Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Exiles
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.
6th December, 2004
[seen 5th November : Ster Century, Leeds : public show : Leeds Film Festival]
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by Neil Young