14 February 2020.
ARAB BLUES (Un Divan à Tunis) *** (vo French)
First shown at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, this social comedy received the Audience Award there, mostly due to the radiant Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, who plays Selma, a Tunisian psychoanalyst who has decided to come back home from Paris to practice the profession of Freud in a modest rooftop flat in post-Arab Spring Tunisia.
Writer/Director Manele Labidi has put together a breezy film with a quirky, rousing group of characters who respond in varying measures to the modern manner of Selma trying to promote her trade. When she first arrives, one curious elderly gent asks about the framed portrait she has amongst her luggage. Is the old man her grandfather, and a devout Moslem, he asks. “Actually, he’s Jewish. He’s my boss”, she says. It turns out to be Freud with a bright Fez on his head.
The film continues in this light tone, with all sorts of types, from the police objecting to her receiving men in her flat, to an enthusiastic hairdresser who brings in lots of curious customers. One of them asks if she can guarantee a happy life for her from now on…
Another fellow hears that a French girl receives people on her couch. The eager innocent thinks he’s come to see a prostitute, before Selma tells him to pull up his pants and leave. This salacious scene is treated with a delicate touch and none of the MeToo angst.
And there is of course the frustrating, ongoing promise of “Inshallah” (God willing) versus real action in her search for a valid work permit.
The contrast between the entrenched, traditional ways of old and the way Selma wants to help her country people is both a headache and a delight, and Farahani has the charm and inherent talent to carry it off beautifully. Here’s an Oriental film borne with both pride and empathy on the shoulders of two women, Labidi and Farahani.
(As were also such superb films as “Caparnaum” by the Lebanese Nadine Labaki, and the recent “Adam”, by the Moroccan Maryam Touzani). Onward!
#JESUISLA **1/2 (vo French)
A busy chef (Alain Chabat) with an extended family, a hectic schedule, and a cellular friend in Seoul, decides to just let go of his French life for a bit and visit this intriguing South Korean girl.
Well, it doesn’t all work out as he thought it would as he gets stranded in the huge, modern airport there. But he begins to learn about life beyond himself, and we get see and learn so much about an amazing South Korea and their very different culture. A strange, charming adventure.
LE PRINCE OUBLIÉ * (vo French)
More corny and shoddily-done than this is not possible. Omar Sy, who was quite brilliant in “Intouchables” has not found the same rhythm in the films which he has tried since then.
Maybe he should wait for the right material – script, co-actors, director…
Give this one a miss.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.