Vers le sud Laurent Cantet

After so many smug liberal consciousness-raisers like In My Country and The Beautiful Country, Vers le sud is a refreshing blast of tropical storm. Set in the late 1970s, it weaves an incredibly complex tale of three middle-aged women (the sappy Karen Young, the ruthlessly condescending Charlotte Rampling and the easygoing Louise Portal) who come to Haiti for the young, desperate men they pay for sex. Actually, it's just one man (played by Menothy Cesar) that commands their attention, and varying degrees of real love and high-handed superiority are lavished upon him, though they refuse to see the real exploitation that's going on. Though the film is a French-Canadian co-production based on novels by Dany Laferriere, you thank God that nobody Canadian directed it. They would almost certainly have flubbed the sensitive portrayal of the women, which understands their feelings of age-related rejection while refusing to justify their venting on people who can't fight back. Its only real flaw is one of subject positioning; I would have liked more from Cesar's point of view, because as it stands he's talked about by others more than he gets to speak for himself. But there's no way you can walk out of the theatre feeling smug. It's that rarest of rare beasts, a condemnation of colonial abuses that doesn't congratulate you for being clever or assume that you have nothing to do with what's going on. This is Laurent Cantet's first film in the four years since his triumph Time Out, and though it's not quite as good as that film it was definitely worth the wait. (Seville)