Let us embark on a jaunt around the Med. Now I doubt very much if I’ll ever do it again myself in real life, but I can dream and every so often, totter along to the State and view cinematic offerings from that part of the world. And I have done exactly that this past month – gone all European.
The best of the trio I espied, to my way of thinking, came from the mid-Med – from Italy. The movie in question has had a mixed response from critics out here, but ‘God Willing’ was a smash hit in its home country and I loved it. It opens with a family gathering together for an important announcement from the son, Adrian (Enrico Oetiker), whom they strongly suspect is about to announce that he is gay. But instead of coming out of the closet he wants to go back in – in the form of a confessional. All are stunned when he reveals his plans to join the priesthood. Dad (Marco Giallini) is particularly mortified. After all, the remote and non-empathetic surgeon expected the lad to follow his brilliant footsteps into the medical profession. Great subterfuge needs to be entered into to prevent such a foolish decision from actually taking place. What the pompous doctor gets up to in achieving his aim is a joy to behold. A hipster priest and a dullard of a son-in-law add to the fun. Many have considered the ending remiss in not completely tying it all together, but perhaps that is the point. Writer/director Edoardo Falcone gives the audience such a good time with his lightness of touch in the bright Mediterranean sunshine of this production.
Across we go now to the eastern end of the briny that divides continents. In fact, even a tad further – to the shores of the Black Sea. A Turkish offering, from director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, also delivers a lightness of touch, but still includes the deep and meaningfuls on a serious topic in that part of the Muslim world – the treatment of young girls. That ‘Mustang’ is Ms Ergüven’s debut project is a credit to her with such sensitive material. Despite the pronouncements of the Turkish leader, this is a more westernised nation than those further east, but still, in the remoter areas, family honour is all. So when the five daughters go romping, fully attired, in the surf with some likely lads the local snitch informs their grandmother and uncle – the girls’ carers as their parents have died. Life, therefore, as they knew it is about to change. First come the virginity tests. They, proving negative, do not allay the shame so they are virtually placed under house arrest – with renovations ensuing to make escape mighty difficult. But these feisty young ladies don’t take it lying down. They still find ways to circumvent the additions to make bids into the wider world for freedom. So the next solution to erase their depravity and to reestablish their good standing is marrying the girls off. This works out well for one, but for the others the prospect is unbearable, so wilder escape plans are hatched. It is not helped that the uncle is regularly abusing one of their number – with a horrible outcome. Can those remaining have the wherewithal to put their plans for permanent escape into action? The harrowing run for it is the climax of the film as it turns decidedly darker in tone
The fine young actresses, playing the girls, sparkle in their roles and I read that it was made outside of Turkey because of its subject matter. It sure takes the lid off the generational differences in that country on the fraught question of the place of women in the society. It is a state in transition, the trouble is we do not know yet which route Turkey will take. Despite all this, love still abounds in ‘Mustang’. It deserved its nomination for an Oscar earlier in ’16.
Lastly we head back west, to France, to meet one of the dourest of characters to ever (dis)grace the screen. Pierre (Stanislas Merhar ), in Philippe Garrel’s ‘In the Shadow of Women’, with partner, Manon (Clotilde Courau), are struggling documentary makers. She is very much in his shadow – thus the title. It all reminded me of the kitchen sink dramas of another era, filmed, as it was, in grainy black and white. The only flicker of feeling in this brief (72 minutes) production came at the end as the credits rolled. Pierre can’t resist an affair with another film worker and when Manon follows suit, he is miffed to the max and demands she cease all contact with her lover. She duly follows instructions, but he becomes paranoid, stalking her around their unappealing part of Paris. Of course he feels it’s his right to continue to bed his lady on the side. There is little love involved and why on earth would another woman be attracted to Pierre was beyond me – just pure carnality I suspect. There is zilch of your typical French sexiness involved with this and the main characters have zilch to recommend themselves to us. Despite its joylessness it was popular with the punters in its country of origin – but it did nothing for me.
So that completes our little jaunt – one movie to cherish, one to mull over and one that will be forgotten in a nano-second. C’est la vie.
Trailer ‘God Willing’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyqSHKH-E4c
Trailer ‘Mustang’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU9JAN8LtIk
Trailer ‘In the Shadow of Women’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiOnxv30iHk