Sam Ali, a Syrian young man, took refuge in Lebanon to flee the Syrian civil war. There, he meets Jeffrey Godefroi, a famous tattoo artist, who makes Mr Ali's back his canvas for a piece of work. Soon, Mr Ali becomes aliving work of art, worth an astronomical sum on the art market,l. Collectors are interested, auction goes up, human rights activists are outraged. Mr Ali must get out of the predicament he's in; the man who sold his skin.Written by
Let's just keep in mind that this movie isn't the type of a satirical work that is meant to tackle its subject matter by probing it or offering a deeper understanding of the whole situation and, definitely, not to reach a resolution. It's rather more akin to a cautionary tale, or one that shines a spotlight on the social and political situations and what they entail, exposing the superficiality of them all by explicitly reflecting it on a seemingly unrelated surface, which is here art. Excuse my ignorance of the term that would spare me all that rambling. I just wanted to remind some people (myself included) who can easily mistake this for being too on-the-nose that it's actually intentionally so, the thing that could be clearly noticed through its self-awareness of its pretentiousness, and I couldn't imagine a more competent way to mirror that than espousing art.
The Man Who Sold His Skin revolves around a highly provocative subject of a Syrian refugee, Sam Ali, in Beirut who accepts a deal offered to him by a contemporary artist, Jeffrey Godefroi, to have his back turned into a living work of art in order to travel to Belgium. As a contemporary take on a Faustian deal, the movie truly shines. It's true this story is about a man who sells his skin (hence his identity) to the artist, Jeffrey, (he even mentioned that he sees himself as Mephistopheles) in return for "freedom," but here the protagonist is marked by a pronounced stigma, namely the Visa tattooed on his back, "this work of art bears the signature of the devil," said Mr. Waltz and his wife justifying the reason why they bought Sam. He became a flesh-and-blood example of the exploitation Syrian refugees, although he willingly became one, mainly to live with the love of his life, Abeer. That leads us to the main complaint I have with this movie: the love story, or rather the drama surrounds it.
The movie quickly makes us abandon any thought the story would be heavy on its prickly themes of human trafficking, exploitation and the commodification of people, declaring out loud it's a love story through and through. But here is the thing, the romantic dramedy elements here are too pedestrian and the characterizations severely lacking in nuance to keep me invested. Consequently, the movie drags quite often. The story also tries to stir a few emotional chords by the end, trying as hard as it can to bring out more of its potential to be a reflective drama. Suffice it to say, it falls flat on the emotional punch. What really bogged this movie down is its dense caustic encapsulation, which although it lends the social commentary the edge it needed, it definitely does seem completely discordant with both the dramatic and the romantic aspects, hindering the heart and levity from seeping out of the surface.
As art takes the centre stage, the cinematography doesn't skimp on its artistic ambitions. First movie that popped into my head watching the stunning, garish visuals in the scenes set in the gallery is Velvet Buzzsaw (Dan Gilroy's latest effort, also centred around art,) but instead of only serving its sole purpose of giving a hazardous sense, here it surpasses that by expressing the inner feelings of the characters. The compositions, in particular, that involved two or more characters resulted in some of the best shots I've seen in any movie from last year; they are truly eloquent when it comes to juxtaposing the characters' emotions and thoughts.
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