Going up against James Cameron’s seemingly indestructible Titanic (in 3D no less) at the box office this Easter weekend is an eclectic selection of foreign fare. Jo Nesbo’s deliciously dark thriller Headhunters leads the way, ably supported by French classic and the first foreign language film to be nominated for Best Picture La Grande Illusion and fellow gallic offering Le Havre. If three dimensions or reading subtitles sounds like too much of a stretch, then fairy tale fluff Mirror Mirror offers respite (and ridiculous eyebrows).
One imagines re-releasing Titanic during the centenary year of its sinking has been on the cards since Cameron’s blockbuster raked in $1.8 billion and scooped 11 Oscars way back in 1997. The emergence of 3D, a particular favourite of JC’s as evidenced by Avatar, presumably spurred Cameron on to bring the unsinkable ship back to the big screen bigger and better than before. On paper the bum-numbing three-hour plus visually epic love story/disaster movie lends itself to the technology, but it remains to be seen how effective or necessary the retro-fit will be. What is for certain is that this will sink all comers at the box office this weekend.
Norwegian author Jo Nesbo is a master of the pitch black Scandinavian thriller and although best known for his Harry Hole novels, it is Headhunters which enjoys the big screen treatment. Christopher Walken doppelgänger Aksel Hennie plays corporate headhunter and part-time art thief Roger Brown, whose life rapidly and spectacularly unravels after crossing paths with ruthless mercenary Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Boasting some insane brutality and hilariously outlandish set pieces (keep an eye on the dog, that’s all I’m saying), this is a wickedly enjoyable rollercoaster ride.
Jean Renoir’s meditation on war, La Grange Illusion, receives a deserved 75th anniversary re-release and it still packs an almighty punch. This revered prisoner of war opus influenced such classics as Casablanca and The Great Escape and although its class message may have lost relevance, it still ranks as one of the finest war movies ever committed to celluloid.
Onto Le Havre, a touching comedic drama set in the bleakly industrial eponymous port town in Northern France. Aki Kaurismaki’s tale charts the emergence of an unlikely friendship between boho author Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms) and illegal immigrant Idrissa (Blondin Miguel). Charmingly slight it may be, Le Havre brings pedigree to the table having landed the respected FIPRESCI prize at Cannes.
Playing us out this week is Mirror Mirror, the first of a glut of fairytale inspired films that are due for release this year. No prizes for guessing that Snow White is the source material for this one. Lily Collins, she of the unfathomable eyebrows, plays the fairest of them all, whilst Julia Roberts gleefully luxuriates in her turn as the mischievous Queen. Tarsem Singh’s trademark visual aesthetic ensures this is pretty to look at, but this is very much a case of style over substance.
So, either gorge yourself on visually luscious treats (Titanic, Mirror Mirror) or dip into more rewarding and less saccharine fare (Headhunters, La Grande Illusion, Le Havre). Or, as it’s a holiday, just pig out…