“Last Duel” is more than a sword fight

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This week’s major movie releases bring together former opponents and two Boston buddies.

Jamie Lee Curtis gets confused with his nemesis Michael Myers (no relation to this writer) in “Halloween Kills”, while the Oscar-winning screenwriting duo of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon is featured, along with Nicole Holofcener, in “The Last Duel. , ”Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Damon and Affleck.

Here’s a rundown of what to watch this week, including a trio of standout documentaries released on streaming services.

“The last duel”: Telling a story about a crime from different angles is nothing new. Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” remains the classic example of taking this approach and doing it right. But screenwriters Holofcener, Affleck, and Damon also deserve their due, nimbly manipulating a delicate narrative structure in this gripping and infuriating story he / he / she said of alleged rape in 14th-century France. Veteran director Ridley Scott (“Alien”, “Gladiator”) proves equally adept at handling difficult material, reimagining what happened according to each of the three key players.

Scott focuses on small but revealing details – such as the blinking of an eyelid – as well as broader implications for unfolding conflicting interpretations of a couple’s sex life. What remains constant is the disturbing fact that men consider women little more than maids to whet their appetites. Prepare for challenging scenes, including two explicit but never gratuitous reenactments of the alleged rape. Although “Last Duel” may have lost at least 10 minutes compared to its duration of 2.5 hours, the exceptional ensemble of the cast anchored by Jodie Comer keeps us engaged. The story is framed in three chapters, each culminating in the sexual assault of Marguerite (Comer), wife of Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), burdened with taxes, by the handsome and arrogant rake Jacques Le Gris (an Adam Driver exceptional), the former friend of Jean. Devotees of “Gladiator” will be delighted by the occasional explosions of Scott playing sword and arrow. But “Duel”, based on real events, is more concerned with battles fought in puppet houses and courts. “Duel” draws its richest blood not from the climatic duel itself (well staged) but from its portrayal of Marguerite’s violation and reactions to it, a smirk from King Charles VI (Alex Lawther ) and a sneer from Jacques ‘high-buddy’ – Comte Pierre d’Alençon (Affleck, in blond mode). Details: 3 out of 4 stars; in theaters October 15.

“Convergence: courage in crisis”: As COVID-19 remains a deadly global presence, do we really need to revisit the first few months of a pandemic that remains so fresh in our minds? Yes, when documentary filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel (“Virunga”, “The White Helmets”) is at the helm. What makes this poignant and surprisingly inspiring documentary so extraordinary is its intimate retelling of nine stories about people of color, ranging from a committed volunteer helping ambulances locate the sick in a Brazilian slum to an overworked Miami doctor. helping the homeless population. It is one of the best documentaries of 2021. Details: 4 stars ; available on Netflix.

“Jacinta”: As Ron Howard’s “Hillbilly Elegy” reduced poor rural America to a Hollywood cliché, this terrific Hulu documentary on drug addiction is grounded in reality. It’s a seamless portrayal of a Maine mother caught in a never-ending cycle of lies, theft and drug addiction. Filmmaker Jessica Earnshaw got unprecedented access from 26-year-old Jacinta, the camera is still there to represent her attempts to stop and go to stay clean after being released from the Maine Correctional Center. The game is stacked against her, thanks to “friends” who are facilitators and a mother with a rap sheet making time in the same dungeon. The scenes between Jacinta and her daughter Caylynn are meant to break you. My only complaint is that the documentary sprints too fast towards the end. Details: 3½ stars; available on Hulu.

“The velvet metro”: Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”, “Dark Waters”) puts his innovative imprint on documentary on rock bands, a genre often given to the less than enlightening gush. Haynes certainly respects one of rock’s most influential groups, but that doesn’t stop him from watching the discord between its nervous members (Lou Reed comes across as a genius of temper) while acknowledging their artistic successes. Told in impressionist, avant-garde flourishes that reflect the adventurous creative landscape of 1960s New York City, the inhabited “Underground” is as much a statement of the era as the personalities of those involved. Details: 4 stars ; opens October 15 in select theaters and on AppleTV +; also screened Oct. 17 at the Mill Valley Film Festival with Haynes in Conversation on stage, www.mvff.com.

“Muppets Haunted Mansion”: If the “Addams Family 2” hasn’t really left you snapping your fingers, turn to Disney + for this Halloween-themed deal. With original songs – the best being the one performed by Darren Criss among the tombstones, “Rest in Peace” – and plenty of cameos (including the late Edward Asner) – this 93-minute treat finds the great Gonzo ready to do anything Team up with the smarmy King Prawn to spend a terror-filled night in The Haunted Mansion, one of Disney’s themed rides. Will Arnett, Yvette Nicole Brown and Taraji P. Henson seem to be having fun and making it all irresistible, just like the Muppets. Details: 3 stars ; available on Disney +.

“To fall out”: Shorter than “Haunted Mansion,” but sure to make you cry, AppleTV + ‘s 14 minute short film – a husband’s memory of his wife and mother of his children. This Skydance animated film is a special, wordless portrayal of love and loss taking place on a desolate planet that is enriched by the presence of a spiritual being who has the ability to transform the earth and the lives of another astronaut. It is absolutely lovely. Details: 3½ stars; available on AppleTV +.

“Mass”: In this quadruple bedroom room, the still stunned parents (Reed Birney and Ann Dowd) of a deceased high school gunman meet in a church hall with the parents (Jason Issacs and Martha Plimpton) of a slain son. in the attack. The goal is not only to better understand how it happened, but to share the grieving and healing process. Actor Fran Kranz’s writing and directing beginnings make for an uncomfortable and often torturous film. The acting is remarkable with Isaacs and Plimpton giving it all as distraught parents who don’t always want to be in this room. But even though “Mass” ‘s intentions stemming from the 2018 Parkland, Florida shooting are well intentioned, the storyline looks miserable and spurious and seems to cry out at us at every turn. Details: 2 stars, opens October 15 in select cinemas.

“Bergman Island”: You don’t have to be a follower of iconic Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman to swoon over this adventurous and always surprising ode to the capricious art of creativity. But it would help. Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth are a delight as a filmmaker couple in search of a creative mojo on the island of Faro, the setting for many of Bergman’s most notable works. Director Mia Hansen-Love’s lively tribute has many layers to unravel with the side story. Everything is told in a fun way and with a masterful touch. Details: 3½ stars; in theaters on October 15; available to stream on October 22.

“The rescue”: Leave it to Oscar-winning director duo Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (“Free Solo”) to make us squirm in our seats. Their latest documentary is intense as it immerses us in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand to catalog the daring 2018 recovery of 12 teenagers and their football coach. As heartbreaking as it is moving, “The Rescue” tells the story of a perilous mission that has turned cave divers into heroes. You will want to stand up and cheer at the end. Details: 3½ stars; in theaters October 15.

Contact Randy Myers at soitsrandy@gmail.com.


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