a handful of memorable actors of the following decades, like Walter Matthau, James Coburn or George Kennedy. This little caper is a very fun ride, with only Hepburn’s naive character looking passe by today’s standards. 8

Xiao Wu (1997): During my first Berlinale visit, I ended up watching the Walter Salles documentary about Jia Zhang-ke, even though I had not seen any of his movies. It was interesting enough for me to log Zhangke on my watchlist and when Mubi recently featured his debut film, I felt I had run out of excuses. My expectations were for something less mainstream in terms of narrative, which is not to say that Pickpocket is a very traditional dish, but it’s one where you can at least identify what you’re being served. The story of a pickpocket, stand-in for the underserved and underseen in Chinese society, is flamboyant, detached and ultimately humiliating. With the backdrop of what often looks more like a village than a town, the haphazard modernization of the late 90s is something to be fascinated by, for when the plot takes its time to develop. 7

To Leslie (2022): I heard about Leslie with the “scandal” around Andrea Riseborough’s Oscar nomination, but shied away from the movie because it seemed like such dire material. Plot: woman wins about 200k at the lottery, then goes on to waste the money, form/consolidate a drinking habit and desert her only child. The first half of the movie is about as bleak as you can imagine, as Riseborough slums it around in the most tragic fashion possible. Thankfully, this is a redemption story and once we’re on the upswing, it’s a mighty satisfying comeback. Riseborough is indeed stellar and she elevates makes the most out of this meaty character. I was skeptical, but in the end, To Leslie won me over. 7

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995): There isn’t much at stake in this early Hugh Grant movie, as a couple of English cartographers end up in Wales and establish the mountain adjacent to a small town is actually just a hill. Townspeople are distraught and fight to fix the situation with a lot of heart and dedication. It’s really a very Hallmark movie, i.e. saccharine, but I managed to enjoy it without much trouble. There’s just something romantic and endearing in this kind of commitment for “unreasonable” causes that speaks to me. 6