Resistance Now; VOD, all platforms
The titles at the end of Jonathan Jakubowicz's film explain that Klaus Barbie - better known to history as 'the Butcher of Lyon' - was found by Nazi-hunters "after the war" and tried for war crimes. What it doesn't say is that he wasn't found until 40 years after the war because forces - principally the US Army - had protected him.
However, the film does outline why those decades of happy freedom were so wrong, because Barbie looms large in this account of French mime artist Marcel Marceau's early life.
In Strasbourg in 1938, Marcel (Jesse Eisenberg) is only interested in acting. But Nazi horrors - first in the form of Jewish orphans from Germany then, once World War II began, the specific horrors visited upon France - push him to become involved in the Resistance.
Any account of the incredible heroism that ordinary people chose to undertake is inherently good. The story is long so the focus is more on telling it than how it is told. This means that although the film is well-intentioned, it lacks any real sense of drama or danger and Eisenberg in the lead doesn't work well for me. However, the facts are ferocious.
There are some upsetting scenes so it's not suitable for children - but it is very watchable. How much you enjoy it will depend perhaps on your penchant for wartime stories.
★★★ Aine O'Connor
Cert club; Curzon Home Cinema
French auteur Bruno Dumont has made great use of his native northern coastal terrain in his uniquely off-kilter and absurdist film-making. The sandy dunes and sedges make a bemusing backdrop in which to place his peculiar-looking sagas from yesteryear.
This sequel to his 2017 historical origins tale Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc picks up the tale towards the end of the Hundred Years War. It's 1429, and Joan of Arc (an exhilarating star turn by Lise Leplat Prudhomme, above) is leading the French army by what she believes is divine right. She is captured and brought before a court of puritanical clerics, charged with heresy.
She remains steadfast to her beliefs, and puts forward an unshakeable reprimand to her captors and the charges. This puts her on a collision course with martyrdom, but then we already knew that.
The story itself is less remarkable than the way that it is being told. An air of self-mockery runs through everything. Some slightly carnivalesque moments sit awkwardly against Joan's grim fate and serve to dampen the righteous passion associated with the character.
Visually, it is a treat, as is so often the case with Dumont. The big draw here, though, is Prudhomme, who on only her second feature outing has mastered the art of looking right through the lens as she inhabits every inch of this larger-than-life historical icon. A bright future surely lies ahead of her.
Dumont, meanwhile, remains a singular, if occasionally frustrating, leading light of modern French absurdist cinema.
★★★ Hiilary A White
Cert: 12; VOD to buy now, rent from July 6
Marie Curie has been described as the most famous female scientist ever. She is in fact one of the most famous scientists ever. Sometimes it's annoying to see things in terms of gender, but it is relevant, especially as Curie was working at a time when women couldn't vote.
Maria Sklodowska (Rosamund Pike) struggles to have her work taken seriously in the Sorbonne so when she meets fellow scientist Pierre Curie (Sam Riley), who seems very interested in her work, she is sceptical of his motives. However, together they change the understanding of the atom. They also fall in love.
The film is based on Lauren Redniss's comic-book biography, and director Marjane Satrapi pays homage to this with animated inserts and flash-forwards to what the discovery will mean, from curing cancer to Hiroshima. It doesn't totally gel and parts feel rushed, but Marie Curie was an amazing woman with a remarkable story.
★★★ Aine O'Connor
Cert club; Curzon Home Cinema
As the daughter of French screen siren Catherine Deneuve and Italian director Marcello Mastroianni, Chiara Mastroianni is a member of European cinema royalty. Last year, she won the Un Certain Regard best performance award for her lead turn in this oddball romantic drama.
She plays Maria, a university lecturer who has just wrapped up an affair with a student. At home that evening, Richard (Benjamin Biolay), her husband of 20 years, discovers a raunchy text from the lover and confronts Maria about it. She claims that their marriage is at the stage where extracurricular action is necessary and not to be taken as anything other than that. Richard, however, is distraught and turns his back on her.
Maria takes a room in a hotel across the road, and there ensues a bizarre night of dissecting their relationship. This involves visitations and sex with Richard’s 20-year-old incarnation, and grapples with ex-lovers and her very conscience itself.
Even fans of Gallic whimsy might struggle with parts of Christophe Honoré’s film, which at times feels fanciful enough to be a fringe festival stage production. And much harder to look past is a plot element involving a 14-year-old Richard being groomed by his piano teacher — this is passed off as nothing sinister, just the first steps on love’s rich pageant.
★★ Hiilary A White
It’s a relatively quiet week which sees Netflix offering a goodly stash. Streaming since last Friday is Wasp Network which missed a cinema release because of the pandemic so has gone straight to the ’Flix.
Olivier Assayas’s spy drama set in 1960s’ Cuba is a bit style over substance but the style is good enough to make you forgive that and it has a great cast led by Penelope Cruz. French action Lost Bullet is short and sharp, the diametric opposite of upcoming, thoughtful Chilean drama Nobody Knows I’m Here (this Wednesday). Wednesday also sees the release of Athlete A, another in Netflix’s canon of respected documentaries, this time about the US gymnasts who were abused by coach Larry Nassar.
However, the Netflix biggie is this Friday’s release of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga with Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams and Pierce Brosnan (not singing but you can catch him singing in Mamma Mia Here We Go Again which comes to Netflix on the same day). The Eurovision film is daft, fun, and instead of parodying the contest this year, it is filling the gap. Catching up on cinema releases you might have missed includes creepy sci-fi and not totally successful Little Joe starring Kerry Fox and Ben Whishaw. As a film, the star-studded, unexpected and funny Personal History of David Copperfield is much more successful (both Curzon). There’s Harrison Ford in a kayak, hearing The Call of The Wild streaming on all usual channels and from tomorrow there is The True History of the Kelly Gang, a moody, original, imperfect but super watchable history of Ned as you never knew him.
Mr Jones (Sky Cinema/Now TV from today), which although set just before WW2, has, among its other worthy charms, a good point about fake news. This week too Sky Cinema/Now TV are also running a Tom Hanks week so you can see many of his classics. Definitely not classics are really ropey movies starring Hanks’ contemporaries. The Fanatic sees John Travolta play a stalker and Dolph Lundgren bashes baddies in Hard Night Falling, both are VOD now. There hasn’t been a Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie for a while, or a hijack one and here they are together in 7500 (Amazon Prime). It’s watchable but a missed opportunity.
Sunday Indo Living