Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Exiles

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

EXILES

6/10

Exils : France 2004 : Tony GATLIF : 104 mins

  • First shot is best: the body, a slow zoom, a window. Music pounding: “Injustice! Dictatorship! Terrorism! Upheaval!”
  • Topical, timely, sensitive.
  • Unfolds at idiosyncratic pace dictated not by usual screenwriting concerns but by rhythms of director’s own moods, music.
  • Role of editor crucial: Monique Dartonne is she.
  • Peaks and troughs: energy bursts and saggy dips.
  • Shaggily amiable picaresque roadmovie.
  • Their impulsive flight south in search of roots / identity. Algeria is destination.
  • Contracorrente: Africans moving north to Europe. Against the flow.
  • Travellers and returners. Lingua franca: dance.
  • Easy-on-the-eye couple: him – foxfaced, triblied ex-musician, vulpine grins. “I never touched the violin again.” But propelled by music. Her – Naima – “I’m a stranger everywhere”
  • Folks encountered: wealth and generosity/friendliness in inverse proportions. Penniless give all.
  • Whitmanistic yawp, celebration of life.
  • Heat, dust, crowds, post-quake rubble.
  • He walks across a square, kicking bottles, their tinkling music, a grace note.
  • Songs and dances and the drop of a trilby. Music is all around.
  • More conventional plot developments don’t work so well: her roving eye, impulsive infidelity.
  • Anachronistic, romantic, freespirited air.
  • Somewhat underpowered… Gatlif’s own style not quite so free and impulsive as that which he celebrates.
  • “My religion’s music.”
  • Worthy air… cultural fusions. Handy nothing’s been touched in his family’s old house.
  • Penultimate scene a frenzy of dervish-like dancing: beyond acting, beyond cinema. Audaciously extended take. “You must refind yourself”. Wild, exorcism-like vitus dance.
  • Coda. Bathos. Walkman on gravestone, she peels an orange.
  • The pulse of life, q.ch. comme ca.

Neil Young

6th December, 2004
[seen 5th November : Ster Century, Leeds : public show : Leeds Film Festival]

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by Neil Young