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Faces of Women More at IMDbPro »Visages de femmes (original title)

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Interesting look at plight of African women

Author: (relias@midohio.net) from Delaware, Ohio
29 April 2003



African films rarely play in U.S. theaters. That's one reason why `Faces of Women' is worth seeing. The other is that writer-director Désiré Ecaré's award-winning 1985 film (subtitled) puts us inside a culture few people ever directly encounter. The title announces the theme. Ecaré, from Ivory Coast, presents two stories set in a village and in the coastal city of Abidjan. The movie opens in a village festival where men and women dance while local musicians beat a drum and squeeze an accordion. We encounter Brou, his wife N'Guessan, and his brother Koaissi, a city dweller who refuses to join villagers in digging up manioc roots, a foodstuff. Koaissi lingers in the village because he is sexually involved with N'Guessan, culminating in an extended, explicit scene. (`Faces' is unrated but would get an NC-17 for that scene.)

Like a cuckold in a folktale, Brou plots to discover them together. He need not have bothered. Everyone in the village knows what is going on already. For Ecaré, that is the important point. The wife is trying to assert her independence of rules villagers expect women to follow. Brou makes this point when he says, `You are my slave.' `Faces' shifts abruptly to Madame Costas, an older woman who owns a fish drying business in Abidjan. She seeks a bank loan to open a restaurant, but can't get approval despite a profitable balance sheet. Her two grown daughters, city slickers, question why she wants to be in business at all. That is man's work. A woman's real assets, says the elder, are her breasts, buttocks, and thighs. The daughters vamp the banker into reconsidering the request. `Faces' shifts to a family gathering in which the father, who lives off his wife's income, is chided for neglecting village obligations as head of the family. When his wife refuses to send her hard-earned money back to their village, they resolve this impasse by deciding to visit the village festival, dance, and forget about their problems. `Faces' ends where it begins. The stories are joined by Ecaré's polemical concern to document the predicament of women in a male-dominated traditional society. Values represented by the village are the source of conflict in the first story. Yet those same values, still powerful even in the city, resolve, at least momentarily, Madame Costas' troubles with her money-sucking family.

Unlike Hollywood tracts on the `new woman,' `Faces' doesn't see female independence and self-assertion as unmixed blessings. The movie diagnoses, often vocally, the problems these two women face. The straitjacket of inherited culture cannot be thrown off easily, even for city dwellers whose modern life (three cars, cosmetics, banks) resembles our own. Sexual power becomes, by default, the only true power they can use, but this is not enough. The resolution goes back to the village and the sense of connectedness it provides. This is where Ecaré's film, often awkwardly, grounds her characters' predicament. Change, though necessary, implies loss. The stories in `Faces' were reportedly filmed ten years apart. Ecaré's movie has a patchwork feel. Film technique is different in both sections. What interested me was narrative method, which is closer to African folktales than to a Western character arc that typically asserts the unqualified independence of a character versus a community. Here, communal values, though questioned, remain real, a problem and source of consolation, especially in the face of urban modernism. Technically, `Faces' is a blotchy film. Some scenes look like out-takes from National Geographic specials shot on a low budget. The sex scene is daring, but could make the same point in less time with less flesh. Nonetheless, `Faces' offers a worthwhile perspective on the problems of African feminism in post-colonial society.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Response to comment 1

7/10
Author: ImSewIndie from United States
4 November 2006

The stories are connected, only though the common message of women empowerment. The lonely housewife initiates sex in a way that the spectators of Western cinema are seldom witness to. She tells him to stop fooling around and get down to business and she objectifies his body. Secondly, the story of the woman whose business is supporting her family is a poignant one. She makes some powerful statements such as "women are only secondary to men due entirely to a lack of great physical strength," and "God always sees eye-to-eye with women." The significance of this film is how women take charge in it. The Western world calls itself civilized, and yet is too primitive to consider women as equals. I guess it's just ironic to see the elusive signs of female empowerment come from tribal Africa.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

one of the best movies about west African people

10/10
Author: cheese_cake from dc, usa
13 January 2004

the movie is set in ivory coast and concerns itself about the plight of women in the region. refreshingly, it is not preachy, but rather illuminates through simple story telling and scenes of everyday life of the people. the opening shot is of women gathering to dance together, to which the men join and overall a festival is started. this is the underpinning theme of the movie in that despite what else happens in life all ivory coast people join together and renew themselves by singing and dancing.

there are 2 stories. one of a village woman who experiences martial problems which lead to her seduction by a city slicker. there is an explicit lengthy sex/seduction scene, but it is also very refreshing and not degrading. the woman is in charge!!! the second is about a supposedly emancipated woman, who lives in the city and has her own business. she is rich, yet has her own share of problems.

I highly RECOMMEND this movie. after watching it i found myself enthralled by the culture of that region and the complexities and joys to be found in it.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Odd trio of stories

6/10
Author: sharptongue from Sydney, Australia
4 August 2000

Set in West Africa, possibly Ghana.

Story (actually three stories) : Opening scene has a circle of women singing songs which, broadly, describe the stories. The film comes back to these women, as a link between the stories. Story 1 concerns a the possible marriage of some young people in a poor village. Story 2 (possibly related to Story 1) contains the scene which was used in all the promotional ads. A fairly full-on adulterous sex scene, featuring a woman stripping off in front of her male neighbour, frolicking in the river. He then joins her, and she demands sex to continue even after he's tired ... by pointing to his testicles, then pointing between her own legs. Story 3 has no connection with the other two, and is about the efforts of a middle-class woman to succeed in business.

Review - I'm baffled as to the construction of this film. The opening scene, with the singing women, is great fun. The throbbing drum beats and their smiles are infectious, and promise much. Story one is not bad. Story 2 is stunning, in an "oh-my-god" sort of way. The full-on nudity and sex sets a tone for the rest of the movie, which promptly and totally changes direction to story 3, which is completely trivial. The singing women come back at the end, but the final songs explain nothing.

I'm really not sure whether to recommend this film. However, you have been warned !

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