No matter how summery the summer gets, the cinema screens of Brussels will not go blank. Over the next five weeks, the current selection of blockbusters like Incredibles 2 and Hereditary is being increased by about forty new films. Here are eight highlights.
Ant-man and the Wasp
Three years ago, Marvel itself counteracted its own megalomania of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe and its big is never BIG enough policy with the slightly smaller-scale, entertaining, and relatively funny Ant-Man.
Huge crowds found this refreshing and so Paul Rudd, a comedian from the Judd Apatow family, is returning to play Ant-Man again. He is more of a nutcase of a dad than a great superhero.
A special suit reduces his size to that of an ant. This sometimes comes in handy to save the world (or something smaller). And this works well because most of the action takes place on a miniature scale, which is much more original than just another skyscraper being destroyed. What’s more, Paul Rudd has great comic timing. Don’t expect a cinematic masterpiece, just loads of family fun.
Directed by Peyton Reed, starring Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly
The western, one of the most beautiful film genres, continues to inspire directors to make absolute gems all over the world. Earlier this year, the Chinese-American director Chloé Zhao hit a sensitive nerve with The Rider. This summer, the Aboriginal Warwick Thornton will knock you out with a shocking western that shows how white people treated Aboriginals even worse than they treated the slaves and original inhabitants of the Americas.
Sweet Country shows the white colonist hunt for Sam Kelly, an Aboriginal who shot an angry white man in self-defence and fled into the merciless outback with his wife. Warwick Thornton does his best to add nuance to his material, and finds a degree of counterbalance to the unbearable racism in the overwhelming splendour of the landscape.
Directed by Warwick Thornton, starring Hamilton Morris and Sam Neill
The man who killed Don Quixote
How many more films would Terry Gilliam have made if he had not spent years and years naively insisting like the real Don Quixote that he would continue to work on his own unconventional adaptation of Don Quixote, the four-hundred-year-old chivalric tale by Cervantes?
We’re sure the Monty Python would not want to count. Always look on the bright side of life, you know. The result is amusing and occasionally inspired, but is still a distant shadow of Brazil and Twelve Monkeys, which made Gilliam a legend.
He cleverly does not focus on Don Quixote (an actor who once played Don Quixote and now thinks that he has become Don Quixote) but on his disciple: a spoiled advertisement director who is adapting a film version of Don Quixote. The Man who Killed Don Quixote is more intriguing than you initially realize.
Directed by Terry Gilliam, starring Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce
A famous Iranian actress receives a disturbing video from a young girl who needs help escaping from her family. With her friend, director Jafar Panahi, she drives the terrible roads to the girl’s deeply conservative village in the remote mountains in north-western Iran.
The director has been censured by the Iranian regime, but he threw himself into the opportunity to film outside again after the award-winning Taxi Teheran (Berlin Film Festival) and This Is Not a Film being smuggled out of Iran in a birthday cake. He seeks his freedom through film.
His road movie is not overbearing, though he does continue to explore the interaction between reality and fiction. Cannes was impressed and awarded Panahi the award for best script. Or half of it, because the other half went to Alice Rohrwacher and her Lazzaro felice.
Directed by Jafar Panahi, starring Behnaz Jafari and Jafar Panahi
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
There are better and younger actors than Tom Cruise, and his association with the fabulously rich Scientology sect does him no credit, but when it comes to film stunts he is in a league of his own.
For the past 22 (!) years, he has been saving his most impressive daredevilry for Mission: Impossible. The usually very good and sometimes even excellent action franchise is already up to its sixth adventure with spy Ethan Hunt. This is the second film in the series directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the screenwriter of The Usual Suspects.
In this instalment, a mission goes wrong and there is a race against the clock to put it right. As long as there are excitement and spectacular stunts, the story hardly matters. The trailer promises action in Paris, a parachute jump from a great height, and helicopter battles in the mountains.
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson and Henry Cavill. Release: 1/8
The often imitated but always unrivalled Russian Andrei Tarkovsky was called a “goat” (the greatest of all time) by Ingmar Bergman, himself one of the greatest film directors of all time.
It is not clear why Tarkovsky’s fame has waned over the past few decades. Could it be his reputation as a deeply intellectual and hermetic director? Hopefully the cinematic release of one of his alienating masterpieces will turn the tide.
Stalker (1979) was based on the science fiction novel Roadside Picnic by the brothers Boris and Arkadiy Strugatskiy. In the Forbidden Zone, a Stalker leads an author and a scientist to a mysterious room that will apparently grant your most ardent desire. Is it more a political allegory than a spiritual search or vice versa? Its complete intangibility is part of the charm of this hallucinogenic audio-visual trip.
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, starring Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy and Anatoliy Solonitsyn.
2x Ian McEwan
Two film adaptations of books by the Booker Prize winner Ian McEwan are being released within a week of each other.
In The Children Act, a judge with marital problems considers the case of a very ill 17-year-old who does not want his cancer to be treated, based on his religious convictions. McEwan himself wrote the screenplay for On Chesil Beach, based on one of his most famous books. It is the moving, genuine, and beautifully variegated story of two shy lovers. They believe in the future but are both very afraid to lose their virginity on their wedding night in 1962. They don’t dare to talk about it and thus unwillingly bring unhappiness down upon themselves.
Director Dominic Cooke took on the difficult task of translating the melancholy to the screen. Fortunately, actress Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) was there to help.
The Children Act
Directed by Richard Eyre, starring Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci.
On Chesil Beach
Directed by Dominic Cooke, starring Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle.
Under the Silver Lake
Four years ago, David Robert Mitchell surprised us with the stunningly stylized horror film It Follows. The follow-up, Under the Silver Lake, was shown at Cannes but was panned by critics.
The reason is that it is almost impossible to summarize the plot or understand the film’s meaning. Mitchell bit off far more than he could chew with a labyrinthine story about a tormented twentysomething who loses himself in the paranoid search for his missing neighbour in a dark but sunny Los Angeles.
He got completely lost in the tangled mess of film references. But at least he tried to be both playful and ambitious. Not nearly so brilliant as Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Altman’s The Long Goodbye, or Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, though it is part of the same (troubled) family.
Directed by David Robert Mitchell, starring Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough