Published Jul 01, 2005I suppose I should be thankful that Tony Gatlif's Exils is not a grim and resentful social/realist trudge that feels good for you without actually feeling good. But it very often goes in the opposite direction and becomes utterly ludicrous, trivialising its subject matter in spite of the director's very passionate concern for it.
The action begins abruptly with oversexed ex-musician Zano (Romain Duris) asking his lover Naima (Lubna Azabal) to split France for the Algerian homeland they never knew. What follows is a gorgeously-shot backpacking romp through Spain with a maximum of sexy extrovert digressions in the name of ancestral roots. There are some true nuggets of Diaspora to be sure, and heavy irony when the Westernised duo arrives at their highly Islamic destination, but the actual content has to compete with Gatlif's, shall we say, "demonstrative" attitude towards behaviour and self-expression.
This is the kind of movie where someone ends their music career by entombing their instrument behind bricks and mortar, and most of Zano and Naima's actions are pitched at that high level of melodrama. This would be fine were it not for the fact that they're especially well-drawn, more physical entities than personal ones.
Fan though I am of on-screen boffing, their self-impressed erotic adventures struck me as narcissistically exhibitionist, and as they tend to upstage the other content, one reaches the very emotional finish line wondering exactly what the protagonists are actually doing all their crying, screaming and trancing about.
To be fair, the film is never, ever dull and looks great in every shot, but it doesn't leave you with much beyond some thesis statement plums imbedded in the richest, most headache-inducing pudding on earth. (Mongrel Media)