Saturday, 19 October 2013


A compelling and, at times, exhilarating film about the eponymous Grigris and his life in Chad. Despite a major physical disability he dances in a night club to the delight of everyone there. They see him dance in a graceful, fluid and energetic fashion that takes the breath away. He especially gains the attention of Mimi; a woman of negotiable affection.

He earns money from his dancing, as he does from a number of other jobs and activities he takes part in. He helps his mother to distribute washed clothes around the town and he helps his step-father in his tailor’s shop where Grigris takes photos in the studio in the back. It’s here that he first speaks to Mimi, as it turns out that she’s an aspiring model. Their relationship blossoms from there, whilst suffering a few ups and downs. His step-father is taken ill however, and this leads Grigris on a path to make large amounts as health needs to be paid for.

Within all this the theme of loyalty is explored plentifully in the film. This leads Grigris to work out how all of these priorities maybe contradict each other. At times in doing the right thing by someone he ends up doing the wrong thing by someone else. This is exacerbated by Grigris becoming involved in petrol smuggling which has of course potentially more serious effects, and if you piss these people off they generally stay pissed off.

Mimi’s character is very interesting as well. In working as a prostitute she does need to have good customer service skills and be welcoming to people. The film however ably explores the vulnerability of her situation and the potential dangers that she has to expose herself to. In effect her safety is only really guaranteed by the attitude and the behaviour of her clients. It’s telling that she looks like a different person when she’s working and when she’s not, as if there are two different persons.

The film does slip into some twee moments sometimes, but that maybe the relative experience of the actors used in different scenes. There are a number of scenes in a Chadian village and I got the impression that the characters there were portrayed by amateur actors. It seems to be a common theme in films these days but there is the difference between city life and rural life that seems to be becoming more pronounced these days.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A Long and Happy Life Долгая счастливая жизнь

This is the story of Sasha who, despite his own initial intentions, fights the local landowners when they try and liquidate the farm he runs in Russia. They offer him compensation and this make his girlfriend, Anna, very happy as she knows now that they can get an apartment together in the city. His co-workers though decided otherwise and when Sasha puts the offer to them they tell him in no uncertain terms that they will fight to stay and farm the land. Even with compensation they won’t have the means to make a living. Sasha then risks his future plans and relationship in confirming his solidarity with them.

We are presented with a few dichotomies here in the film. It’s about how the world of modern offices, dyed blonde hair and Hyundai cars these days come up against the world of old, wooden agricultural buildings, manual land management (i.e. non mechanised) and basically a hand to mouth existence. In a way it’s concerned with a theme of how the world has modernised in places and how it hasn’t in others. There is the recognition as well that some people do not want to take part in Westernisation and are happy with their life as it is without relative progress.

I like the way in the film that the actions are really allowed to speak for themselves and that we are shown and told as well. It is made as well in a manner not dissimilar to cinéma verité, or I suppose Kino-Pravda as it’s a Russian film. I’m sure that on many occasions the actors have improvised and have been given an idea of where they need to get to with their dialogue. There are some delicious scenes when at one point the farmers are telling Sasha that they will refuse to leave and are showing a complete sense of assertiveness in not being afraid at all of contradicting him. It doesn’t seem long after that though that they’re calling him the master, and insisting that he goes to the head of the queue in the shop. It’s a film that’s rough round the edges in the production and the acting, but it’s none the worse for that.