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|Index||30 reviews in total|
CHAOS is a melodrama, yes, indeed. But when melodramas are this much fun--this exciting, socially aware, funny, heartfelt, just plain interesting and oh-so-pertinent to our world today, we should only have more of them this good. As a fan of writer/director Coline Serreau since her POURQUOI PAS?, I was still unprepared for how terrific this new film is. Actors Vincent Lindon and Catherine Frot are wonderful, as usual, but it's newcomer Rachida Brakni who is stunning from first to last. The story, which begins with an auto accident, never lets up its tension and grows more complicated and intriguing as it proceeds. If, as some have said, CHAOS is anti-men, the men in this film certainly deserve their raspberries. Further, the movie should be "must" viewing for Islamic families around the world. While I would stake my life on the fact that not all Muslim families are as male-dominated by lunkheads as is the family shown here, still--the Islamic world must eventually come to terms with its women and their liberation, if they and the rest of us are to prosper. CHAOS is must-viewing for so many reasons, I can't begin to count them here. Rent it as soon as you can.
It's funny; the two best films I've seen this year (sadly, CHAOS has only just made it to the Midwest United States in 2003), are both from France. Not only that, but none of the American films I've seen thus far even come close to this or Gaspar Noe's IRREVERSIBLE. Maybe we should rethink that stupid freedom fries thing and go seek out some real culture. CHAOS is a great film, a film that wastes no time. It starts with a bang when an Algerian prostitute named Noemie begs for a ride from Paul and his wife Helene as they drive by the scene of her merciless beating at the hands of three pimps. Paul locks the doors and, after the pimps have gone, leaving Noemie unconscious, gets out of the car only to wipe the windshield clean of the inconvenient blood Noemie has spilled upon it. A perfect opening to this film, showing the frailty of women at the hands of dominating men, and the inhumanity and selfishness of said men. As a human of the male persuasion myself, I was surprised to not feel any resentment toward the film's representation of manhood. It does not try to convince the viewer that all men are like this; just all the men in this film. At the same time, many men might feel uncomfortable at the incisiveness of the film's characterizations. At one point Helene says, "Not all men are bastards"; Noemie merely shrugs and smirks ever so slightly. It is more telling than a thousand words.
I saw this movie in Paris last year (2001). It is a delight. It maintains a modicum of comedy around a very violent and wrenching subject. It begins with a young prostitute fleeing for her life after practically being killed from a beating. France has a large Arab population. The young lady happens to be Arabic. This film plays on this clash of cultures and also plays on the clash between the sexes. I highly recommend it.
To say that this movie is a feminist movie wouldn't be fair, because even though only the women in the film are triumphs, whether it's a female or male character they're all honestly wrote. This movie could've been more of a strict screwball bourgouis comedy if it weren't for the character Noemie. I think the movie brilliantly creates 2 kinds of tones coming from 2 different modern female oppresions, one is the female oppressed by the world most of us are more familiar with, enslaved in her family and chores, the other is the female oppresed by lowest depths of tragedy, enslaved in prostitution and old Algerian society. It doesn't leave out neither of their stories. Combined, the movie becomes an exuberant and hilarious revenge story with uncompromising edge, providing also a constant study of values in modern life. But most of all it's a very juicy plot, a lot of suspense and comedy going on, and it's nice that all the supporting roles have a real and entertaining place in the story too. the result is very thrilling, it can make a woman righteously feel less serious about romance, because it seems to provide a lot factual observations towards man/woman relationships, for example Noemies key tactic in making a man insanely in love with her is by being unattainable, and that seems to work the other way around for men too like Fabrice, at least in the beginning. The fact is, in the movie, romantic love seems a little lame, a little silly, yet they all ring true, which is I think the most triumphant achievement for writer/director Coline Serreau. I think this movie even transcends screwball comedies, particularly the Depardieu or Auteuil ones, whereas those are only charming and satirically not interesting enough, this movie really makes you care and cheer with it, rather than grin and think it's cute. Overall this movie is really fantastic, I can understand why Meryl Streep wants to play the main character, the choice seems to match her kind of ambition and attitude and I hope Coline Serreau can pull the Hollywood one off well too.
I'm not going to describe the plot, plenty of that below. However, i want
the most enthusiastic posters : this movie is a true gem.
