Star power – another phrase for solar power if you think about it – will do when other energy forms fail. It roars out, full of flares and neutrinos, from Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis in You Again () . In My Afternoons with Margueritte () it bursts forth from Gérard Depardieu, a large, round object of enormous gravitational power.
Weaver and Curtis are battling mums in a Disney comedy that has, for once, more wit than whimsy. Barely are the titles done before ugly duckling schoolgirl Kristen Bell – “ugly” as in specs, zits and teeth braces, “ugly” as in will-convert-to-superbabe-in-two-seconds – greets us in the present day as a top PR girl in LA. The only person she hopes never to meet again is the girl (Odette Yustman) who bullied her at school. Surprise! Guess who’s about to marry her brother.
That clash of grudge-bearers is mimicked by a parallel cataclysm. Guess who the bride’s mother is? Sigourney Weaver: who used to bully and queen-bee over Bell’s mum, Jamie Lee Curtis, when she was at school. Bell’s younger brother takes one look at Weaver, a vision of couture, grooming and regal pluperfect malice, and says, “She looks computer-generated”. (She does. She looks as if she could pixel-zap all opposition.)
Weaver hasn’t been this good, this sly, queenly and high-style, since her Oscar-nominated über-bitch in Working Girl. Curtis matches up, a sinewy but svelte suburban mom, prone to disasters such as a pipe-burst in Weaver’s hotel suite b
athroom – “Did you take a shower?” asks the queen of cool when Curtis pads back, wetted down, into view – but with legs that kick a mean cheerleader routine at a pre-wedding party.
A great deal of talent clearly got stuck in a lift at Disney, causing Mouseco to say “We’ll hire the lot”. Even producer John Strauss co-wrote There’s Something About Mary, the best comedy of the late 1990s. Matters get a little saccharine and conciliatory near the end, but so do Shakespeare’s comedies. Take what you get and enjoy it.
Gérard Depardieu was born to play Falstaff, though unfortunately in the wrong country. He is glorious in My Afternoons with Margueritte, as glorious as he was with another Marguerite – single “t”, surname Duras – in Le Camion (The Truck). Like that intellectual “Beauty and the Beast”, in which the diminutive author of Hiroshima Mon Amour conversed about life and art with the hulk who looks as if he can barely join two sapient syllables, the new movie is about a male mammoth having a torch shone down the path of enlightenment.
A boiler-suited giant in a small town, Depardieu’s character lumbers across a sweet little old lady who sits and reads on a park bench. Soon they are parsing Camus’ La Peste together. Soon after that, they are platonic sweethearts. Despite bombardments of feel-good banality from director Jean Becker, who fills in with folksy vignettes in the local bar (sometimes the whole of France seems a Stella Artois commercial), Gisèle Casadesus as the biddy and Depardieu as the lunkhead guide us towards their own unshowy truth.
“This rough magic I here abjure,” said Prospero in The Tempest. But what to do with his used or spent equipment? It might lie around on the island causing an environmental hazard. “I’ll break my staff,” he resolves, “bury it certain fathoms in the earth.” Good idea. As the precursor of nuclear waste – the antecedent to Finland’s radioactive rubbish as discussed in Into Eternity () – it could be interred five metres, or five kilometres, below ground. Then it would be safe till it decontaminated after 100,000 years.
Film-maker Michael Madsen (no relation to the ear-slicing actor of Reservoir Dogs) has made a riveting documentary: as spooky as the early scenes of 2001 in its glacial camera-prowlings around “Onkalo”, a deep-mined waste bin for nuclear garbage and the probable future of disposal for our planet. Madsen offers himself as a mad presenter, striking a single match in darkness – several times – to witter on about Prometheus, eternal fire and human hubris. I enjoyed him. I enjoyed even more the mischievous questions he puts to Onkalo’s masters and creators.
Will the 5,000-metre-deep burial site really be safe? Might not future peoples, undeterred or even seduced by “keep out” warnings, break it open, as we break open Egyptian tombs? Has anything human-built ever lasted a thousand centuries? (Answer, no). Do we really have any idea what we are doing? (Answer, not much). The music of Radiohead, Sibelius and Arvo Pärt comment on this masquerade of eternity. The more the scientists reassure us, the more anxious we feel. Soon every country will have an Onkalo, or dozens, and we will be sitting on a timebomb the size of the earth’s core.
This is a new-season scare and we need it. The old-season scare is becoming a bore. Vampires. After the Twilight saga, Vampires Suck and Let Me In, Jorge Michel Grau’s We Are What We Are () has a family of low-income cannibals darting about Mexico City seeking whom they may devour. The cops can’t keep up since they are movie cops, trained to run slightly slower than their quarries. There is much incantatory claptrap a
bout “the ritual”, a climactic communion we never see. Unaccountably praised by some critics, the film is like a supermarket sandwich, flavourless as you consume it while leaving a slightly nasty taste in the mouth afterwards.
Fezeka’s Voice) () is a documentary aimed at the heart. Holly Lubbock directed this touching tale of an African school choir jetted to Salisbury cathedral, England, to discover fame and warmth of hospitality. Yes, even English people blub when listening to lovely music or saying farewell to guests from across the world. Nor is the film without wit. Bishop Desmond Tutu makes a guest appearance and is then replaced – can you spot the exact moment? – by his Madame Tussauds waxwork.