Young men make tough, clear choices in 'Shéhérazade' and 'Sauvage'
In this month's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams meets artists from two French feature films. Both stories about the rougher or tougher side of life: Shéhérazade and Sauvage.
In the sunny port of Marseille, director Jean-Bernard Marlin sets a true-story based on the experiences of teenagers who roam the streets in less salubrious areas and hang out with local, and barely older gang-leaders in housing estates near the city limits.
Marlin cast Dylan Robert who'd just been released from a deliquent's centre in real life, as his hero, Zac. Not a professional actor, but with charm and vitality, able to convey different emotions from joy to anger to love and Robert should be well on his way after this first on-camera try.
Marlin's leading lady, Kenza Fortas who plays the title role, makes a huge impact in her debut role. She incarnates a street-wise character, forced to grow up before her time, who after cracking tough deals in exchange for her body, falls asleep in Zac's arms like a baby.
With the city by night and by day as a backdrop, these unbridled youths seem to take possession of the streets, becoming involved in violent as well as petty crime.
The camera seems to be constantly on the go. Marlin stays close to Zac and Shéhérazade as they take on eastern European gangsters, local gangsters and disinterested parents.
The story could take place in any other city or any other region says the director, "I researched the background to the true love story that took place in Marseille between a very young prostitute and the boy who became her pimp. That was just the starting point. Afterwards I went to the areas where the prostitutes were. I talked to many of the yong girls, and then I dramatised the situations for my screenplay."
Marlin, admits an affinity with the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini, "especially his first two films, Amaroma and Accatone where he worked with actors who had no previous experience, and people we don't often see in cinema. Also Elia Kazan, for his ambiguous relationships and contradictions in the characters, like in America, Amercia or On the Waterfront... I think my main character is not so dissimilar to the main character in On the Waterfront [Marlon Brando].
Without giving the game away, one reason he chose a happy ending was to prevent his first feature (after an award-winning short called Fugue or Runaway) falling into the banality of real-life.
Martel's colonial, absurd and splendid 'Zama' and Silver's rare Franco-US coprod 'Thirst Street'
In this month's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams tells curious film-watchers about two arresting June and July releases in France, Argentinian film Zama and US-French Thirst Street.
Lav Diaz's dark Season of the Devil, Samuel Collardey's luminous A Polar Year
In this month's Cinefile Rosslyn Hyams meets French director Samuel Pollardey who filmed a year in Greenland for Une Année Polaire (A Polar Year), and Lav Diaz, Filipino director of Season of the Devil, a four-hour film entirely sung, shot in black and white, which is more 'scuro' than 'chiaro'.
Cannes Film Festival awards and The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir
Cinefile with RFI's Rosslyn Hyams takes a look back at some of the main features of the Cannes Film Festival this month, a bumper edition in many ways. Also a feelgood pic pools India and French production talent in just released The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir directed by Ken Scott.
The 2018 Cannes International Film Festival jury headed by actress and women's rights activist Cate Blanchett gave the Golden Palm to Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu's 13th feature, Shoplifters. The jury usually awards seven prizes but this year was special in that it awarded nine.
The Best Scenario Palm went to to two best scripts, Alicia Rohrwacher's Happy as Lazarro and Jafar Panahi's 3 Faces which is one of the first Palm winners to go on general release in France since the festival, on 3 June 2018.
A special one-off award was given to 87-year-old Jean-Luc Godard for his work, and for his intellectually and emotionally stimulating film entry in the Palm competition this year, The Image Book where he plays as much with sound levels as with images, colour and form.
Besides the strong films from across the world which won the prizes, and some others which didn't, the festival pulled off a change of media focus.
Ahead of the festival, screening time changes were not well-received and doomsday commentators thought the end was nigh because of this and other novelties. But, once into the event, action to further the cause of women's rights stepped into the spotlight, and the Cannes International Film Festival rediscovered its former glory.
Two high-profile women-power demonstrations at peak viewing time, the at least-50-per-cent satisfying selection, as well as clinched deals in the market section, proved that the festival can thrive. It doesn't need former US producer Harvey Weinstein, now in the eye of the sexual-abuse and harrassement storm.
