Here is my last set of Mill Valley Film Festival previews. No bad ones this time. I won’t be posting any MVFF reviews until after opening night.
A The Rescue, USA/UK, documentary, directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
Now here’s a documentary as suspenseful as anything from Alfred Hitchcock. But then, nothing’s more frightening than children in peril. In 2018 Thailand, 12 teenage boys and their soccer coach got caught in a large cage flooded with water. Engineers, medical workers, and American Navy Seals came to the rescue. But according to the documentary, the true heroes were a handful of middle-aged amateur cave divers. Some of the scenes (I assume the ones in the cave) were shot in a studio.
A- Bernstein’s Wall, USA, documentary, directed by Douglas Tirola
Leonard Bernstein, dead over 30 years, narrates the film through recordings from throughout his life. Thankfully, the musical renaissance man left behind a considerable amount of biographical material, including written letters about his homosexuality. The film shows Bernstein as a brilliant, kind, and decent human being. Great music, too.
A- Anima, China, epic drama, directed by Jinling Cao
This sweeping environmental drama takes you to Mongolia and shows us a troubled family. Linzi wants to protect the trees, but everyone else, including his brother, wants to cut them down. The two brothers also want the same widow (Qi Xi), who’s stronger and more intelligent than both. Beautiful cinematography!
B+ Ninjababy, Norway, comedy, directed by Yngvild Sve Flikke
This Norwegian comedy starts hilarious, but as the laughs thin, it becomes a warm story of young adults grasping at maturity. Rakel has a wild private life, including having sex with a man because she liked the smell of his hair. The plot really begins when she discovers she’s more than six months pregnant – and yet she doesn’t show. Clearly, it’s too late for an abortion. But who is the father? And does that matter? Rakel is a cartoonist by profession, so she naturally creates a talking fetus as a sidekick.
B Mothering Sunday, UK, drama, directed by Eva Husson
One of those stiff-upper-lip British films about aristocrats and servants – but this time with lots of sex and nudity. Sometimes it seems kind of ridiculous – as when a maid wanders naked through an empty mansion. But the ending turns a scattered story into a focused one.
B- Becoming Cousteau, USA, documentary, directed by Liz Garbus
Another biographical documentary. Using only old film and TV clips, filmmaker Liz Garbus shows us the life of Jacques Cousteau, the great scientist, explorer, and TV star who taught us about the bottom of the sea. (Before Cousteau became famous, he co-invented scuba diving.) The film lightly covers his personal life – he admits he was a bad husband and father. It works best in the last third, where he turns his ship and fame to focusing on environmental issues.