It's a punch in the face when you see it, and you keep on carrying it with you after that. It's been 2 years since i saw, only once, Chaos, and still i cannot get it out of my head.
Many movies have come and gone since, but how many of them have left their mark, how many made you *really* reconsider some aspects of your life ? (Not that i was a male chauvinist pig to begin with, i think/hope.) This is one angry, 100% essential movie.
What impressed me more than anything about "Chaos" was the energetic acting.
The two female leads seem absolutely driven in their portrayals, and it's a
good thing, because their characters need all the energy they can get to
cope with the whirlwind of savagery and plot twists in this terrifically
entertaining (though sometimes hard to watch) film.
The only thing I disliked in "Chaos" was the cardboard portrayal of the husband. Though I consider myself a Francophile and have long enjoyed French films, I find French farce heavy-handed and really hard to take--and this role was handled farcically. But that's perhaps a cultural quibble, and overall I was greatly impressed by the film.
Highly recommended, but not for the squeamish.
This movie was sent to me by accident because there are several movies
with the title "Chaos." As it turns out, I absolutely loved this film!
This is definitely not a movie for everybody. It is really quirky and
some people are not going to understand the humor. If you read some of
the other reviews, some people don't even realize this is a funny
movie. It is certainly not a funny subject.
A middle class couple stand by as a prostitute is beaten up. Later, the woman tries to make amends by tending to the victim, who turns out had been sold into sex slavery. Despite that, it is actually really funny. It ends up being about a war of the sexes and female empowerment.
The movie looks like it was shot on video, but it looks great. It also has a real jazzy soundtrack. All the acting is good and the characters are engaging. You like the good ones and hate the bad ones.
If you like real off beat, quirky films, you should see this French version of "Chaos."
It has been said that satire should be like a very sharp razor blade: you
don't know you've been cut until you see the blood. The same thing can be
said of movies with a social agenda: it's better if you don't see it
which makes it all the more effective when it's over. If only filmmakers
that preach their social or political views had a better sense of knowing
when to stop `preaching', and let the audience draw their own conclusions,
we'd have more movies with positive social messages.
Case in point is the film, `Chaos', by Coline Serreau, who presents a fairy tail story that celebrates, glorifies and idolizes the strength and perseverance of women in a male-dominated society. The main plot revolves around two women: Helene, an upper-middle class French woman, and Malika, a young prostitute. The two meet when Helene and her husband accidentally encounter Malika being violently attacked by a group of men. The couple witness this from inside their car, but the husband doesn't want to help or have anything to do with the girl, who's been left for dead. Helene, overwhelmed with guilt, decides to visits Malika in the hospital, against her husband's strict instructions. As Malika slowly regains consciousness, and her physical strength returns, the women grow closer, and the story behind the mysterious heroine unfolds. And, like a blooming flower, so does the magnitude of the story line, which becomes far too complicated to summarize here. (It's also far more involved than it needed to be for the plot or social commentary.)
Suffice to say, the story is all about Malika's and all the female characters' struggles to find individuality and freedom from under the thumb of the men in their lives. But the film doesn't stop there - it also makes observations (and hence, commentary) about French society, Muslim cultures, and a variety of other aspects of modern life. Attempting to serve all these objectives, the film tends to meander from one character to another, and one political statement to another, so it can squeeze it all in. This ends up overcomplicating things to a minor degree, but in the end, the movie is really all about women and their plight, and the movie makes no excuses or apologies about that.
For Helene, it's as simple as her leaving her good-for-nothing, ego-centric husband. For Malika, though, her first barrier is her patriarchic Muslim family, who stymied her attempts to educate herself or make a better life. Then it's her father, who tried to sell her to a man in Algeria for marriage. When she ran away just before her scheduled departure, she found herself under the influence of a pimp, who forced her into prostitution, drugged and raped her, and beat her relentlessly, over and over. Things get worse and worse for all the women in the film, major and minor characters alike, until things come to a head, when (surprise) all women come together and win, and all the men lose in a big, big way.
The film's use of satire is exaggeration and extremes, but you don't necessarily see that in one character alone, but all the characters as a collective. All the men are evil, and all the women are glorified. This use of two-dimensional character portrayal gives away the otherwise obvious moral agenda of the film; it also draws attention to the unsophisticated satirical vehicles normally employed by much less experienced filmmakers. It's almost as though Serreau gets so lost in her own agenda that she forgets the true nature of cutting satire. When events develop so transparently and obviously, you can't help but know that this film is only trying to preach to the converted.
