The reason why I prefer continental European films to American blockbusters is well illustrated by three films I took from Netflix over the festive period.
Force Majeur is a Swedish film released in 2104. In what seems a perfect family unit of successful handsome father, kind mother and two beautiful kids – Harry and Vera – they embark on a family ski holiday in a French resort. On taking lunch on a terrace of a restaurant high in the mountains, they appear to be confronted by an avalanche. Snow covers the terrace and panic ensues. The mother Ebba accused her husband Tomas of abandoning her and the kids and putting his survival first.
This led to a difference of opinion between myself and my missus Gail. Gail took the mother’s side and said it was typical male selfishness. I said it was not clear whether he had abandoned them and besides could they not now enjoy the holiday as the mother won’t let the incident go? Some friends arrive, a bearded beast of man with his girlfriend half his age. He attempts to mediate by saying where survival is a issue you cannot predict how anyone will behave. Tomas continues to deny his actions though film taken from a mobile appears to suggest he did run away. When Ebba gets lost in a snowstorm and is found and saved by hubby I felt the momentum had switched to my and his side, supported by a final scene which I won’t reveal. Though like most Swedish films short of laughs, it depicted a series of events and viewpoints with which we can identify (unlike American blockbusters) and diversity of healthy debate .
Human Capital, an Italian film is a different thing altogether. Since the golden era of Visconti, Pasolini and Fellini and international successes like Cinema Paradiso, Il Postino and Life is Beautiful, the Italian cinema has seemed short of talent except for Sorrentino. This film with its emphasis on great wealth with all its trappings of magnificent villa and lifestyle was more American in tone. A financier’s world begins to decompose when the markets decline and his son is involved in car accident which he fails to report. At first confusingly the film is seen through the eyes of a real estate agent whose daughter Serena is involved with the son of the financier and who invests in his fund. Then it is viewed by the mother, an actress who wants to restore a theatre and is essentially kind and ill at ease amongst this wealth, Serena unravels who exactly was responsible for the accident. I found it a clever, well-observed film. When both Gail and I tried to guess the ending we were both spectacularly wrong.
Blue is the Warmest Colour I had already seen and, aside from the famous lesbian coupling, wondered if I could get through 3 hours again. I was pleasantly surprised that I could as it’s the depiction of a relationship between a young girl confused as to her sexuality and unable to control her sensual desires (but a sympathetic person) and a more willful older painter; there was no plot nor twist you already knew. Instead I coud marvel at the acting , they both won the Palme D’Or and Lea Seydaux, who is in Spectre, is now an international star. I though if anything the younger actress Adele Exarchopolous was better. Oddly enough despite the convincing intensity of their sexual coupling which led Gail and I to speculate “Were they acting ?” I read that the actress met her boy friend on the set as he acted in the film. In some ways a traditional French film with its emphasis on meals and much pretentious hogwash talked earnestly about the arts, again it induced a spirited debate in our household.
Gail had never seen Fargo. As we scrolled through Netflix I recommended it. I recalled it as a early Coen Brothers classic, remembering the cold of the Midwest, the warmth of the pregnant detective Margie, the excellent acting of the weak and dishonest Alan T Macy who digs himself more and more into a hole. However this time round the plot was as improbable as it was nastily violent as a couple of psychos conducted slaughter in full view but evaded capture.
It’s often said that the success of Strictly is that the whole family can watch it. I can only say I never have watched it or wish to. Our grandkids loved the Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas movies, just as I can recall enjoying Oh Mr Porter with Will Hay, Charlie Moffatt, Moore Marriott with my grandfather and Marx Brothers with my father – a good film embraces the family just as much if not more.