Monday, May 08, 2006

Exiles/Tony Gatlif



Exiles (2004) is the latest film from one of my favorite directors, Tony Gatlif. There are a few foreign directors who I truly love and wait and wait and wait to see their newest film and Gatlif is at the top of the list. Two others off the top of my head are Ming-liang Tsai from Taiwan and Julio Medem from Basque.

Exiles is a story of this young couple—Romain Duris and Lubna Azabal—who live in Paris but decide to head to Algeria. Both have something to find by going to Algeria as his family was from there and she’s trying to discover parts of her past that have long since been lost to her.

There are always two key elements of a Gatlif movie—gypsies and music. Gatlif is himself Roma (gypsy) and was born in Algeria and composes a great deal of the incredibly emotional and alive music in his films. These two elements, music and gypsies, are so connected in a Gatlif movie that you can’t remove one without also erasing the other.

Exiles is less about gypsies as sole subject matter, but still is full of the uprooted aspects the Roma people like the idea of wondering, of the journey and of being lost and adrift in the world. These are themes that Gatlif just keeps coming back to in various ways in every film of his I see.

The idea of movement, of travel and the collected small moments of interaction with people and locations is important to Gatlif. The tiniest moments are still important moments to him and I love that about his films. Every little moment of interaction is important to Gatlif.

In the beginning the pair just frolic and sleep on the side of the road. As the trip to Algeria progresses it begins to affect them in stronger ways. They meet gypsies, get robbed by gypsies, listen to music and musicians of various stripes, bicker and then make up, sneak onto trains and boats, take jobs when they run out of money and are befriended by people as they slowly make their way to Algeria. Gatlif can make any kind of arduous journey seem like a romantic adventure as he does in Exiles.

This was the second Gatlif film for Duris (who was in my favorite Gatlif film Gadjo Dilo—this is one of my favorite movies of all-time). Azabal was in one of my favorites from last year—Paradise Now—and I actually nominated her for an ANDROID if you recall. Duris and Azabal are both very talented young actors and they kind of throw themselves into the story with abandon.

I love Gatlif’s films because he digs into a culture in the world we never really see in movies—the Roma people—but I also respond to him because he’s an unrepentant romantic. He’s one of the most honest, human and interesting storytellers in film and it’s a shame that he’s not more widely known.

Exiles is a beautiful movie that stays with you after you’ve seen it. I didn’t want it to end. I’ve never had the opportunity to see Gatlif’s films in the 1980s but of the six I’ve seen he’s never once let me down. I highly recommend Exiles and the five others that are either out on DVD or you might have the opportunity to see: Latcho Drom (1993), Mondo (1996), Gadjo Dilo (1996), Vengo (2000) and Swing (2002).

1 comment:

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