Effective satire is about making acute and keen observations of real people, subtly leading us to the filmmaker's desired conclusions, all the while letting us think we got there on our own. We need to see at least one of the heroines lose because the sad reality is that not all women leave the men that subjugate them--we need to be reminded of that not just for the dose of reality for credibility's sake, but it accentuates the emotional impact of the victories of the women that do overcome their barriers. Similarly, one of the bad guys should be portrayed as changing his ways so as to draw more attention to those who don't. Serreau's problem is that she can't accept a character losing. This, in itself, compromises credibility. As Shakespeare once said, `thou doest protest too loudly.'
There's no question that `Chaos' will win the hearts and minds of women who feel victimized, or who seek the camaraderie of seeing strong women win on screen. But it's almost sad to see them rally around what is essentially a vacuous film that doesn't carry the more cogent message it could have been so much more effective at giving. I guess it's my way of saying, `preaching to the converted isn't hard. Leave that to the amateurs.'
This is one of the most accomplished films I've seen from France in a while.
French cinema always presents risky situations. Hollywood, in search of
ideas, sometimes turns into other films for American consumption under
disguises, where the original idea is totally changed, or presented in such
an idiotic way, that probably the new film derived has nothing to do with
the original one.
Director Coline Serreau presents a story about today's society, where there's always no time to pay attention to things, let alone go to the aid of someone who's being victimized on the street. The Vidals, a bourgeois couple are a typical example of people so preoccupied in their own little game; they have no time to help the young woman who is beaten to a pulp in front of their eyes.
Well, actually, Mme. Vidal has a conscience. She protests to Paul, her husband; he couldn't care less. She goes to the hospital where the victim is under a coma, trying to put things right. She then becomes obsessed with the situation. At least she is a decent, if somehow tardy Samaritan.
Noemi, the woman who's been beaten has her own sad story. Played with conviction by Rashida Brakni, she puts a plan to avenge herself against the people that got her in the present situation and tried to kill her.
The interplay between Noemi and Mme. Vidal, also played earnestly by Catherine Frot, is one of the best combinations of wits in a film.
The film never lets up. Showing a sure hand, Ms Serreau gives us an enjoyable film and a feminist take on the way things are done when a woman decides to say enough to all kinds of abuses she has been put all her life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Chaos" is a modern melodrama with a feminist edge. As with
old-fashioned melodramas, each character is either highly sympathetic
or highly disagreeableand here, the two groups of characters are
divided strictly along gender lines.
On one side, there's Helene (Catherine Frot), a bourgeois empty-nester whose great capacity for love and devotion is stifled by her authoritarian husband and lazy son. And Malika/ Noemie (Rachida Brakni), a beautiful, extremely intelligent prostitute of Algerian descent. She has a heart of gold for her fellow women, and a heart of ice for the men who abused and enslaved her. The movie eventually becomes a lively, often funny tale of how Malika gets her revenge, aided by Helene.
But all of the men in the movieHelene's husband and son, Malika's father, the older men who fall for Malika's tricksare cruel, foolish, and patriarchal, and just as unlikable as Malika's pimps. This black-and-white worldview, as well as the frequent melodramatic contrivances (e.g., Malika recovers too conveniently from life-threatening injuries), ultimately undermines the movie. "Chaos" wants to be a feel-good, pro-women film, but its mean- spirited attitude toward men leaves a nasty aftertaste. Yes, the heroines triumph in the end but they do this only by separating themselves from men. Thus, the film seems to say that men can never change, that heterosexual romance cannot exist, and that although women are powerful, they are not powerful enough to reform their men. It's a bleak conclusion.
However, on the surface, the fast-paced "Chaos" is the opposite of a bleak movie. It rapidly shifts between social drama and black comedy, so much so that I wished for a little more time to stop and breathe. The story is exciting, even if based on mean-spirited attitudes (not only does the movie ridicule men, it also has a low opinion of young people, as shown by the scenes with Helene's son and his girlfriends).
As a feminist, I wish that I liked "Chaos" better, but I was turned off by its overstuffed structure and cheap-looking digital video cinematography, as well as its extreme antipathy towards men. There has to be some way of making a feminist film without demonizing the other half of the human race.
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