|Film / Movie Swing & Exil (2 DVD (PAL))|
Summer vacations, for a pre-teen, are the last magical moments in one`s life, and Tony Gatlif`s Swing will fail or succeed depending on how well it matches your memories of those magic summer months. Max (Oscar Copp) is first seen timidly venturing into the gypsy neighbourhood of a small Alsace town, intent on buying a guitar. He`s staying with his grandmother for the summer, and has fallen for the exuberant jazz played by French gypsies since the 30s, when it was made famous by the guitarist Django Reinhardt. He meets a gypsy girl named Swing (Lou Rech) and falls in love, while taking guitar lessons from her uncle (Tchavolo Schmitt). It`s hard not to be fascinated by the freewheeling but tragic life of European gypsies, a subculture that Gatlif, a gypsy himself, has devoted his career to portraying. In some stubborn part, Swing is a documentary, with frequent unscripted jam sessions - including one where gypsy musicians work out a synthesis of their own music with Arab and Yiddish styles, a hopeful note for a French film, where historic guilt over the gypsy genocide of World War Two mingles with the explosive situation with Arab immigration to France today. The balance of Gatlif`s film concerns the innocent romance between Max and Swing, played out in her family`s caravan, on the industrial fringes of the town, and in the forests outside. Gatlif handles these scenes with a lightness of touch, infusing them with that sense of freedom and longing that`s usually all that remains when you can`t remember the last time you swam in a stream, or were fascinated by nature. If the scenes with the children are supremely evocative, the world of the adults swings between manic, celebratory drunks and abiding melancholy. You can either call this a telling contrast or a poor fit, depending on how much the world Gatlif depicts charms you. Swing is undeniably loose, a drawback in a thriller, probably, but an advantage for a film that tries to capture a fleeting moment as delicate as light on a pond.
Two lovers seek a return to their roots in Exils, a road movie from French writer/director Tony Gatlif. As they wind their way from Paris to Algeria - birthplace of their parents - music-loving Zano (Romain Duris) and his girlfriend Naima (Lubna Azabal) flirt, fight, make new friends and finally undergo a spiritual awakening. Our pilgrim pair make pleasant enough company, but in the end it`s the sights and sounds of the journey that stay with us rather than the characters. The decision to hit the road is made in the Paris apartment where we first meet our travellers, fresh from making love. While Exils is candid about their bodies, it doesn`t reveal enough of their inner selves to offer the emotional reward of a film like The Motorcycle Diaries (which this often resembles). Even in key moments - when Zano gets sexually jealous over Naima`s brief encounter in a flamenco bar, or the climactic Sufi ritual - it feels like we`re eyeing events from a distance. Shame, because Duris and Azabal are lively performers, showing off their sizzle in a scene where fruit-picking becomes foreplay. Exils` dramatic shortcomings are offset by its success as a travelogue. Gatlif (whose own family history is echoed in the story) shoots in a documentary style that leaves plenty of room for fancy framing (like one lengthy take from the back of a moving truck). It`s not only the scenery that impresses: there`s also a fine soundtrack (by Gatlif and Monique Dartonne), with socially aware song lyrics that fill in some of the blanks left by the sparse dialogue.
Released by ARSENAL FIMVERLEIH, 2006, Format: 2 DVD -Original version- German language sub titled!
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