You would never guess that “Holy Spider” comes from Ali Abbasi, the Iranian-born director who made “Border,” the Swedish-Danish fantasy movie from 2018. The filmmaking itself hews to a fairly pedestrian crime movie style. The film’s force comes almost entirely from its moral outrage. Saeed’s family members barely bat an eye at his actions, and the film ends, chillingly, with the killer character’s son offering a defense of his father’s efficiency in ridding society of “corrupt women.” “Holy Spider” is not a great movie, but it is an appropriately sickening one.
In French, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s “Forever Young“ is being called “Les Amandiers,” a better title, since it is inspired by Bruni Tedeschi’s experiences in the 1980s training as an actress at the Théâtre des Amandiers, just outside of Paris. And maybe chalk it up to the youthful energy of the cast—Nadia Tereszkiewicz plays the lead, Stella, seemingly Bruni Tedeschi’s surrogate—but the movie races from one breakthrough to another. Stella and her friends have barely made the cut to join the school when they’re suddenly in New York to train at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. They are just as suddenly back in France again. Drugs enter the picture almost immediately, and Stella’s boyfriend, Etienne (Sofiane Bennacer), endures a long and predictable decline from heroin.
Of more interest is Louis Garrel’s turn as Patrice Chéreau, the real-life stage and screen director (“Intimacy“) who died in 2013. In the movie, Chéreau casts this troupe in Chekhov’s “Platonov,” hoping his young actors will bring interesting inflections to an early Chekhov play. “Forever Young” sometimes seems to view its own characters through the rosy tint of nostalgia. At the beginning, when a group of 40 aspiring actors is being whittled to 12, none of the major characters fails to make the cut. There’s surprisingly little infighting over parts. But the jaunty tone turns glib when the actors, who have all fallen into bed with one another, have a collective AIDS scare. But “Forever Young” is the sort of sprawling seriocomedy in which that level of terror barely causes a ripple.