Abouna<br/>Anita &amp; Me<br/>He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not<br/>I Am Cuba<br/>Bundy

Absent fathers take note...
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The Independent Culture

Abouna (PG), a beautiful and moving film from Chad, charts the experiences of two young brothers ill-served by their parents. The title means "Our Father", and the film opens with dad disconcertingly looking straight at the audience, before crossing the West African desert to a new life.

Abouna (PG), a beautiful and moving film from Chad, charts the experiences of two young brothers ill-served by their parents. The title means "Our Father", and the film opens with dad disconcertingly looking straight at the audience, before crossing the West African desert to a new life.

The boys, 15-year-old Tahir (Ahidjo Mahamat Moussa) and eight-year-old Amine (Hamza Moctar Aguid), find his absence hard to understand or bear. They miss school, wandering the streets trying to find him. In a cinema, they both imagine that the man on screen is their father. The next day they return to steal the reel, and are desperately searching through it for another glimpse when the police arrive.

At this point, their story takes a more tragic turn, as their mother sends them to Koran school, a virtual prison where they are whipped for the slightest misdemeanours – and from which they dream of escape.

Writer-director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun has made one of the most visually ravishing films of the year: adeptly composed, with a bold use of colour that makes the blue and orange of the boys' shirts, or the yellow dress of a young girl, pulse against the pale desert. It also works as an allegory for Chad itself, fatherless after years of French colonial rule and civil war. With a sweet guitar soundtrack by the Malian Ali Farka Tore, this is a model of economic, but potent story-telling, whose emotional impact sneaks up on you by stealth.

Already the British-Asian coming-of-age culture clash comedy is wearing thin. East is East was terrific, Bend it Like Beckham had a certain charm. But Anita & Me (12A), Meera Syal's adaptation of her own novel, stutters through what are now screen clichés; it is, for the most part, deeply irritating.

Twelve-year-old Meena's family are the only Punjabis living in a Black Country mining village. Meena is bright, imaginative and headstrong; she also pines to be blonde. Just as the heroine of Bend It Like Beckham had her life changed by meeting a strikingly attractive white girl, so Meena (Chandeep Uppal) falls under the spell of Anna Brewster's feisty blonde Anita. The influence, however, is less positive. Joining Anita's gang of "Wenches" heralds little more than unwholesome boys, bad language and theft.

Some pleasure is provided by Meena's parents, sympathetically played by Sanjeev Bhaskar and Ayesha Dharkar, while director Metin Huseyin influences the tone with the darker undercurrents of racism. On the whole, though, it is very hard to care.

French actress du jour Audrey Tautou stars in He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (12A), an assured, if slightly too obvious thriller by first-time director Laetitia Colombani. Tautou plays Angelique, a promising painter suffering from erotomania, the mental condition which makes the sufferer believe that a perfect stranger is in love with them. Thus Loic (Samuel Le Bihan), a happily married cardiologist, does nothing more than smile at the girl to herald a lifetime of pain.

If this sounds like giving the story away, it's not, because the originality Colombani has in her subject (a welcome change from the offensive "woman scorned" scenario of so many Fatal Attractions) is lost somewhat in her treatment – which gives first Angelique's perspective, before rewinding to show Loic's. But a serious plus is Tautou, whose creepy, disturbing performance proves that the wide-eyed Amelie is a young actress with range.

The welcome re-release of I Am Cuba (PG), an extraordinary film from 1964, reminds us how apolitical, dispassionate and – special effects notwithstanding – stylistically unimaginative so much film-making is today. A Russian-made reflection on the Cuban Revolution, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov and scripted by the poet Yevtushenko, it is a mouth-watering blend of propaganda and dramatic film-making: at turns pretentious and bombastic, at others powerfully emotive. And, while Kalatozov can be accused of aestheticising poverty, the endlessly mobile black-and-white camerawork – all contorted angles, impossibly spectacular tracking shots, one beautiful image after another – is as exciting as anything in cinema.

Bundy (18) offers repellent proof of the responsibility required when portraying real-life horror on screen. Director Matthew Bright's approach to Ted Bundy, the serial killer and necrophiliac who murdered more than 100 young women, is to depict an endless parade of horrendous slaughter, with a relish and lightness of tone which makes your jaw drop.

There is little social context, little attempted psycho-pathology, merely a catalogue of misery almost impossible to watch. The fact that Michael Reilly Burke's performance reads like Hannibal Lecter crossed with Patrick Bateman identifies this film's ambitions as no more than contemptibly exploitative entertainment.

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