AT THE FLICKS

The Trip to Greece

Directed by Michael Winterbottom
(U.K., 2020)

Review by Lois Siegel

If you haven’t seen any of “The Trip” films featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, you are missing something. They’ve been doing entertaining trip movies for 10 years. The series is described as “lightly scripted mockumentary, featuring exaggerated versions of the two men and their hang-ups.”

The Trip to Greece is a fun-filled romp, filled with amazing scenic vistas intercut with five-star kitchens and fantastic food. It’s mostly set, of course, in Greece, the birthplace of poetry, storytelling, philosophy, comedy and drama. But it starts in northwest Turkey on the site that was once Troy and follows the route that Odysseus took in The Odyssey.

Coogan and Brydon proceed to Greece and begin to eat their way through Hydra, Athens and Delphi on the way to what was Ithaca. It’s a six-day Grecian journey. They often take a ferry with amazing backdrops – views of square houses piled up the hillsides, below mountains cut with curving roads.

In restaurants along the water with boats in the background and in lovely outdoor gardens, we watch these middle-aged comedians eat and drink and try not to kill each other as they argue about what they see and experience.

We see the ruins of the Acropolis in Athens and hear the stories of ancient Greeks. We see Epidaurus, an amazing open theatre build in 340 BC.

Their improvised performances keep us entertained as they laugh, try to one-up each other and imitate famous people, including Dustin Hoffman, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Mick Jagger.

These sequences feature all kinds of delicious food: lamb chops with mint sauce, almond crumble, black mulberry sauce, risotto, grouper, shrimps, fresh oysters.

They often talk about films and refer to the time Steve got into the character of Stan Laurel in the 2018 film Stan & Ollie. And there are plenty of cultural references, from Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb to the film Grease. We also enter caves where we hear voices singing a Gregorian chant.

Olympia is a tourist attraction where the ancient games were first held – the Olympic flame is lit there every four years as the modern games pay tribute to their origin in Greece.

The Trip to Greece by two jocular men on a foodie tour is delightful. We experience their adventures, smiling with them all the way. Unfortunately, this is the last of the trip series – as Coogan says, “to avoid jumping the shark.” It’s not to be missed.

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Available: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes


De Gaulle

Directed by Gabriel Bomin
(France, 2020)

Review by Paul Green

It is more than a little surprising that apart from a notable television mini-series (Le Grand Charles) in 2006 and a couple of feature films, few filmmakers have come forward to recount – either in epic or more limited form – the military and political career of this most remarkable figure in 20th-century French history. Director Gabriel Bomin, who has a background in documentary films, has sought to fill this gap by making De Gaulle.

Eschewing the idea of an “epic” film, Bomin elected to focus on a more clearly defined period from late April to mid-June 1940. It was doubtless a prudent decision as there was sufficient tumult and high drama in those few weeks to fill several history volumes. In what was perhaps a calculated risk, Bomin opted to juxtapose scenes from de Gaulle’s family life with his military and political exploits in a bid to humanize the general and highlight the support he so obviously derived from his wife and family.

The opening sequence is set at the family estate in Colombey-Les-Deux-Églises. It is late April, scant days before the Germans moved west on May 10. De Gaulle (Lambert Wilson) is at home with his wife Yvonne (Isabelle Carré) and their three children, who include a son in the army and a daughter, Anne, who has Down syndrome.

A fortnight later, we find de Gaulle on the battlefield, discussing with an aide the outcome of an action that proved to be the only successful counterattack staged by the French Army against the Wehrmacht. Subsequently promoted to general, he is summoned to Paris where he meets with Prime Minister Paul Reynaud and minister Georges Mandel. The general is convinced that France can still repel the Germans, and those two support him. In cabinet, however, he runs up against the much-decorated Maréchal Pétain who feels that France must capitulate and settle with the Germans, if only to avoid greater loss of life. To gain time, Reynaud sends de Gaulle to London for urgent talks with Winston Churchill (Tim Hudson). Back in France, the general learns that Reynaud has resigned, Pétain has assumed control and he has been dismissed from cabinet.

The situation dire, de Gaulle sees his way clear – he must return to England and form a government-in-exile. But he first has to locate his family who joined the exodus fleeing Paris to the south and east. He finds them in Brittany where they are staying with friends. After a tearful reunion with Yvonne, he is once more off to England. These scenes are well handled and they provide a nice counterpoint to the cabinet sessions and closed-door meetings.

In England, de Gaulle confers again with Churchill (who speaks both in English and passable but heavily accented French). Arrangements are made for de Gaulle to deliver his historic June 18 appel to the French nation via the BBC. In the meantime, he anxiously awaits news of his family who have just barely made it onto one of the last ships leaving France.

Lambert Wilson, a tall actor and veteran of many films, is well suited to the role of “Le Grand Charles” and, if anything, underplays it. Isabelle Carré is excellent as Yvonne, the devoted and resourceful wife without whom de Gaulle might not have gone on to achieve what he did as leader of the Free French.

Olivier Gourmet is, as always, very convincing in his brief turn as Reynaud. And there was a surprise in the cast in the person of Catherine Mouchet whom I had not seen since her performance as Thérèse in 1986. She played Mlle Potel, the family governess.

Director Bomin must have had a wealth of detail to sort through in making this film. One such item appears near the end: not long after making his historic four-minute broadcast to France, de Gaulle received a cable from the Pétain government in what was now German-occupied Paris, coldly informing the general that he had been stripped of his rank and his citizenship and had been sentenced to death. Clearly, they were not happy!

Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes.
In French with English subtitles.
Probable rating 14A.
Check with Glebe Video for DVD availability. Returns to the ByTowne December 11.

 

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