WASP NETWORK (2019)

A film by Olivier Assayas

Cast:  Ana de Armas, Penélope Cruz, Wagner Moura

Beginning of the 90’s. A group of Cubans living in Miami set up a spy network. Their mission: to infiltrate the anti-Castro groups responsible for attacks on the island.

Rene Gonzalez (Edgar Ramirez) seems to have a perfect life. His wife Olga (Penélope Cruz) is beautiful, they have a young daughter and he flies planes. But one day he decided to take off and fly under the radar and over the short stretch of sea to Miami. In a televised press conference he tells them the frustration about the Castro regime and announces his intention to stay in the US, after all he is an American citizen who just left his wife and kids to Cuba and he is being accused of being a traitor. Juan Pablo (Wagner Moura) soon joins him too. Both René and Juan become pilots for the CANF (Cuban American National Foundation) to assist defecting Cubans and hasten the collapse of Castro’s regime. Both infiltrate CANF, rising up the ranks, with Juan Pablo graduating to a lavish lifestyle. Assayas, while filming Wasp Network, was given the rare opportunity to film in Cuba. The over shot of Cuba by plane was a rare sight on film and the most vibrant. As the story unravels the mystery behind René and Juan Pablo, other characters are introduced and historical figures, such as the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles (Tony Plano) and Gerardo Hernandez (Gael García Bernal), director of Wasp Network. As the story goes along it is going to be a little confusing at times. The story has its twist and turns. It is film in an unconventional way and it fells that it is going all over the place. It is watchable and entertaining but it is missing something unfortunately. And to think this was going on in the 90’s.

THE WHISTLERS (2019)

A film by  Corneliu Porumboiu

Cast:  Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar 

Cristi, a Bucharest police inspector corrupted by drug traffickers, is suspected by his superiors and tapped. Embarked by an adventure with the sulphurous Gilda on the island of La Gomera, he must quickly learn Silbo, an ancestral whistled language. Thanks to this secret language, he will be able free from prison a mobster in Romania and recover the hidden millions that this mobster stole. But love will get in the way and nothing will go as planned …

In crime films code, communication, and honor are vital. The code is knowing how to whistle this ancestral language. communication each member does speak a different language so english becomes the universal language. And yes someone is going to stab someone in the back. Cristi  (Vlad Ivanov) who is juggling the underworld and his police duties and must find a balance between the two in order to survive. Put in a beautiful femme fatale in the mix and all hell is breaking loose. Writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu here find the balance between comedy and the bit of absurdity. All the actors are on top of their games. A terrific cool little film noir who got some serious attention.

DOCTEUR? (2019)

A film by Tristan Séguéla

Cast:  Michel Blanc, Hakim Jemili, Solène Rigot 

It’s Christmas Eve. The Parisians are preparing to unpack their family gifts. Others watch television alone at home. Still others, like Serge (Michel blanc), works. Serge is the only SOS-Doctor on duty that night. His colleagues have gone to their families. In any case, he no longer has a say because he has taken too many liberties with the practice of medicine, and the radiation hangs in his face. The visits follow one another and Serge tries to follow the rhythm, with drinking a little too much when he gets a call It’s Rose’s, his son’s ex-girlfriend , who calls for help. He arrives at the scene at the same time as a delivery man Uber Eats, Malek, also on duty that night …

Here is a nice little comedy with a duo that works well here. It is Christmas day and Serge is the only doctor on call for the night. His bed side manners are not so good. Here the director Seguela open the film with a visit where the parents are worrying about their newborn the scene is a bit offbeat with a stimulating dialogue. For this story to work the director puts in this character named Malek played by Hakim Jemili who is the delivery man for Uber eats and delivers a comedy with the themes of social classes and mourning. Here is a doctor who is going to need some help from a delivery man. Serge is cold and does his job mechanically with no bedside manners plus he drinks a little too much. Enters Malek who is this gentle soul with a heart. The two men are going to need each other and they don’t even know it yet. Hakim Jemili who is a comedian does a great job for his first role in this film. Here is a nice comedy for the holidays who is going to put a smile on your face and for those who lives in Paris forget the strike from the public transports.

GLORIA MUNDI (2019)

A film by  Robert Guédiguian

Cast: Ariane Ascaride, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Gérard Meylan

Daniel gets out of prison where he was incarcerated for many years and returns to Marseille. Sylvie, his ex-wife, told him that he is a grandfather: their daughter Mathilda has just given birth to a little Gloria. By coming to see the baby, Daniel discovers that this family has fallen tough time and is struggling to make ends meet. But a blow will strike this fragile family life, Daniel, who has nothing to lose, will try everything to help them.

Robert Guédiguian here tells the story of honest workers who are crushed by the system which all hopes and dreams are shattered leading them to desperation. Here is a woman who got remarried has a job as a cleaning lady at night locked out of earning a decent pay check because of a strike that is going to come soon, and her husband who is a bus driver. The oldest daughter is a failure who can’t hold down a job as a sales assistant. The son-in-law is an Uber driver. And the younger half-sister and her husband who runs a pawn shop and look at their family as losers. Of course Daniel the grand father who is going tot get out of prison.

