Timbuktu (2014)

Timbuktu is set in the Malian city of that name (albeit filmed in the director’s native Mauritania) as ISIS militants ride into town to take control. This sounds like a deeply depressing subject matter — and there certainly is a lot to be depressed by — yet the film manages to find an affecting balance between two apparently disparate emotional registers (comic and tragic). There’s a tension between these fundamentalists and their set ideas, and the reality which they face in the quietly observant population, who have little desire to change their ways — nor indeed, as their imam puts it to the fundamentalist leader, any real religious failing they need to correct. And so, as the film goes on, the wry comedy and easy laughter of the early sections — small acts of defiance towards the occupiers (a football game without a ball, singing and playing music at night) — tips towards revulsion at the way the fundamentalists push their largely pointless agenda and punish the locals. In some ways what’s most difficult to deal with, but which also allows a small potential for hope, is that everyone in the film has a basic humanity, and has reasons for acting the way they do. The ISIS leaders show a willingness to talk issues over, while also being unable to always live up to their own ideals (the leader played by Abel Jafri sneaks away to smoke a furtive cigarette at one point). Meanwhile, the locals have their faults too: one of the big dramatic arcs in the film deals with Ibrahim Ahmed’s cattle herder Kidane, who accidentally kills a fellow townsman in a petty squabble. If there’s no black-and-white judgements on display here, there is instead a certain moral clarity: bad people sometimes do decent things, and vice versa, but they still approach the world and its problems in fundamentally different ways. It’s the resistance to the occupiers’ petty bureaucratic mindset that the film valorises, and which continues to resound after the film has finished.


© Le Pacte

NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW
Director Abderrahmane Sissako | Writers Abderrahmane Sissako and Kessen Tall | Cinematographer Sofian El Fani | Starring Ibrahim Ahmed [as “Ibrahim Ahmed dit Pino”], Abel Jafri | Length 96 minutes || Seen at BFI Southbank (NFT2), London, Tuesday 2 June 2015

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La Vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 & 2 (Blue Is the Warmest Colour, 2013)


NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Director Abdellatif Kechiche | Writer Ghalia Lacroix (based on the graphic novel Le Bleu est une couleur chaude by Julie Maroh) | Cinematographer Sofian El Fani | Starring Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux | Length 180 minutes | Seen at Cineworld Haymarket, London, Monday 25 November 2013 || My Rating 4 stars excellent


© Wild Bunch

There has been, it must be said, a lot written about this new movie, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes film festival, and very little of it has particularly engaged with the film itself. Which suggests that the film’s most famous scene between the two female protagonists was a little bit of canny marketing to generate column inches. That aside (and I’ll deal with that particular scene later in my review), “The Life of Adèle: Chapters 1 & 2” — it takes its English title from the graphic novel from which it is adapted — is a bold and compelling coming of age film focused on one young woman growing up in the suburban fringes of Lille, a city in France which lies near the border with Belgium.

Continue reading “La Vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 & 2 (Blue Is the Warmest Colour, 2013)”