Review - The Fakir's Extraordinary Voyage
Looking for a charming but not entirely soppy film? The Fakir's Extraordinary Voyage could be the one to liven your spirits.
Canadian Ken Scott of Delivery Man and Starbuck-fame has directed this Franco-Indian-Belgian coproduction, blessed by Sony International Pictures.
As the hero says, "Chance is in the hand of cards that life deals you," and the production seems to be quite lucky to get such a boost.
The hero Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod, performed by southern Indian actor, Dhanush, is a showman, and Dhanush's energy level and expressions keep the romcom on the move.
As in a fairy-tale, Scott makes the impossible possible. He also makes fun out of difficult situations. Aja, the conman-tourist's life is a roller-coaster. Even when the hero is about to be deported from the UK as an illegal immigrant, Scott throws in a singing policeman routine.
High points in The Fakir's Extraordinary Journey are some examples of Indian cinema's legendary dance routines, which Dhanush mixes with a touch of Michael Jackson and Saturday Night Fever nostalgia whisking Bérénice Béjo round a green- and purple-lit disco, postcard pretty scenes in Paris and Rome, the "I don't think I'm a lesbian" flat-mate-in-pyjamas scene, the singing policeman, and the way Scott has us laugh along with would-be migrants.
The director also observes the hardships of migrants from Africa or elsewhere as they are shunted around and back to square one, if not worse.
"If we get people to think about what the migrants go through and to realise that they are the same as everybody else, then we will have accomplished something," said Scott who also told me that he was sought out so that he would bring his trademark humour to the film.
Released in France on 31 May 2018.
Is Gemma Arterton a happy woman; Walid Mattar follows the Northern Wind
In this month's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams meets British actress and producer Gemma Arterton for her new film The Escape, directed by Dominic Savage, and Walid Mattar for his Franco-Tunisian film Vent du Nord (Northern Wind).
THE ESCAPE -UNE FEMME HEUREUSE
The Escape (Une Femme Heureuse) reads like a short story with train-ride views instead of an illustrated page inserted before each chapter. Editing speeds up the family routine and disrupts the monotony. What is happiness and how do you find it?
"It's an honest film. It's not necessarily an easy one to watch. It's quite a taboo subject, talking about a woman who leaves her children..."
Tara, played by Gemma Arterton, is married (her husband is played by Dominic Cooper). However, she is pulling away from him even though he beleives he has everthingl he needs to be happy - wife, kids, house, car, and job.
Tara flails around from the beginning of the film until she reaches for the cross-Channel train and a pokey hotel room in Paris. Inevitably, she embarks on a romantic interlude in Paris with Jalil Lespert whose footloose character has his own baggage.
The film is realistic, but the paring down of the elements packs an emotional punch and drama. "I think even the happiest of couples may go through difficult times," Arterton says.
The audience is left with even more questions than they did at the outset, the most sallient of which is Tara 'Une Femme Heureuse', a happy woman?
VENT DU NORD - NORTHERN WIND
Walid Mattar's Vent du Nord, Northern Wind blows industry from the north.
Mattar's film is constantly moving and offers brief pauses for thought with aerial views of a container ship sailing from the top of the screen to the bottom and vice versa.
Throughout the film, Mattar asks about what the people who live in these physically different places have in common.
It stars Corinne Masiero as a swimming pool cleaner flogging her husband's fishing catch to colleagues, and Philippe Rebbot as her husband trying to rebound after miserable lay-off pay-off.
Kacey Mottet-Klein is their school-leaver son who chooses what ironically appeals as a 'secure' job away from his economically depressed home area. Nineteen-year-old Mottet-Klein has already shown his versatility after playing the 18th century Spanish, Prince Louis role in last year's The Exchange of the Princesses where Lambert Wilson played his father, the mad King Philippe.
Mattar's social-realism film bears traces of Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake, but is not as dark.
Mattar captures and contrasts the northern sea and sky colours of the region on the English Channel around Calais, with the sunnier southern side of the Mediterranean.
"The optimism in the film lies [in the fact] that any 'normal' human being wants to keep going. The question I'm asking is whether in the current system are human beings important," he says.
There are two cultures and two stages of economic development. Mattar manages to find commonalities between the two in his search for humanity.
The grass is always greener even when there are pebbles and sand.