WATCH AT HOME!
Film Bitch History
Oscar History
Welcome

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

 

Powered by Squarespace
Comment Fun

How had i never seen... Enter the Dragon

"A action movie classic" - Jaragon

"Honestly, I saw Kentucky Fried Movie -- which ends with a long parody of this film -- about 5-10 years before I got around to seeing Enter the Dragon itself. I remember so much more about [the former]". -James

Keep TFE Strong

We're looking for 500... no 461 Patron SaintsIf you read us daily, please be one.  Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience

THANKS IN ADVANCE

Interviews

recent

Directors (For Sama)
Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

What'cha Looking For?
Subscribe
« Portugal's Oscar Finalists | Main | TIFF: "Synonyms" is essential viewing »
Friday
Sep062019

TIFF: "Atlantics" haunts and hypnotizes

by Nathaniel R

Atlantics made history earlier this summer when it became the first film directed by a black woman ever to compete for the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Though it lost the top prize Atlantics was a winner generating a lot of "must-see" buzz and eventually taking the Grand Jury Prize. Given that reception Netflix swept in to snatch it up for future streaming. Now that it has a home we wonder if it can continue to make waves, if you'll pardon the oceanic pun.

On the one hand it'd surely be tough to convince people to see a Senagalese movie without any easy summary or hook from a debut director. In that regard we're thankful Atlantics has a future firmly in place. On the other that futures is a double edged sword. As with Roma before it, which was also light on dialogue and rested on great cinematography and a brand new actress playing a quiet passive protagonist, its considerable strengths are entirely cinematic. Memorable images abound with clever lighting choices and a robust but never gaudy color palette. Atlantics bold and unsubtle sound will transfer with greater ease to in-home viewing with the constant roar of the ocean competing with an intrusive but sometimes inspired 80s influenced electronic score...  

See, the dark cocoon of a movie theater just feels exactly like the environment made to heighten the poetry and mystery of films like Atlantics. Not that there are many films like it.

But you have to stick with it to figure that out and Atlantics begins much like any number of slow-burn art films. The first two reels are where it's at its least-entrancing, playing out as all atmosphere / no plot. We meet a local boy Souleiman (Traore) who works in construction but hasn't been paid in three months. His girlfriend Ada (Mame Binita Sane) loves him but is engaged to marry a man with a considerable bank account. After a failed attempt at intimacy in an abandoned building (whoops - it wasnt so abandoned after all) the young would-be lovers agree to meet later that night. The destination is a local oceanfront bar filled with numerous Souleimans and Adas, if you will. But he never shows. In fact none of the boys do. The girls (Ada among them) are heartbroken to realize their employed but unpaid boyfriends have gone off to sea as so many other impoverished men have before them. They'll presumably die in the water at any moment, a frightening fate suffered by all too many refugees.

At first we're just getting an artfully lensed and depressingly realistic but not so unique drama about economic struggles. Then (no spoilers) the movie goes entirely sideways, hopping out a window in its barefeet to stir up stranger feelings, aesthetic daring, and big trouble. Things get really interesting and stay that way, moving past realism into a more affecting and boldly poetic examination of greed, corruption, economic disparity and the body counts they leave in their wake all over the world (and its oceans). It's a stunner of a movie even if it largely sacrifices complex characters for smart visuals and theme (only two characters, Ada and her friend Dior, memorably played by Nicole Sougo, feel at all three-dimensional). We'd argue that the film's largest plot thread, which involves a hotshot young detective (Amadou Mbow) inolving odd crimes only half works but the half that does amazes.

In the end it's impossible to care about the minor first film troubles. Instead you'll want to fantasize about what other entirely unique films this young female auteur might dream up? We must believe there's a very bright future ahead for her. 

Since we mentioned the cinematography we must give a more specific shout-out to Claire Mathon, a rising star in the field. She previously shot Stranger by the Lake and she has two buzzy festival films this year (Atlantics and Portrait of a Lady on Fire) all of which highlight her considerable range. We're compelled to shout out one image in particular that we can't shake. One of Atlantics most brilliant touches is a recurring wide shot of the city of Dakar where the film takes place. A mega-skyscraper dominates every such shot, feeling like something imagined, emerging from the city but also towering above it. The skyscraper is always only half visible, as if dreamed into being, covered as it is by clouds or smog or tricks of heat and light. All around this behemoth stand smaller buildings that are only half formed. It's hard to tell whether they're under construction or awaiting demolition but either way they're entirely at the mercy of that mammoth illusory symbol of wealth at the center. 

Mati Diop (center) with the film's young lovers at CannesGrade: B+
Oscar Chances: If Senegal decides to submit it for Best International Feature (they've only submitted once before), it's easy to imagine it as a finalist.  

 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (2)

It’s a beautiful film indeed, recalling the creations of numerous literary giants (Morrison’s supernatural-tinged grief, Fitzgerald’s green light, etc.) without borrowing too heavily. If Félicité can make Oscar’s shortlist, this can. I’ll be rooting for it.

September 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Wow, I really hope whatever release this has reaches me so I can see it in the theatre.

September 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>