Three thousand years of nostalgia (15) ***
If you only know George Miller as the director of Mad Max: Fury Road, you don’t really know George Miller. After launching his career with this film’s genre-redefining predecessors, he’s managed to lean into just about everything Hollywood threw at him, even scoring a successful run of family films with Babe: Pig in the City. and the two Happy Feet films.
Besides George Lucas, he is probably also the most ardent pupil of Western cinema of Joseph Campbell, author of the Hero of a Thousand Faces, the mythological urtext of the modern era of blockbusters, but also editor of the Thousand and One Nights, a equally comprehensive volume of Middle Eastern Folklore.
The latter has a particularly clear influence on Miller’s new film Three three thousand years of nostalgiabut also Campbell himself, notably in the character of Tilda Swinton, Alithea, a narratologist who travels the world lecturing on stories and myths and how they help us make sense of the chaos of the modern world.
On one such trip to Istanbul, Alithea comes across a magical ornament which is not quite a lantern but which, when rubbed, releases a giant wish-giving genie, or “Djin”. Played by Idris Elba, he has been clogged for millennia and only wants to gain his freedom by granting three death wishes. Alas, Alithea’s research has made her far too aware that wish stories are inherently cautionary tales, so she has him tell her life story to determine if he is trustworthy.
Just then, the two don hotel bathrobes and settle down for a chat in Alithea’s room, turning what until then promised to be a gripping example of the magic of storytelling into a film about the magic of storytelling – a very different and much less interesting proposition.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t wild fantasies: Miller’s CGI deployment is crisp and painterly, not blurry and distracting, and it conjures up individual scenes that wouldn’t seem out of place in Mad Max: The aforementioned Fury Road. But where that film was constantly in motion, this one feels static, ossified by lengthy voice-over descriptions and two stars who unfortunately have very little on-screen chemistry.
The Forgiven Mark Calvary writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s first foray into prestige style cinema and somehow it manages to be both a heartbreaking dismantling of the moralizing tone these films often strike but also a heartfelt portrayal of a troubled protagonist who fails to overcome his destiny.
Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain are generally fit and aloof as David and Jo Henninger, a wealthy couple vacationing in Morocco who run over and kill a local Berber teenager on their way to a party with friends they don’t seem to like very much. David is an alcoholic and was drunk driving, but McDonagh (adaptation of Lawrence Osborn’s 2014 novel) muddies the waters by introducing the victim by sniffing solvents, brandishing a gun and planning the car-jacking he is running when David accidentally hits him. with the car.
What follows isn’t a standard moral thriller either, as the bacchanalia continues and the police suggest sweeping death under the rug. It’s not until the boy’s father (Ismael Kanater) arrives to demand his son’s body and some form of justice that David begins to consider what he’s done – a turning point that makes the experience visual disconcerting but which, in retrospect, also serves to deepen the film. . Matt Smith and Christopher Abbott co-star.
For about 40 minutes To fall is precisely the kind of tense, edgy, low-budget B-movie that’s all too rare in theaters. Revolving around a pair of best friends who are stuck in a 2,000ft telecommunications tower somewhere in the Mojave Desert, it makes innovative use of its abandoned location as social media influencer Hunter (Virginia Gardner ) convinces her best friend Becky (Gracy Caroline Currey) to climb it to recover from the death of her husband in a climbing accident a year earlier.
The dizzying tension builds roughly in tandem with every foot Becky manages to climb past the halfway point, which Hunter gleefully informs her is taller than the Eiffel Tower. Alas, once they get to the top and the structure becomes completely unstable, the film also starts to look a little flimsy. Director Scott Mann doesn’t seem to have enough confidence in the purity of the idea. Consequently, he ends it with a honking opening act full of trauma narrative cliches and an overly convoluted finale involving buzzards, drones, betrayals and a grueling twist that doesn’t come off.
It’s still better than I came, a lame psychological thriller that initially revolves around a social justice warrior (a miscast George Mackay) attempting to disrupt Britain’s class system by breaking into the homes of London’s elite and spray-painting the eponymous phrase on their walls. He gets more than he bargained for when he breaks into the house of a former High Court judge, but unfortunately he doesn’t. Played by Hugh Bonneville, the Judge is like a cut-price Hannibal Lecter, brazenly using his network of old boys to cover up his misdeeds while director and co-writer Babak Anvari attempts to confuse us by generously borrowing a plot-twist from the one of Hitchcock’s most famous films. Co-starring Kelly Macdonald.
Three Thousand Years of Longing, The Forgiven and Fall are exclusively in theaters starting September 2. I Came By is streaming on Netflix from August 31st.