Political Film Review #482

The lumber harvest from jungles has seriously damaged the world ecosystem while disrupting lives of those who have lived for generations amid pristine conditions, foraging for themselves while respecting the environment. One such place, along the Río Parana in Argentina, is featured in the Argentine-Brazilian film El Ardor, though no titles at the beginning inform filmviewers of that context. Instead, Director Pablo Fendrik focuses on efforts of lumber company agents to bully landowners into relinquishing ownership of their property. The film begins with one such extortion, the murder of the landowner, and the kidnapping of Vania, the landowner’s daughter (played by Alice Braga), while the hero of the film, Kaí (Gael García Bernal), hides and survives. Somehow Kaí later liberates Vania and later recaptures the signed deed transfer. They return to Vania’s house to stand their ground along with a third person who has defected from the gun-slinging mercenaries. The three then set a trap for the return of the mercenaries despite knowing that other bullies will be along later. The most fascinating subplot in-volves the behavior of the jungle jaguar, who respects Kaí and Vania, sensing that they are try-ing to protect the only habitat in which the animal can survive. Kaí, in other words, plays the role of an avenging Tarzan. MH

Conan Doyle’s novels have been made into excellent films, so how can Sherlock Holmes appear in another movie? The answer is Mr. Holmes, directed by Bill Condon and based on a novel by Mitch Cullin, which depicts a retired 90-year-old Holmes (played by Ian McKellen) in Sussex living with a housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her precocious son Roger (Milo Parker) in 1947. According to the pseudobiopic, Doyle was trying to depict the real Holmes and made up the pipe, deerstalker cap, and various mystery plots; filmviewers are also led to believe that Dr. Watson has already passed on. Most of the action in Mr. Holmes revolves around the relationship between tottering Holmes and eager-to-learn Roger. When Holmes introduces Roger to bee farming, he finds a mystery—that many bees are dying from an unknown cause. Roger wants to solve the mystery, but runs into trouble until Holmes solves the puzzle. Meanwhile, there is flashback to a male client whose wife is acting strangely—that is, until Holmes stalks her and is able to report a simple explanation. And a subplot involves a short trip to Japan to collect an important herb, perhaps a final delicacy to enjoy as his life slips away. However, audiences who may expect a fascinating crime story, a “Great Scott!” insight, and a “not a moment to lose“ dash to prevent an untimely death will find the film unsatisfactory. MH