A Word from the Editor
A common thread in the films reviewed this month is friendship: visceral friendships that call on loyalties, sometimes with dramatic consequences.
In the Buzz, Marco Deyasi reviews Cézanne et moi, a film that explores the relationship between Emile Zola and Paul Cézanne. They met as schoolboys in Aix-en-Provence and moved to Paris to seek fame and fortune. While Zola made it, Cézanne struggled for years to come up with a style that satisfied him. Their friendship disintegrated with the publication of Zola’s The Masterpiece whose portrait of the mad, failed artist borrowed from Cézanne’s life. While the dynamic is well rendered, Deyasi regrets the film’s lack of investment in the creative process itself.
Divines, this month’s Maybe Missed, takes us to today’s banlieue where two black teenagers desperately try to escape poverty. They latch onto the readily available option of selling drugs and get in way over their heads. The angrier of the two young women is offered a chance to escape by following a new boyfriend’s dance troupe on tour. This hope is shattered when she chooses to save her best friend from a vengeful female dope-dealer. Thibault Schilt reminds us that director Houda Benyamina’s reversal of the “standard” gender roles of banlieue cinema is part of a new movement. Her women are tough and violent, and the male gaze is replaced here with an erotically charged female gaze.
While Divines ends with the riots of 2005, the1993 demonstrations against police brutality take place off-stage in Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine. The film begins in their immediate aftermath and follows three friends over the next 24 hours: one white (and Jewish), one black, and one brown (North African). The film has become iconic for its sympathetic approach to the dead-end lives of its multi-racial characters, for its demonstration of the prejudice they encounter, especially in Paris, and for its analysis of the spiral of violence that engulfs them. Michael Gott describes how Kassovitz’s macho version reinforces clichés about the banlieue even as it seeks to challenge them.
University at Buffalo, SUNY