Fam­ily he­roes and Marvel hero­ics

A son traces his fa­ther’s real-life spy ad­ven­tures, while a new su­per­hero saves the world

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&books -



BRI­TISH FILM­MAKER Stu­art Ur­ban’s deeply af­fect­ing doc­u­men­tary, which seeks to un­cover the truth about his fa­ther Garri’s past, of­ten seems too in­cred­i­ble to be real.

Ur­ban Se­nior, born in a Pol­ish shtetl in 1916, qual­i­fied as a doc­tor. While at­tempt­ing to swim an icy river from Soviet ter­ri­tory to Ro­ma­nia af­ter the 1939 Nazi in­va­sion, he was shot by Rus­sian snipers and sent to a gu­lag in the Arc­tic Cir­cle. He suc­ceeded in es­cap­ing in 1940 and, amaz­ingly, be­came head of the health ser­vice in Ukraine, en­joyed a ro­mance with Moscow fash­ion-mag­a­zine ed­i­tor Noka Kapran­pova, was re­ar­rested, im­pris­oned and tor­tured by the KGB be­fore ab­scond­ing yet again in 1946, pos­ing as a Ger­man pris­oner of war and es­cap­ing to the West.

In 1992, af­ter the fall of the Iron Cur­tain, fa­ther and son trav­elled to search out and record sig­nif­i­cant as­pects of his past. It was a quest that bril­liantly il­lu­mi­nated Garri’s char­ac­ter, most no­tably in his re­union with his for­mer lover Noka af- ter 50 years. The jour­ney, which forms the ba­sis of this su­perb doc­u­men­tary, brought fa­ther and son closer to­gether (“I’m do­ing this for you, son,” says Garri dur­ing an emo­tion­ally bruis­ing dis­cus­sion) while still leav­ing key per­sonal ques­tions unan­swered. Af­ter Garri’s death in 2004, Stu­art re­turned to the project, in­ter­view­ing Garri’s for­mer lover, Noka. The fi­nal film, in­te­grat­ing home movies, footage of sor­ties into post-Com­mu­nist Rus­sia and new in­ter­views, makes un­miss­able view­ing.



PRO­DUCER AVI Arad, who suc­cess­fully helped spawn su­per­hero hits like Spi­der-Man, X Men and The Fan­tas­tic Four, suc­ceeds again as yet an­other char­ac­ter from the seem­ingly end­less li­brary of Marvel Comics soars into the sky.

The screen­play keeps up with cur­rent af­fairs by hav­ing play­boy arms bil­lion­aire Tony Stark (played with rel­ish by Robert Downey Jr) de­vis­ing the pro­to­type of his in­vin­ci­ble ar­moured suit while held cap­tive by ter­ror­ists in Afghanistan.

Stark es­capes and de­cides to seek re­demp­tion by as­sum­ing the iden­tity of Iron Man, a dan­ger­ous fly­ing avenger. His cli­mac­tic bat­tle with evil as­so­ci­ate Oba­diah (an un­recog­nis­able bald and bearded Jeff Bridges) is one of the ex­cit­ing ac­tion high­lights staged with gusto by di­rec­tor Jon Favreau and his ex­cel­lent spe­cial ef­fects team.

Ac­tion, some witty di­a­logue and an en­ter­tain­ing sense of the ridicu­lous, is the name of the game here, and Iron Man de­liv­ers. Gwyneth Pal­trow brings in­nate charm to her some­what un­der­writ­ten part as Stark’s right-hand-girl Pep­per Potts, a role des­tined to be beefed up in the in­evitable se-


Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man

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