Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 4:22 pm 
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NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2017 - ALA EDDINE SLIM: THE LAST OF US/AHKER WAHED FINA (2016)

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JAWHAR SOUDANI IN THE LAST OF US

A conceptual Robinson Crusoe film that plays with the hot issue of immigration

This is a Tunisian film shot in Tunisia. It's spoken of as an immigration film. The film's own website says, "N is a young sub-Saharan man who crosses the desert in order to reach North Africa and be smuggled into Europe." But this is, as it progresses, more and more a myth with surreal, primal elements. The film website states that N "meets an altered image of himself." A lot of this film's early section feels like something Claire Denis might do - till it turns into a apocalyptic kind of Robinson Crusoe story in which the Robinson follows an ancient gnarly Friday around and takes on his role of old stancher and lone survivor - the meaning presumably of the title, The Last of Us. Props to Jawhar Soudani, who plays N, who carries the film as its protagonist, providing a sympathetic and strong presence even though he never utters a word. The Last of Us is a haunting and beautifully photographed film whose acting is impeccable and tech credits are excellent. There are several haunting landscape images worthy of Carlos Reygadas' Post Tenebras Lux.

This is a case where the festival blurb is pretty nearly perfectly accurate. Indeed two men silently traverse a vast, flat landscape. Nobody speaks, from beginning to end of the film. The two men get in the back of aa smuggler's truck, and soon after are caught in a holdup by men with guns. Only one of the men appears to escape from this melee, and we follow him for the saga that follows. He hides out near the sea for a long time, surviving on scraps, and then steals an outboard motor and attaches it to a rough derelict old boat. He sets out across the sea, but where he lands we do not know.

When lost in the heavily forested landscape, N falls into a trap and is severely wounded in one leg. He suffers the torture of the damned and it looks as thought this is the end. But a rope is thrown to him, and when he is passed out, his wound is treated with natural remedies. When he awakes he sees the large, ancient M (Fathi Akkari), a wild hermit draped in many layers of animal skins. As N heals, he follows M and depends on him. They live largely on small animals they cook. N starts to put on skins like M and his hair and beard grow out and he begins to resemble his dominant Man Friday.

The Last of Us is a beautifully made feature debut that resembles what might be a student short film in its material. It is worthy of close festival attention but would seem to have limited theatrical release potential. Ala Eddine Slim has a background in documentaries and shorts.

The Last of Us/آخر واحد فينا (Akher Wahed Fina), 95 mins., debuted Sept. 2016 at Venice International Critics Week, where it won the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for Best Debut Film. The Paris-based Still Moving acquired world sales rights to the film at Venice. Also shown at Rotterdam, Lyon, and New Directors/New Films (Mar. 201); it was screened as part of the latter for this review.

Here is the [url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYGU1DU8TTg"]trailer[/url].

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