the pearl of Adil and Bilall and three other new movie releases previewed for you


‘Rebel’ by Adil and Bilall is an overwhelming viewing experience like we have never experienced in Belgian cinema ★★★★✩

By Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, with Aboubakr Bensaihi, Lubna Azabal, Amir El Arbi and Tara Abboud

God be praised and Allah praised! To have something Adil El Arbic and Bilall Fallah made an incredibly beautiful film with ‘Rebel’! An epic lasting more than two hours that takes us from the snack bars in Molenbeek to the IS training camps in Raqqa, punctuated with song and dance and for dessert a severed head that is far from finished. When we put it that way, it all sounds rather out of place, and yet this is a perfectly cool and controlled film, an overwhelming viewing experience such as we have never experienced before in Belgian cinema.

Now some find it insulting that Adil and Bilall have made a film about a young Belgian jihadist who will fight in Syria on the side of IS in 2013. We can only say that IS had not yet shown its true horror face to the world in 2013, and that even we, from our lazy chair, felt some understanding for those guys who, just like Kamal in ‘Rebel ‘, went to Syria to help in the hospitals of Aleppo or to fight against the cruel dictator Bashar al-Assad. Some see similarities between Kamal and Oskar Schindlerthe noble Nazi from ‘Schindler’s List’, but we saw more similarities with Chris (Charlie Sheen), the idealistic student who voluntarily travels to Vietnam in ‘Platoon’ and, once in the brooding reality of the jungle, is constantly on the brink of physical and mental collapse.

If ‘Rebel’ makes one thing crystal clear, it’s that Adil and Bilall are at their very best when, just like Spike Lee and Oliver Stone in their most relevant films, merging their cinematic bravado with their social concerns. Their virtuosity is best shown when they pan their camera around a bombed-out hospital in Aleppo, the blood and grit and panic of the crowd splashing you in the face. Tarantino would say: ‘Now that’s what I call directing, man!’ A dangerously flared grill fire in a snack bar forms the opening salvo of a beautifully choreographed musical number that makes us wonder how they managed it technically. Incidentally, those musical intermezzos do not serve to inject a bit of cheerfulness into the drama, but to emphasize the spinning emotions of the characters.

Thinking back to the surprisingly moving scene with the muttering head cut, we can only admire the audacity of Adil and Bilall. With ‘Rebel’ they made a film about our time, our society, our losses, and about the grief of the mothers of whatever faith they lose their children to recruiters, ratters and other manipulative bastards. ‘Rebel’ is their best movie yet, and something tells us the duo is far from the peak of their growth curve. “Extremely powerful,” Oliver Stone said of “Rebel.” Nothing to add.

‘Triangle of Sadness’ is very hard to laugh at, but the thorny questions the film raises sears the soul ★★★½✩

By Ruben Östlund, with Thobias Thorwid, Woody Harrelson and Charlbi Dean

The Swedish director Ruben Ostlund is as notorious for his ruthless humor as for the sharp arrows he aims at humanity in his films (‘The Square’, ‘Turist’). In Golden Palm winner ‘Triangle of Sadness’, the account of a remarkable sea cruise, Östlund unleashes his wrath on the one percent of the world’s population who single-handedly own half the wealth on Earth. And how: About halfway through the cruise, Östlund drops the filthy rich passengers off the luxury yacht, in a frenzied scene that may now be called as legendary as the Mr. Creosote in ‘The Meaning of Life’. ‘Triangle of Sadness’ is very funny, but the thorny questions that Östlund raises in the meantime – about gender differences, about the cursed patriarchy, about the gap between rich and poor and what to do about it – sear the soul.

‘Blonde’ remains blind to the Marilyn Monroe who was more than a sex object

By Andrew Dominik, with Ana de Armas, Bobby Cannavale and Adrien Brody

The moment Ana de Armas first appears as Marilyn Monroe in ‘Blonde’, around the 17th minute, we froze in our seat: because Ana is Marilyn! She really does look like her!

Admittedly not like two drops of water: in her voice you can hear a hint of a Cuban accent – the Armas was born in Santa Cruz del Norte – and hopefully no one will blame us when we notice, walking on eggshells as carefully as possible, that the slender Ana lacks a certain, er, fullness in the physical sense. And yet there is something of the magic of the real Marilyn around her. Her childlike innocence, her sparkling wit, her unrelenting charm, her endearing sheepishness (like when Marilyn has no idea how to eat a boiled egg), the garland of tragedy that hangs around her: all the characteristics we have learned over the years. , rightly or wrongly, we have come to associate with Marilyn, we find very beautiful back in the rendition of the Armas. Here with that Oscar nomination!

