Nightmare Alley, Love is better than life, The Chef… Movies to watch or avoid this week


A fable about greed, a story of friendship, a gastronomic “coup de feu” that turns sour… What should we see at the cinema this week? Discover the cinema selection of Figaro.

Nightmare Alley – To have

Drama by Guillermo del Toro, 2h31

Guillermo del Toro, on the strength of his triumph with The Shape of Water (Golden Lion at Venice in 2017), fulfills an old dream by bringing to the screen the work of William Lindsay Gresham, a writer who committed suicide in 1962 and drowned everything in alcohol (Marxism, psychoanalysis, Tarot, Christianity, Buddhism). Stan Carlisle becomes a charlatan working at a carnival whose main attraction is a beast that decapitates chickens with its teeth. Guillermo del Toro is at home among this marginalized people (dwarf, contortionist, bearded woman and other freaks) but does not force the line, preferring dark realism to grotesque magic. The Mexican filmmaker walks through this nightmarish alley with trompe-l’oeil elegance. Alley or rather cruel loop which closes on Carlisle, antihero of a fable on credulity and greed. Carlisle’s trajectory is also a metaphor for cinema, originally a fairground art before becoming indoor entertainment. E. S.

love is better than life – To have

Comedy by Claude Lelouch, 1h55

Gérard Darmon won’t be long. Question of months. A final world tour in first class, and hello company. That’s what it’s like to have smoked too much. His two friends are good boys. They met in prison, decided to get honest – the easiest way to get rich – and decided to offer him one last love story. As time is running out, they call on a professional. Above all, that their friend is not aware. Banco, says Sandrine Bonnaire, whom it is quite gratifying to discover as the boss of a network of call girls. The dialogues ring true, as always. A man talks to a woman. She answers him. Let’s go. Lelouch may have one flaw: he is himself. This man is gifted with youth. It defies civil status. His way of filming gives a certain air to life and cinema. It shows a smiling, optimistic, disillusioned goodbye. His enthusiasm pushes him to get carried away for an unforgettable song, the only hitch in this chronicle where we collect jukeboxes, prefer spicy couscous, drink the best beer in the world and play who will succeed in the most beautiful head of burial. E. NOT.

The Chief – To have

Drama by Philip Barantini – 1h34

Philip Barantini’s feature film, shot in a single shot of 1h34, leaves the viewer breathless, stunned, KO. The action takes place in a fashionable “bistronomic” restaurant somewhere in London on the Friday before Christmas (“Magic Friday”). The camera tracks the protagonists, customers, waiters or scullions, in the kitchen, in the past, in the dining room, even to the toilets if necessary, as it would in the cramped corridors of a sinking submarine. Never has the expression “gunshot” been so aptly named: we immediately understand that no one will emerge unscathed from this service. Is it because the director himself was a chef? In any case, the film describes as never before the pressure undergone by the teams when it is necessary to send the plates in rhythm, like in clay pigeon shooting. Food only plays a secondary role. Carried by a dramatic tension of each moment and a brilliant interpretation, The Chief is much more than a film about the small misfortunes of a restaurant: a reflection on a world that is losing its mind, where we no longer know how to talk to each other and where the violence of despair imposes itself, until the irremediable. S.DS.

Persian Lessons – You can see

Historical drama by Vadim Perelman, 2h07

It is a film about the incomparable power of imposture. In 1942, to escape a firing squad, a young Belgian Jew (Nahuel Perez Biscayart, admirable in his fragility and intelligence) claims not to be a Jew… but a Persian. At the camp, a Nazi officer, Captain Koch is looking for a Persian to learn his language in order to open a restaurant in Tehran after the war, when he will have joined his brother. A strange relationship develops between the two men. On the razor’s edge, the hero brings his adversary into his delirious language bubble, to the point that the two men begin to converse fluently while using this funny supposedly Farsi jargon. What definitely wins the viewer’s support is the exceptional duel that takes place between two actors with nuance and subtlety. Much ambiguity hangs over this strange relationship between the so-called professor and the SS officer who is both abominable and yet so human in his profound naivety. The confrontation even gains in emotional power when the game of cat and mouse, based on the abusive domination of the executioner over his prisoner, ends up gradually tipping over to the side of the hero… . OD

Michael Cimino, an American mirage – You can see

Documentary by Jean-Baptiste Thoret, 2h10

In April 2010, Jean-Baptiste Thoret hit the road with Michael Cimino, from Los Angeles to Colorado. The kilometers of recorded conversations become a great interview published in The Notebooks of the Cinema, a book, then a 52-minute documentary broadcast on Arte in 2021, Michael Cimino, God Bless America. In the winter of 2020, Thoret returns in the footsteps of Cimino, whose drawling, ghostly voice can be heard in the elegiac images of the American West. Michael Cimino, an American mirage, which is released in theaters on Wednesday, is the long version of this film. Thoret dwells on Mingo Junction (Ohio) which serves as the backdrop for Journey to the End of Hell (The Deer Hunter), first in a series of masterpieces to evoke the Vietnam War. Tarantino, absolute fan, screenwriter James Toback and Oliver Stone return to them on the ups and downs of the filmmaker. Stone, co-author with Cimino of Year of the Dragon, recalls the megalomaniac character until the self-destruction of the one to whom we owe one of the most beautiful definitions of his art: “Making cinema is inventing a nostalgia for a past that never existed.” E. S.

The place of another – You can see

Drama by Aurélia Georges, 1h52

A penniless young laundrywoman, an orphan condemned to steal “and worse still”, Nélie Laborde wants to change her life at all costs, and try to get out of her social condition. Having become a stretcher-bearer at the front at the height of the war, the heroine picks up a soaked young woman on the side of the road. This Swiss, named Rose Juillet (Maud Wyler), tells her that she is going to see an old aristocrat, friend of her late father, who will take her as a companion. Rose Juillet succumbs to an explosion. Nélie decides to try her luck. She steals the letter of introduction, the coat of the deceased, and goes to the home of Madame de Lengwil. Despite a classicism that is a little too wise, Aurélia Georges’ film pulls out of the game thanks to the perceptible complicity that unites the two main actresses. The scenes between Sabine Azéma and Lyna Khoudry, touching, made of a beautiful surge of tenderness and great emotional accuracy, manage to hoist the spectator above the social contingencies of one and the other. This is the characteristic of great actresses. OD

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