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The Tunisian-French Laura is a young woman that lives with her Orthodox Jewish family in the Jewish community in the suburbs of Paris. Her mother is a widow that left Tunisia; her sister Mathilde is having troubles in her marriage because she repressed her sexual desire based on her misunderstandings of the principles of her religion. Laura is an open minded student of philosophy and works cleaning a school in the nightshift. While Laura feels a strong passion and desire for her Muslin Algerian colleague, her sister finds that her husband had an affair with a woman and looks for an advisor that helps her to interpret the true meaning of love and the duties of a married woman. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Beautiful introduction to Jewry, being a minority in Paris and repression of feelings!
This little gem, while melodramatic, lingers in memory basically by the beauty of images, music and female characters. You get inside their lives, rites, routine, family life, status of each member, machismo, religion vs. reason, sexuality, taboos one would think would have fallen in the XXI century, urban decay, how little philosophy students earn, even in the first world :) and so many other topics that would be tiresome even to read.
The film is fun to watch, it's very easy to relate with the characters, from Todeschini's very believable Ariel (!) to of course Zilberstein, one of the most beautiful faces in French cinema and Fanny Valette, simply startling. Aurore Clément exudes classy intelligence, as in all her roles. In here her role is pivotal, albeit small. "Religion is not opposed to pleasure". Thus, she makes things change for good.
Elsa did a classy prostitute with a hidden heart in "Tenue correcte exigée" (1997), thus showing here how big is her actoral range. The only aspect I wasn't very convinced of was Djamel, and his family. For starters, I just don't see him as a good romantic partner for spellbinding Laura. Maybe it's that she's more amenable to our western idea of beauty and success at work. He, on the contrary, seems to do nothing but stalk at her at nigh, like a serial killer. We hear he says he was a journalist, but we get to know nothing about him besides he's got a bigot family. And quite stupidly, he takes her without, seemingly, having asked before if she would be accepted. The Arabs are shown as narrow minded as the Jews, only in a more brutish manner. One of the little phrases that matter is Laura's: "What did you do back home". Everybody was "something else" (presumably, better) before coming to a Paris really off the beaten track us tourists love to watch. François Marthouret, a staple of classic French cinema, portrays a very solid philo teacher. Engaging, intelligent, and fun. You really want to enroll in a College course afterwards! I have to admit Kantism seems a tad rigid, but definitely not so asking ourselves the eternal big questions, justice/law vs liberty, how much can we attain by reason alone, what is our "duty" and so one. By the way, I am surprised a College teacher has to wipe floors and clean schools at night shifts for a living in the first of first worlds. Again, the film doesn't shy away from showing real life. But what sets it apart is the vivid portrayal of the Jewish ritual, both the male's (everybody drinking, toddling their altars, including the kids, and drinking Vodka heavily) and female's Mikva (very interesting, water as purification as usual, but with a twist). The other one I liked was the families gathering on Sunday, banging their feet and emitting shrill voices, just like it must have been in the tribes, 2000 years ago. Enlightening, how so much remains the same while only a few things have changed.
Enjoy it, and take care of your loved ones! PS: Another aspect I liked was how both Djamel and Laura suffered when they had to repress their feelings, passions or just lust.
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