Review: Mektoub My Love: Intermezzo
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2019: The second part of Abdellatif Kechiche’s trilogy is a fascinating, impressive, but extreme film chronicling a steamy night in a nightclub
An enthusiastic student of humanities in action, close to bodies in movement and enmeshed in the tangle of desires, of choices, and of the unsteady balance between reason and ignorance — French director Abdellatif Kechiche seems to have take “madness is truth” as his filmmaking motto, in “full awareness of his impudence”. Mektoub My Love: Intermezzo, presented in competition at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival (the director’s return to the festival after he won the Palme d’Or in 2013 with Blue is the Warmest Colour [+see also:
interview: Abdellatif Kechiche
film profile]) is a more than intense and extreme demonstration of this philosophy, worthy of Diogenes living in his jar, who is briefly seen on the front cover of a book read by one of the film’s protagonists. Kechiche here drives his quest for capturing life farther than he has ever done before, in a filmography already rich in intimate moments. As for those who had found Mektoub My Love: Canto Uno [+see also:
film profile] — the first part of this trilogy — too fixated on female behinds, the director sets the tone from the get-go, opening the film with a very explicit nude photo shoot (“look at me”, “pose for me”).
On a beach in Sète, in September 1994, we return to the group of young friends (if not close relatives) from the first film: the flirts Tony (Salim Kechiouche) and Aimé (Roméo De Lacour), the girls Ophélie (the callipygian Ophélie Bau) and Mel (Meleinda Elasfour), as well as Céline (Lou Luttiau) who has joined the band. Another addition is Dany (Dany Martial), ex-girlfriend of Amin (Shaïn Boumedine) who isn’t here, but whose praises everyone is singing to Marie (Marie Bernard), a cute 18-year-old woman from Paris, on holiday with her parents. The mood is one of summer relaxation and unbridled, “fruity and sweet” conversation. But separately from the group, Ophélie and Tony are discussing a much heavier topic: Ophélie is pregnant with Tony’s child and has decided to have an abortion because, in a month, she will have to marry Clément, a navy soldier on an assignment in Iraq. The young woman will have ample opportunity to “drown her sorrows” on that same evening, when everyone convenes at the club for a steamy night of extremely erotic dancing (such as mapouka, daggering, and others) and of interlaced and ardent desires (in a series of sequences that add up to 2 hours and 40 minutes of the film’s total runtime of 3 hours and 28 minutes). Camélia (Hafsia Herzi), Kamel (Kamel Saadi), Charlotte (Alexia Chardard) and of course the detached (and shy) Amin, the boy at the heart of so many attractions, soon join the others…
The tireless partying and fun, reproduced without filter and with overflowing duration by the filmmaker up until a particularly crude climactic scene (but one dominated by a woman), are dotted with micro-events, brief looks or exchanges at the bar, in a continuous flood of sound, an exponential consumption of alcohol, and a loosening of cultural mores which “doesn’t do things by halves”. In this boiling aquarium, Abdellatif Kechiche details all the “good and bad sides” of a stupendous and highly energetic moment with fabulous virtuosity in his mise en scène. But his commitment to a radically elongated runtime — oscillating from hypnosis to overload — and to the deliberate, repetitive onslaught of sexualised dances he orchestrates, will require great tolerance and a firmly open mind for the viewer to truly appreciate the real value of the film as a whole.
(Translated from French)
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