Movies of the Week #19 (2023)

Février (2020): A typical festival movie, with few words, but rapturing filmmaking, Kamen Kalev’s three-part story follows a country boy’s journey through life in communist/post-communist Bulgaria, as distilled in three pivotal moments – childhood, early adulthood and old age. I was particularly taken by the early countryside scenes, the shepherding and the youthful exploration, which had this Malick-esque feel about them in their beauty, be it serene or austere. With minimal characterization, the film shines in how well it elicits feelings and memories through its meandering exploration of man’s life (or glimpses thereof). It’s got hope and tragedy and, more importantly, the ephemeral that makes up most of our sense of existence. 8

Breakdown (1997): In one of the smaller action classics of the 90s, Kurt Russell pays the price for owning a brand new Jeep Cherokee and taking his eyes off the road for a minute. After the car breaks down, his wife disappears, revealing a niche crime ring specialized in ransoms and kidnappings. I came across Breakdown thanks to the recently mentioned JT Walsh, who puts in a predictably solid turn in one of his last roles. The movie might not be a standout, but it’s exciting and thrilling enough to warrant a recommendation. 7

Fumer fait tousser (2022): I’m not quite sure if I can handle all of Quentin Dupieux’s absurdist comedies, but the good thing seems to be that there’s always something to cling onto. In this one, a group of “heroes” called the “tobacco force”, whose alter egos are named after various carcinogenic substances found in cigarettes, are forced to embark on a retreat in order to rebuild team morale. While not as lough out loud as I’d have liked, or as piercingly clever in its set-ups, there are inspired moments in “Smoking Causes Coughing”, which I’m sure someone more dedicated could elevate into beautiful social commentary. Not me, though. 6

The Pope’s Exorcist (2023): Cinematic universes don’t usually start off so campy, but in spite of middling reviews, the movie made three times its production budget, which means there’ll be more of it in the future. I’m not sure that’s good news, but if Russell Crowe can keep up with everything, it might just work. He’s the main reason to watch TPE, a fairly bland exorcism movie which Crowe seems to handle with healthy conspicuousness, such that Father Gabriel Amorth makes for quite the wise-cracking exorcist. So a fun watch, in spite of things. 6

Beautiful Disaster (2023): For whatever reason, I felt like indulging in the junkiest of foods, a romcom with opposites attracting and a dash of poker to raise the stakes. Funnily enough, it’s the kind of movie that works when it takes itself the least seriously, with Dylan Sprouse providing much of the entertainment. It’s also a funny little Beverly Hills cross-generational reunion, with Rob Estes and Brian Austen Green. Sadly, this isn’t enough in the end, because the action is boring, the pay-off lacks bite and the lovey-dovey-ness is without kink. 5