November 16, 2008

Let it Rain

Let it Rain is a film about the return of a French woman to her family home. She is a feminist intellectual and a Parliamentary candidate. For everyone in the house, the arrival of the feminist politician is like a stone falling upon a still lake. For her sister it reactivates all kinds of resentments- from those of an unloved child for a loved child- to those of a domestic housewife for her emancipated peer. For her sister's husband it presents a challenge to his position as the incompetent head of the household. For others too in the community it represents both a challenge and an opportunity: two drifters- Karim a hotel receptionist and Michel an amateur camera man- want to make a film about the feminist as an example of a successful women (a series on which the local television station appears to be running). Karim as well is tempted into infidelity- whereas Michel is sleeping with the sister of the feminist. Its all complicated- and we end up at one point with Michel, Karim and Agathe (the feminist) followed by a herd of sheep trying to walk to the local town- but the intention is there to make a film which thinks about the challenges within contemporary France of race and sex, does it succeed?

It does not really. That is partly the fault of the direction and the acting- there is no real sense that anything much is at stake here. I found myself curiously abstracted from the film- perhaps mildly amused but nothing more. Ultimately there are some wonderfully comic moments in the movie- pure slapstick for example a camera man dropping a slide into the baptismal font or the stupidity of Karim and Michel's questions- but they do not really go anywhere. I watched abstractly- enjoying the film and there is plenty to enjoy but it did not force me to think. The reason for this is partly because the film wraps its character's courses up so neatly- no one really loses at the end of the film- and every character is given a final scene of resolution. You could argue that all those resolutions are false- but in reality, the director does not give us any insight to say that- all the resolutions are bourgeois- the film is about family and the resolutions bring all the characters back to human companionship, but I did not get the feeling that there was any neccessary ominous tint in the happy story.

There is more than that though that confuses me about this film. For at its deepest it is a film about deep subjects- sex, relations between human beings, race- and yet it seemed to have no core. There was no coherence. You could read it as an anti-feminist film- the feminist politician learns she has to have a man to be happy. You could read it is a feminist film- the sister's dire life continues because she subjugates her desires to a series of inadequate men. You could read it as a film about the way that white France plays with ideas from the new left, without really caring or considering what Arabic France thinks. You could read it as a film about the unkindness of bourgeois humanity. I could go on- but none of those interpretations is sustained and some of them seem contradicted by other moments in the film. There is something intensely human about the film- which makes it hard to fit into a pattern- but then it comes up against the simplicity of the motivations it ascribes to some of its major characters and their worlds. Karim seems for example entirely non-plussed by any moral forboding when he neglects his wife to take a mistress- indeed the poor wife is forgotten about half way through the film and seems to be a mere dramatic device- a stage woman to be wheeled on as a prop (a further feminist or anti-feminist point?)

There is some nice humour here- its sweet and well meaning but without a message, there is nothing radical about it. Indeed one might argue that there is something deeply conservative about a film in which you see a radical feminist politician who has no political program- apart from being a bit headstrong. There is something light as a feather about the film- and for an evening out it is good entertainment. Go with that mindset and you will not be disappointed- there are some really nice moments, some good laugh out loud lines, but there is nothing here which will make you consider or rethink anything. I saw this on Thursday, its taken me so long to write a review, not because the film was bad but because I struggled to think of what to write. I actually think for once that says something about the film- there is something there but its light and amusing, there is no message, no description that you could not see elsewhere.

Go and be amused by the folly of mankind, but seek no answers as to why men and women are fools for you will not find them.


goodbanker said...

"I struggled to think of what to write...for once that says something about the film...there is no message".

This reminds me of another hobby-horse of mine: when scientists carry out empirical experiments, they present their results - and rarely do these results say "there is nothing noteworthy here"! Yet the results they present are often to some (high, but not absolute) level of confidence - usually 95% or 99%. Even if the threshold is 99%, then that still means that 1 in 100 of their studies is showing up as a false positive (a so-called "Type II" error). (Furthermore, how biased are the results that are reported if all the non-informative experiment results are disgarded without being reported?) So I reckon a review like this is valuable not least by restoring balance to the way we perceive what is noteworthy in our world (and no doubt it is valuable on many other levels too!).

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