Proxima (2019)

This was my first big screen experience for a film since seeing Portrait of a Lady on Fire for the second time, 147 days earlier, and it’s another French film directed by a woman, the title literally translating as “Next”. It’s very different in its setting though, being about a woman training to become an astronaut, but there feels like something similar to it, in its scope perhaps or the feeling with which it is imbued.

Like a lot of the best films about space travel, this is really about the human relationships on the ground, to the extent that it never actually goes into space (that would presumably have put it in a different category for the producers trying to scrounge a budget). Still, it’s got Eva Green and she’s giving a fantastic and controlled performance as the leading lady, so it has all the special effects you could possibly want. She plays Sarah, a French astronaut training for her first flight in Germany and then Kazakhstan (nimbly switching languages from line to line, whether German to her husband played by Lars Eidinger, French, English and then Russian), but trying to deal with her daughter (Zélie Boulant-Lemesne) at the same time. You could say that films about male astronauts don’t deal with the family quite so much, but that’s presumably why Matt Dillon is cast as Mike, a sort of lunkish, sexist guy, a very all-American type familiar from the genre, who has rather set ideas about women (though he has his sensitivity at times, too, so it’s not a one-note performance). For the most part I really liked the way the film handled its central themes, but the one moment that lost me a bit was well, no spoilers… but let’s just say that someone breaking quarantine maybe doesn’t go down quite as well in mid-2020 as when this film was made.

Proxima film posterCREDITS
Director Alice Winocour; Writers Winocour and Jean-Stéphane Bron; Cinematographer Georges Lechaptois; Starring Eva Green, Zélie Boulant-Lemesne, Matt Dillon, Lars Eidinger, Sandra Hüller; Length 107 minutes.
Seen at Curzon Bloomsbury, London, Saturday 8 August 2020.

Criterion Sunday 42: Fishing with John (1991)

The Criterion Collection certainly throws up some oddities from time to time (who will ever forget — or forgive — Armageddon?) but Fishing with John is one of the odder entries, being the six episodes of a TV series made by John Lurie (hence the ‘creator’ rather than ‘director’ credit) and screened originally in 1991. It’s nominally a fishing show, in the sense that he takes a bunch of (male) celebrities out on the water in various places attempting to catch fish, but tonally it feels more of a piece with Twin Peaks or the offbeat deadpan stylings of early Jim Jarmusch (in whose films Lurie occasionally popped up, and who is his guest in the first episode). Things proceed in a laidback manner, as the two men travel to their fishing boat, or eat in cafes and drink in bars, and fall to chatting. Indeed, they tend to have very little success at the actual fishing. The conversations have a roundabout, somewhat surreal quality, but the most overt humour comes from the (extremely unreliable) narration, taking an omniscient viewpoint in the style of such shows, but undercutting it with deadpan drollery. In a sense, nothing much happens, but the journey is pleasantly diverting.

FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Creator [Director] John Lurie; Cinematographers Michael Alan Spiller, Tom Krueger, James Nares and Steven Torton; Starring John Lurie, Dennis Hopper, Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon, Tom Waits, Jim Jarmusch; Length 147 minutes (in six episodes of c24 minutes each).

Seen at a friend’s home (DVD), London, Sunday 5 July 2015.