Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:29 pm 
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Rough music

Events take place in Kinshasha, the big city and capital of the Congo, one of the poorest countries in Africa. and focus on the hard-knock existence of the title character, a singer in a bar (Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu). Her fourteen-year-old son gets in a motorcycle accident and is badly hurt (and he gets worse). When she asks for money from her husband for her son's operation, he chases her out; her father threatens to kill her, but gives her the money. The actress has a raw, down-to-earth intensity that fits the character's hardscrabble existence. As it must.

The severe injury of Félicité's son is a bad blow for her, and the actress said that the character was half alive and half dead. But the vigor of the music is invigorating. Moreover Kinshasha is a rare African town that has a symphony orchestra and when we see and hear it playing "Fratres” by Arvo Pärt, it raises us to a higher livel. The filmmaker, Alain Gomis, a Senegalese born in Paris, whose his previous features were Aujourd'hui (2012) and L'afrance (2001), folds the music in sparingly but effectively with the scenes, weaving a sense of the vernacular cheek by jowel with the sublime. Gomis has a real feel for cinema. Somehow wordlessly, more with Beya's worldly wise, knowing, ironic and sensuous face than anything else, conveys a sense that under the right conditions hardships and compromises can absorbed and made to play in one's favor, if one has what it takes. And you never doubt that she's got it. However, one must confirm as various critics, such as Jordan Melzer of Hollywood Reporter, have, that "The storytelling is a bit wobbly, and, especially in the latter scenes, drawn-out almost to the point of exhaustion," but also as he says, that this is compensated for by "moments of poetry" scattered through the film, particularly in the form of music.

Félicité, 129 mins., debuted at the Berlinale winning the Silver Bear (The Grand Jury Prize) and nominated for the Golden Bear. other awards including Chicago, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Sydey and Mill Valley. Included in the Main Slate of the New York Film Festival. Released 29 Mar. 2017 in France to rave reviews (AlloCiné press rating 4.2). Acquired by Strand Releasing, it comes to Quad Cinema on Friday Oct. 27, 2017 Metacritic rating 75%..

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