Cult movie releases reviewed by Ian Johnston

Cult Movie Releases on DVD – reviews by Ian Johnston

Before The Revolution (Bernardo Bertolucci; starring: Francesco Barilli, Adriana Asti, Cristina Pariset. 12A cert, 106 mins. Released: 22nd August.)

Bertolucci’s second movie, released in 1964, is very much of its time but remains well worth watching for its highly impressive stylistic flair and ravishing visual beauty. Aged just 22, Bertolucci had made an impact with his 1962 debut picture The Grim Reaper, written by his mentor the legendary director Pier Paolo Pasolini. But it was Before The Revolution (which garnered the Cannes Critics’ week Prize in ’64) that really established Bertolucci as a director of note, who would go on to direct such modern classics as The Conformist (1970) and Last Tango In Paris (1972).
Bertolucci’s Before The Revolution is partly semi-autobiographical and very loosely based upon the 1839 novel by Stendhal, The Charthouse Of Parma. A young bourgeois man named Fabrizio (Francesco Barilli), living in Parma, Italy, during 1962, wrestles with his commitment to the Communist Party. After his friend Agostino (Allen Midgette) commits suicide, perhaps due to his own problems struggling with his commitment to Marxist ideology, Fabrizio’s emotional life grows ever more complex. Breaking away from his planned marriage to the upper middle class Clelia (Cristina Pariset), Fabrizio embarks on an unwise affair with his irrational and beautiful aunt Gina (Adriana Asti), who is visiting the family from Milan.
Bertolucci unashamedly draws upon the work of Jean-Luc Godard ”˜s French New Wave pictures, mirroring his dramatic editing style and jump cuts, and couples it with the emotional charged neo-realism of Antonioni (one character states his unquenchable devotion to Antonioni’s 1954 classic Journey To Italy). As with Godard’s 1960’s work, Bertolucci’s picture is also informed by and repeatedly references Hollywood cinema, citing the work of Nicholas Ray and Howard Hawks, among many others. Director of photography Aldo Scavarda’s black and white cinematography is suitably achingly beautiful, while the neoclassical score by a young Ennio Morricone profoundly moving.
Being a BFI release the print quality of this DVD and Blu-Ray Duel Format Edition is outstanding and there are numerous special features. These extras include the original film trailer, on set footage from 1963 and a 2003 46 minute interview with Bertolucci conducted by his brother Giuseppe. In the insightful 26-minute documentary, The Workshop of the Young Masters, Giuseppe Bertolucci also separately interviews editor Roberto Perpignani, assistant camera operator/cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and maestro Morricone. Combined with a 22-page booklet, comparisons between the working copy of the film and the final print and a 12-minute interview with Bertolucci conducted on stage at the BFI this year by David Thompson, this edition of Before the Revolution is irresistible.

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Outside The Law (Rachid Bouchareb – starring: Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila. Cert 15, 133 mins. Released: 29th August.)

Days of Glory (2006) director Rachid Bouchareb reunites the cast of that Oscar nominated film ”“ a study of the dishonorable treatment of colonial North African soldiers, who fought in the French Army to help free Nazi occupied France but were than betrayed – for a riveting post-World War II epic centered around the repercussions of one of the most shameful episodes in modern French history.

With obvious nods towards both Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) and Jean-Pierre Melville’s magnificent French Resistance movie Army of Shadows (1969), Bouchareb has fashioned a tight fictional thriller that blends fact, politics and an emotive story of personal suffering and sacrifice. The saga begins during 1925 in western Algeria, when the three male children of an impoverished local farmer witness their landlord selling their family farm to a French colonial settler. The family is left homeless.

The film then jumps forward to VE Day, 1945, in the Algerian town of Sétif. The boys have grown up: Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila) is a highly intelligent, political intellectual, Messaoud (Roschdy Zem) a handsome, strong individual and short, wisecracking Saïd (Jamel Debbouze) a street smart wiseguy. As Paris celebrates victory, an Algerian liberation march on the streets of Sétif erupts into savage violence. The French, humiliated by years of Nazi rule and determined to reestablish their position as a colonial power, brutally slaughter many thousands of Algerians demanding independence. One of the victims gunned down is the boy’s father.

The film leaps forward in time ten years. The brothers are separated. Messaoud is now serving as a paratrooper in Indo-China and incarcerated as a POW following the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Saïd lives in a ghetto shantytown on the outskirts of Paris with their mother. Refusing to work for minimum wage at the local Renault car plant, Saïd turns to pimping, becomes a successful boxing manager and runs a nightclub in the Pigalle. Meanwhile, Abdelkader has become totally politicized and has been jailed in Prison de la Sante in Paris for his actions and belief in an Algerian nation free from the shackles of the French. Reunited in Paris, Abdelkader and Messaoud become leading figures in the National Liberation Front, leading an organized campaign of revolutionary violence in Paris. This brings them into conflict with Saïd, who distrusts the revolution that threatens his lucrative livelihood.

Though Bouchareb clearly wants the FLN to be viewed as heroic figures, like the Resistance fighters in Melville’s Army of Shadows, he does not simplify all their opponents in the French police as one-dimensional villains. One determined French inspector was in fact a member of the French Resistance and the brothers admire him, despite the fact that he is their sworn enemy. All three leads deliver outstanding performances, in particular Roschdy Zem as the tormented Messaoud, who struggles to maintain his humanity even though the revolution has forced him to become an emotionless executioner.

Outside The Law is not as methodical as Gillo Pontecorvo’s great 1966 film The Battle Of Algiers, which deals with the same conflict. Nonetheless, Bouchareb’s Outside The Law manages to convey the human suffering of occupation and resistance in a gripping noir style thriller.

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Our Day Will Come (Romain Gavras – starring: Vincent Cassel, Olivier Barthelemy. Cert: 18, 87 mins. Released: 22nd August.)

Despite starring the gifted Vincent Cassel, Romain Gavras’ (son of the renowned director Costa-Gavras) Our Day Will Come is unfortunately disappointing: a film that yearns for profundity but delivers just empty posturing.

A disaffected young man named Remy (Olivier Barthelemy) in a desolate area of northwest France meets a dynamic but mentally fractured psychiatrist, Paul (Cassel). Fed up of listening to his clients’ mental problems, Paul is eager to make his own amusement. Remy provides that opportunity, as his family and other students bully him due to his red hair. Paul takes it upon himself to toughen Remy up by constantly placing him in dangerous situations, persuading him that their mutual troubles are all down to prejudice against redheads. They purloin a car and hit the road, looking for anarchic kicks. Remy sees an Irish tourist advertisement, featuring numerous people with red hair, and convinces Paul that Ireland will be their shared utopian sanctuary. Now armed with a crossbow, Remy is in charge and eager for violent confrontation.

Neither successful as an incredibly obvious parable about racism and discrimination, nor funny enough to be a black comedy, Our Day Will Come quickly runs out of tarmac and coherent thoughts. SebastiAn’s electro score adds little to the proceedings, though Andre Chemetoff ”˜s suitably bleak cinematography evokes an impression of impending doom. Of course Cassel and his co-star Barthelemy give superior performances (they worked together previously in Kim Chapiron’s 2006 picture Sheitan), but their talent is simply not enough to carry Romain Gavras’ and co-script writer Karim Boukercha’s poor dialogue and scene delineation. Our Day Will Come is primarily an extension of the ideas contained in the music video Romain Gavras made for M.I.A’s track ”˜Born Free. This video is included as a DVD extra, which pretty much negates any real reason to watch the movie.

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