Monthly Archives: November 2016

Film Review: Divines

Film Review: Divines

The past couple of years have seen the release of two terrific coming-of-age films featuring teenage girls. Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood, her third film, dates from 2014. Girlhood is exquisitely shot and remarkably accessible considering it is about a French girl drawn into a gang.

Now, this film has a companion. Divines is the Caméra d’Or winner from this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Director/co-author[1] Houda Benyamina creates an atmosphere in the first two-thirds of the film that is both original and unrelentingly fierce. The film’s final third maintains its tone but is weakened by a lapse into formulaic plotting. Still, Ms. Benyamina shows tremendous ability in this, her debut feature. She makes you look forward to her future projects.divines-inquiring

Divines is the story of feisty Dounia (Oulaya Amamra, the director’s sister) and her more guarded friend Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena). Both are French-born children of African immigrants living in a shantytown outside Paris.

Chances for economic advancement are bleak. The two attend a school where they take part in training to interview for low-level administrative jobs. Dounia confronts the teacher about the pay and possibilities for improving their quality of life, which gets her booted out of class. She vows she will never return, but will find her own way of making “money, money, money”.divines-balcony

Dounia and a reluctant Maimouna finagle an appointment with drug dealer Rebecca (Jisca Kalvanda) that leads to their being hired as go-betweens. It is a lot of risk for the pay, but Rebecca dangles the prospect of a glamorous “money” job before them. Naturally, this turns out to be the riskiest endeavor of all.

During act two, though, the film begins to look more familiar and less interesting. It starts with a romantic subplot involving Dounia and a dancer (Kevin Mischel). The scene where Dounia catches her faithless mother (Majdouline Idrissi) with Rebecca’s employee (Yasin Houicha) seems contrived. And so on through the finale.divines-dollar

Until that point, Benyamina does a good job of drawing you into this narrative. Cinematographer Julien Poupard’s gritty images help set the mood, as does the editing by Loïc Lallemend and Vincent Tricom.

The performances by Amamra and Lukumuena alone are sufficiently compelling to keep you engaged in this film. A scene where they fantasize about driving a Ferrari while sipping champagne with gorgeous men they have picked up is both touching and funny. Another time, they don traditional robes because they want to shoplift groceries. You have to keep your eyes on this duo every minute-and you will want to.

Divines is available on Netflix.

Theme: Young Friendships

Related Posts: Film Appreciation: Heavenly Creatures  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-heavenly-creatures/

Young Friendships: List For Week Ending November 27, 2016  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/young-friendships-list-for-week-ending-november-27-2016/

[1] Credited authors are: Houda Benyamina, Romain Compingt, and Malik Rumeau

Film Appreciation: Heavenly Creatures

Film Appreciation: Heavenly Creatures

Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures is a fanciful version of a real-life horror tale, with marvelous performances from Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey. You would never guess the young actresses were making their screen debuts here. The film is based on the Parker-Hulme murder, a notorious New Zealand case from 1954. Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme,Continue Reading

Film Review: Nocturnal Animals

Film Review: Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford made his directorial debut in 2009 with A Single Man, about a gay man struggling to come to terms with the accidental death of his lover. The title character, played by Colin Firth, is an intensely private college professor battling thoughts of suicide. He finds a measure of peace through the kindness ofContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari

Film Appreciation: The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari

At first glance, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari might seem an odd choice as a companion film for Nocturnal Animals. The two were made nearly a century apart, and under very different conditions. Nocturnal Animals was filmed in 2015 California, Caligari in 1920 Germany. The makers of Nocturnal Animals had a huge budget and plentyContinue Reading

Film Review: Arrival

Film Review: Arrival

Denis Villeneuve’s film Arrival could be described as the anti-Independence Day. Poetic and cerebral, Arrival suggests rather than announces its message. A riveting performance by Amy Adams, elegant cinematography and production design, and a haunting musical score combine to make this a message that resonates. A group of aliens has deposited twelve spaceships around theContinue Reading

Highlights For Week Ending November 13, 2016

Highlights For Week Ending November 13, 2016

COMPOSER BEN MODEL PROVIDES LIVE SCORE FOR 1927 DeMILLE FILM CHICAGO On Wednesday, November 16 at 7:30 pm, composer Ben Model will perform at McLean, Virginia’s Alden Theatre, improvising a live score for the 1927 Cecil B. DeMille film Chicago. Mr. Model will be joined by film historian Bruce Lawton. For further details: http://mcleancenter.org/alden-theatre/performance/icalrepeat.detail/2016/11/16/1522/-/classics-of-the-silent-screen-chicago