FNC Closing weekend picks: Clip and Une famille respectable
by MALCOLM FRASER
and ALEX ROSE
Serbian director Maja Milos brings us this raw, sexually explicit teen coming-of-age story, a prizewinner at the Rotterdam festival and a film that FNC programmers describe, with barely contained glee, as sure to cause controversy and push buttons.
Jasna (Isidora Simijonovic) is a high school hellion with a seriously ill father, a long-suffering mother and a rather raging libido. Like many a teen before her, she’s less interested in homework or cordial parental relations than in hanging out with her friends, getting wasted and trying to get laid (although in a contemporary twist, she obsessively documents her exploits on her camera phone). She hooks up with Djole (Vukasin Jasnic), only to learn the timeworn lesson that easy sexual availability, while sure to get attention, is not necessarily the way to a teenage boy’s heart.
The teen sex depicted certainly is explicit (a title at the end informs us that no minors performed real acts, which implies that Milos invested heavily in the most advanced artificial-penis technology), but in this day and age, it’s nothing we haven’t seen on a million celebrity sex tapes or amateur porn clips. Like teen sexuality in general, what we see is in equal parts titillating, disturbing and a bit ridiculous — the outfits Jasna and her friends wear to peddle their seductive trade are a particularly funny/sad brand of Eurotrash kitsch.
You could legitimately wonder if there’s a certain degree of cynical exploitation going on (was the shaved-labia closeup really artistically necessary?), but there is more to the film than just pervy voyeurism. Jasna is a complicated character, and Milos, an actress herself, teases out hints of her depth and complexity.
Unfortunately, the scenes with insight into her character are few and far between, as if Milos decided it was more important to emphasize the smut. At any rate, the director will be in town to present the film; it should be interesting to see how she defends it against the predictable outrage and legitimate questions it’s sure to generate. (MF) Friday, Oct. 19 at Excentris (3536 St-Laurent), 6:15 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 20 at Excentris, 3:30 p.m.
Une famille respectable
It’s too easy to get caught up in what we think a movie should look like and what it should play like. It took me about an hour to realize that Une famille respectable was a political thriller; it’s so organically woven into the fabric of the film that I found myself spellbound by twists and turns that I probably would’ve seen coming a mile in a weaker film. It’s a testament to the strengths of director Massoud Bakhshi that he manages to make otherwise banal-looking situations into a white-knuckle thriller.
Ex-pat professor Arash Saafi is invited to return to his native Iran after 22 years in Europe to teach a class at a local university. As the semester winds down and he prepares to leave Iran once again, problems start cropping up. First he’s accused of teaching revolutionary ideals to his students. Then he runs into a bureaucratic snafu when trying to get his passport approved. Finally, his ailing father passes away, leaving an important sum of money in Arash’s hands and an extended family with sketchy ideals snooping around to get a piece of the pie.
Bakhshi is the newest in a line of filmmakers putting forth a rather unflattering look at the failures of Iranian society; so unflattering, in fact, that it boggles my mind that films like this could be made in a country as tumultuous as Iran (especially after Jafar Panahi was jailed). There’s a sense of danger and an edge that can only come from a film that’s actually provoking someone out there. It’s not a rebellious film in form — in fact, it’s rather visually drab and utilitarian, but there’s an unbelievable intensity boiling just below that dusty, sun-baked surface.
There’s more to Une famille respectable than a big didactic fuck-you, though. It’s an impeccably woven thriller with strong performances that manages to be simultaneously politically relevant and artistically accomplished… and even a little funny (although Arash’s uncanny resemblance to a balding Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords is most likely unintentional). (AR) Sunday, Oct. 21 at Excentris, 3:20 p.m.
Cult MTL also recommends Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours (Sunday, Oct. 21 at Excentris, 5:20 p.m.)