Here it is Guédiguian here uses the same actor for all his film don’t ask I don’t know. The small poems shelled throughout the film by Gerard Meylan, symbol of wisdom and destitution in a world governed by money. The film is a bit like Ken Loach theme and here is a family who is trying to stay above water and a newborn that is going to bring a breath of fresh air, well you would think. Things are not going so well except for the other daughter where their business is thriving and they are going to open an other store. The family suddenly sees the light at the end of the tunnel but wait and here it down hill after that. You think there are going to make it but shit happens and it is getting worst until the unthinkable happens. Great cast here fun to watch. Gloria Mundi draws up a crude social statement, which would certainly be unpleasant to look at.

SEULES LES BÊTES (2019)

A film by  Dominik Moll

Cast:  Denis Ménochet, Laure Calamy, Damien Bonnard 

English Title: Only the animals

A woman disappeared. After a snowstorm, her car is discovered on a road to a small remote village. While the police have no trail, five people know they are linked to this disappearance. Each has its own secret, but no one doubts that this story has started far from this mountain swept by the winter winds, on another continent where the sun burns, and where poverty does not prevent the desire to dictate its law. .

Around the unexplained disappearance of a woman, in a snowstorm, evolve five protagonists. Alice, the social worker (Laure Calamy). She goes from village to village in the mountains to provide assistance and give advice to the isolated farmers. This is what she does with Joseph (Damien Bonnard), this goat farmer who seems a little loss and lonely due to the fact that his mother died that summer. Alice is married to Michel (Denis Ménochet) who seems not too care for her too much and is somewhere else most of the time keeping up with his accounting so it seems. Also he also has a secret like his wife. I am careful not to reveal anything. Chance will put Marion (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) on the road, a young waitress who clings desperately to her impossible love affair with Evelyne (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). And may the adventure of those 5 protagonist begins.

Five characters, five points of view, five stories that intertwine, to finally converge to the mystery of the disappearance of Evelyne Ducat. A single plot to reveal each chapter with a new elements that will shed the lights on the investigation. The tension is never let go neither the suspense which the story is full of characters that are going united with them not knowing it. There is a beauty towards this landscape of beautiful snow in the mountains and the plains as the eyes can see that is impressive. A great casting to ad to this film and you have yourselves a terrific thriller with a great ending.

LES MISÉRABLES (2019)

A film by Ladj Ly

Cast:  Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djibril Zonga

Stéphane, just arrived from Cherbourg, joined the Anti-Crime Brigade of Montfermeil, in the 93. He will meet his new teammates, Chris and Gwada, two aggressive cops . He quickly discovers the tensions between the different groups in the neighborhood. While they are overwhelmed during an arrest, a drone film their every act and their every move…..

Stephane (Damien Bonnard) is a policeman newly moved to Paris and assigned to a unit of the Anti-crime Squad. His partners are Chris (Alexis Manenti), a virulently racist white man whom the kids on the street have referred to as “Pink Pig,”and Gwada (Djebril Zonga), who is African Muslim . Stéphane who is a bit snubbed as an outsider by the loser cops who give him the nickname of the “greaser”. The first day on the jobs  Stephane gets a taste of his partners’ brutal grip on the neighborhood harassing girls at a stop sign, bullying others spraying fear where ever they go. As the day goes by it turn into madness mode who the three are in the pursuit of a teenager who stole a baby lion at the circus in the neighborhood. Ladj Ly gets the film into high gear choreograph every scene beautifully well. Ly also keep the tension that is to the point of blowing up. Mobs of kids and adults, foot chase, and confrontation.

The Misérables start by the good cop, bad cop routine but Ly does not let this perception running too long . Here the police is abusing their power and double dealing the community to top it all off. Ly drags the story trough many level. The level of the film however is exiting with heart pounding action specially in the hallways of a housing project. Ly here put in some realism who has a documentary feel to it. The final sentence of Victor Hugo extracted from Les Misérables, highlighted before the credits, say it very well: “there are no bad men, no bad weeds, there are only bad farmers”. Well said there.

J’ACCUSE (2019)

A film by  Roman Polanski

Cast:  Jean Dujardin, Louis Garrel, Emmanuelle Seigner 

English title: An officer and a spy

During the 12 years that it lasted, the Dreyfus Affair tore France apart, . In this huge scandal, at the end of the XIXth century, blend judicial error, denial of justice and anti-Semitism. The case is told from the point of view of Colonel Picquart who, once appointed head of the counterintelligence, will discover that the evidence against Captain Alfred Dreyfus had been manufactured. From this moment and at the risk of his career tries to defend Alfred Dreyfus . Will he succeed?

There were some friction at the Cannes film Festival to include this film in the competition at Cannes, especially one member of the Jury but what you don’t know is that once again Polanski is on the news in France and I am not going to go with the details because it is getting absurd. So that is why he can relate to this film especially the character played by Louis Garrel (Alfred Dreyfus) unrecognisable and what a great actor he has become.

