Archive for November 28th, 2010

The film begins where it ends, nearly on this still both times: the last day of the existence of the plantation when it goes into a pitch of violent conflagration (Isabelle Hubbert as Maria Vial)

Dear friends and readers,

As with my blog on Stephen Frears’s (et aliae) Tamara Drew, I’m hurrying to post about this movie in a short sketch because I want to recommend the film quickly. It does not seem to be in any danger of disappearing, but thus far in my area (I mean all of DC, near Maryland and Virginia), only one movie-house is screening it. When Izzy and I arrived, the auditorium was almost full and we almost had to watch it from the second row (eyes and back pushed back against the seat to see the screen from even a minimally decent perspective), until I glimpsed 2 seats together another row back and we grabbed those.

This is not a film for the weak-minded or piously (in any direction) sentimental. It’s strong and good stuff: showing what happens when a country is driven into civil war, and the hatreds and resentments of years of oppression for the majority are allowed to emerge full blast. It goes further: it will make you pause about the world around you — or at least it did me. As we walked out of the theater and made out way to a near Metro we passed this flamboyantly palace-like buildings with their expensive decorations and lights and exclusive obstacles and I thought to myself, these stand there because the minority of people owning and inhabiting them taking up so much of the world’s wealth, as the US since WW2 destroyed each and every social movement it could and thus thrust land after land into ferocious crazed civil wars.

The heroine’s crazed son, unable to cope (Nicolas Duvauchelle as Manuel)

The thing was it did not feel like an exaggeration; all that happened — the story line (which I’ll fill in later) was prosaically probable and much of it dreadful.

The heroine’s husband demanding that she leave at long last now, with him; he has taken the last of the gasoline for the truck he hopes to escape in; she insists will stay, that there is nothing else anywhere for her (Christopher Lambert as Andre Vial)

The acting by Isabelle Hubbert was superb — so too all who supported her. It is she who fights what is going on around her by pretending to ignore it, and repeatedly denying its importance, indeed its very reality. She will not listen to anyone describe her naturally layabout son who has no school to go to, nor job to have. Interestingly, there was little talk in this film, as there might not have been much in such a situation, in a way making the job of acting harder. The attached review centers on the white characters; the black characters are important but it is true that those we get to know individually most (the heroine, her son, her husband) are white and except for a few outstanding types I could not tell their names or suggest their stories. One of these is Boxer, a man our heroine apparently had a liaison with who has fled to her house to die from wounds and is being sought by many parties in order to murder him).

As with the 2009 film Small Island and Tamara Drewe, this is a woman’s film using the same criteria. The source is again a woman: Denis’s memories of what she saw and read (she grew up in the French Cameroons), and elements from Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing. The director and some producers are women, the screenplay is by a woman; the central figure here more strongly and emphatically than the other two is is a woman.

I bring in earlier revolutions briefly because what we see has general application: I suspect it was not much different in the provinces in France in the 1790s (nor in the capital during the so-called reign of terror) or in the British Isles in the later 1640s, where I have read a couple of the few accounts that survive of servants at last getting back, and finally the White Russian civil wars (Pasternak’s and Lean and Davies’s territory in their differing Dr Zhivago).


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