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Urs Peter Halter
Annecy is no tourist destination for three working-class Algerian brothers and their father, in the months after their mother has died. Marc is deeply troubled: he tries to stiff drug dealers and then plots revenge. Christophe is released from jail, lands a job, and must overcome various temptations in order to keep it. Olivier, nearing 18, may be falling in love with Hicham, a young man who constantly practices capoeira on the shores of the lake. Both violence and fraternity are close to the surface of most interactions. How each brother emerges from his challenge comprises the film's drama. Is there any way in which these men can be a family?Written by
For the originality of its content and manner of telling, Gael Morel's "Le Clan" deserves wide art-house distribution. It does, however, need a better English title. Life may be difficult for people in the film, but they are not slaves and make choices that attempt to better their situations, if not always happily. Why not simply "A Clan," since nobody remembers Griffith's second title for "Birth of a Nation," or "Brothers"? Two boys practice a North African "slave dance," but for sport and release.
The tightly edited movie can be thought of as short stories about three brothers and their father. With rapid shifts we keep learning new things about the characters. Sometimes one wonders what went on during a gap, but usually one can figure it out and the dialogue that would have worked it through would have been sentimental and out of character.
One shot of the brothers huddled together watched by their father is difficult to justify realistically, but it works as a symbolic representation. If meanwhile one wants everything spelled out and sweetened, there is the Québec film "C.R.A.Z.Y." The brothers do maintain enormous familiarity. The youngest one, very drunk, is helped by a brother to vomit.
If that's shocking, we have to take it as a fact of the milieu. The banlieux of France have recently been in the news. "Le Clan" goes much further with stories that lead one to care for the characters in the variety of their difficult situations of social derogation, dangerous labour, sexuality, and self-esteem.
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