The opening of the film Dreyfus is being stripped of his arms and disgraced before the army, before being led away and into exile on Devil’s Island. Georges Picquart  is promoted to the head of the French Secret Service, he also finds himself looking into the possibility that Dreyfus might be innocent. Picquart gets sent to the statistics office a rundown building where are hero is going to find out about the lies, the misinformation and the defamation about this case. But trying to tell the story and to convince everybody what he found is not going to be easy. Jean Dujardin here delivers a solid performance as colonel Piquart as well as the rest of this wonderful cast we discover Louis Garrel, Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Denis Podalydes, Damien Bonnard, Melvil Poupaud, Grégorys Gadebois and Vincent Grass. Photography, sets, costumes, music, everything is simply impeccable. It is really a production of excellent quality. The quest for truth, justice, fake news, antisemitism and many more are told here. Is a matter a fact the film took off very well its first weekend.

HORS NORMES (2019)

A film by  Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano

Cast  Vincent Cassel, Reda Kateb, Hélène Vincent

Bruno and Malik takes care children and adolescents with autism for 20 years. Within their two respective associations, they train young people from difficult neighborhoods to supervise them. As they do not have enough on their plates inspectors are here to see if everything is by the book or they might close them down.

Based on a true story here L’escale is a place where Bruno keeps children with severe autism. Here the directors has done it again with a sensible subject with a dose of humor. Here Cassel does wonder with this role where his character is passionate about his job and wants to help every kid that he takes so they can take care of themselves and hopefully for some of them find a job so they can be independent. Reda Kateb does as well a wonderful job here and the chemistry of those two actors is there. This film here is design to educate french people about people who has autism. The autism cases that are exposed in this feature film are real . It can shock, amaze, upset you but it is all real. The research and documentation work was done with care, since the directors knew that the people who are working with teenagers who have autism knows the system. Here is the catch 22, there are inspectors that evaluate the establishment and to see the one that they hire have their diplomas , to see if the establishment is sanitary and that everyone goes by the book . Most employees however don’t have diplomas . So the inspectors are careful not to close them down , they know that if they do who will take care of the kids. A delicate situation here that the directors are showing us.

CAMILLE (2019)

A film by  Boris Lojkine

Cast:  Nina Meurisse, Fiacre Bindala, Bruno Todeschini

A young photojournalist Camille leaves France for the Central African Republic to cover the civil war that is going to start. Very quickly, she is passionate about this country and she is swept away by the turmoil. Her destiny is going to be played out.

Here is a film that pays a great tribute to Camille Lepage the photo journalist. In Central Africa there is only violence. While she would like to believe in the goodness of humanity, Camille only meets people armed with a machete ready to decapitate their neighbors, bodies disemboweled, men who are part of a group ready to kill. She takes pictures and tries to sell them to the newspapers because she wants the world to see the atrocities that is going on in Central Africa. Camille here is passionate about this country and fells unconditional love for this country and gets to emotional attach to it. She begins to question her life and struggle to stay in France and wants to come back to Africa. when she does come back Camille does not stop looking for that part of humanity that necessarily exists somewhere in them. The film has a documentary feel to it because here the director comes from directing documentary. The film here was film where the civil war took place back then and the photos that you will see are the photos of Camille who captured the colours, the life, death, the revolted faces, the angry crowds, the delirious youth or the violence between the people. Nina Meurisse offers a remarkable interpretation of her Camille. Nina looks like Camille it is unbelievable. We all know what happened to her it is unfortunate and sad. She was only 26 years old.

DONNE-MOI DES AILES (2019)

A film by  Nicolas Vanier

Cast:  Jean-Paul Rouve, Mélanie Doutey, Louis Vazquez

English title: Spread your wings

Christian, a visionary scientist, studies wild geese. His son, a teenager obsessed with video games, the idea of spending a holiday with his father in the wilderness is a nightmare. However, father and son will get together about a crazy project: save an endangered species, thanks to the ultralight of Christian! And then an incredible journey will begin…..

Based on a true story Christian makes a crazy bet to teach the wild geese a new migration route because the route that they take usually are not without risk . Our director here who was a naturalist taps into this theme to draw a portrait of a man engaged in a fight that he intends to pass on to future generations. Because Donne moi des ailes follows the course of a teenager who will gradually open to a new life in contact with nature and reconnect with his father. His parents are divorced. For the holidays and against his will, his mother (Mélanie Doutey) sends him to his father, an original half-poet half-scientist, who has a home in Camargue where he watches bird how they evolved and even raise them. A retreat that does not please his son who is interesting in video games then Nature. But against all odd his son gets slowly interested. It is not surprising that the director captures the danger of the trip but also the beauty of the Camargue to the Scandinavian countries. 420 million birds have disappeared over the last thirty years and the study is showing there is no end in sight. Beautiful film here where you can take the whole family to see.