A notebook of links and commentary on film and the arts, with occasional stabs at understanding current events. A mix of the serious and the silly, and with a special emphasis on Ms. Natalie Portman.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The Oscar-nominated film Incendies begins in Canada but is primarily set in Lebanon. I didn't know that when I was watching; I had to look it up on Wkipedia and that's a problem. Denis Villeneuve's story of a mother (Lubna Azabal) and her two childrens' quest to understand her is so lax and unspecific about political issues that Azabal's remarkable performance as the radicalized student Nawal Marwan carries insufficient weight. Years later, Nawal's daughter Jeanne (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) and son Simon (Maxim Gaudette) learn from their mother's will that their father and brother are still alive. The bulk of Incendies (adapted from a play) follows Jeanne and Simon on a search through their mother's past. The horrors visited on Nawal are so baroque and overdetermined that any comment on the madness of war or Middle Eastern conflict rings hollow. The film is rich with plot and incident, but Villeneuve's control over the flow of information is shaky and an attentive viewer will get ahead of the characters sooner or later as the mysteries begin to unfold themselves. I'm not surprised that Incendies got U.S. distribution or an Oscar nomination; it's slow, dignified, and concerned with an "important" subject. What disappoints is Villeneuve's laziness in taking a side and his willingness to let the film feel so self-important. Incendies badly wants to make a statement but is too concerned with playing to the crowd.