It’s a shame that the film is not aware of the performance of the lead actress. It’s not often that we shy away from a blonde – gentlemen prefer blondes, not true! – but on this ‘Blonde’ we were finally blown away. The first point of discussion is the approach: director and screenwriter Andrew Dominik Without much sense of nuance, Marilyn portrays Marilyn in ‘Blonde’ as an innocent little bird released into the hell of patriarchal Hollywood. Already in one of the first scenes we see how Marilyn is raped during an audition without a boo or yuck by a studio boss who goes by the name ‘Mr Z’: hmmmm, could it be Daryll F. Zanuckthe big boss of Twentieth Century Pictures?

In the most shocking scene, the president, stretched out on a hotel bed, grabs Kennedy Marilyn by the curls and he forces her into a blowjob in a long held sickening shot. It could well be that Marilyn actually had to undergo those humiliations, but a disclaimer is appropriate here: the scenes in question do not arise from facts, but from fiction, rumors and fictions. ‘Blonde’ is based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, who used Marilyn’s life as the basis for an (allegedly splendid) work of fiction. Anyway, by portraying Marilyn as a butterfly mortified, abused, exploited, and ultimately destroyed by maledom, Dominik joins an expanding movement that has posthumously proclaimed Marilyn a martyr of feminism.

“Look at what happened to Marilyn!” this is how you could summarize the message of that movement (and of ‘Blonde’). “Look at the brutality she had to endure, and you’ll see why feminism was desperately needed!” Or like the writer Nancy Friday it said, “Look closely at Marilyn’s life, girls. Because this is what happens to you when you let yourself be treated as a sex object!’ Correctamundo, correct and completely true, but the devil’s advocate in us would like to throw a question into the group: Doesn’t that approach ignore the fact that Marilyn was much more than just a martyr?

Don’t forget: for every soul who proclaims Marilyn a martyr of feminism, there is a biographer who portrays her as an ambitious, intelligent woman who knew perfectly that her value lay in her curves and her curves. And wasn’t she also a great performer who had the unique gift of enchanting the whole world? Put 100 Flemish and international celebs on stage and have them perform ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’, and we’ll give you a note that none of them will be able to match Marilyn’s version – even Harry Styles not, if he put a blond wig on his crown. But for those qualities – her engulfing naturalness on the big white screen, her magnetic appearance, yes even her acting talent that bubbles under the skin – ‘Blonde’ remains completely blind.

In ‘Blonde’ we see how the gifted Marilyn is reduced to a sex object by most men, but the question is: does not Dominik make the same mistake by portraying her in most scenes as a ruthless romper? Anyway: enough material to put up a sturdy tree in the cafe afterwards. But you know, overall, it’s not even Dominik’s slightly narrow-minded angle that troubled us. No, it is mainly his film style that we have been rejected. Instead of opting for a classic biographical account, Dominik tries to draw us into a slightly surreal stream of images with his dreamy photography and his trance-inducing music score.

In that respect ‘Blonde’ can actually be compared well with ‘Spencer’, the idiosyncratic biopic that pablo Larrain last year made over Lady Di. Dominik also used that poetic style in 2007’s ‘The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford’, with wonderful results, but this time he misses the point in most scenes. During an abortion, the cinematographer gives us a point of view shot from Marilyn’s vagina, and during the blowjob she gives to JFK, images of surface-to-air missiles actually pass through – as if we are in a ‘The Naked Gun’-esque farce – like phalluses pointing upwards. Okay, there’s nothing wrong with a little comic relief, but the moment Marilyn’s unborn fetus starts talking out loud, we thought: okay, Andrew, now it’s enough with your imagery-of-licking vest.

Finally, one more thought. We wouldn’t want to feed them, all those writers, essayists, journalists and filmmakers who have been researching, commenting, analyzing, claiming, interpreting and reinterpreting Marilyn’s life since her death on August 4, 1962. But we may never know who she really was. We’d love to offer her a gin fizz and have a chat with her, but hey, she’s been under the sod for 60 years. Hopefully she rests in peace.

Watching ‘Toute une nuit’ is like having a time capsule to the eighties opening up before your eyes, with beautifully lit images ★★★★✩

By Chantal Akerman, with Aurore Clément, Frank Aendenboom and Tchéky Karyo

Chantal Akermanthe Belgian supreme lady of poetic slow cinema, owes her worldwide fame – among others Martin Scorsese and Gus Van Sant his fan – especially her chef d’oeuvre ‘Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles’, but also the slightly lesser-known ‘Toute une nuit’ from 1982, which can be seen this week in a restored version, is a trembling chunk of urban poetry. Watching ‘Toute une nuit’ is like opening a beautiful time capsule from the eighties before your eyes (There, a Citroën DS!), but the passions that rise from the beautifully lit images are universal and timeless. ‘Toute une nuit’ makes you want to go into town and – just like the characters – to dance a slow in a café to a tearjerker of Gino Lorenzi. We already said it: slow cinema!

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