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Blinded by the Light
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The appeal here isn't in presenting a story that's never been told before, but taking a common story and doing an excellent job at telling it. And once again, like all Céline Sciamma films, we're treated to some world class casting.
This film had great potential; however, it is so drawn out it gets tiring to watch. I had to take several breaks to get through it; boring would be a compliment. An hour-long movie was all that was needed to convey the message or if there really was one. Probably rates as one of the worse movies I've seen in a while, sadly.
- Black skin and poverty can really f@ck with Girlhood -
At first look, things can be misleading.
I didn't do any reading about Girlhood before sitting down to watch it. The poster grabbed my attention. It's of a beautiful, young, black girl and it's not something I see that often. I was into it.
In the opening scene, I settled in to watch a montage of an American football game, which is fine-great even. Then as the scene played out, I realized it was women playing football-not soccer, not futbol, but football. Next I realized I hadn't heard any English dialogue, but instead it sounded like French. Now I'm thinking, "okay cool, I feel cultured now, no big deal. I've been meaning to watch some foreign films." Then, I realize I see a plethora of dark faces. I try to suppress the distressing truth of how ignorant and uninformed I am (I blame America), when I think "Oh yeah, France has black people toooooooooooo!!!!" As a side note, I'm a Black American dude. I still blame America.
I could feel my head exploding with the outrageous juxtaposition. I thought to myself, "enlightenment is a journey, not a destination." I still feel pretty dumb though. I'm not going to lie.
Girlhood is not the girl version of Boyhood, by any means. That's the first thing that you thought of, don't deny it.
It's a story of a young girl fed up with her circumstance in a working-class suburb of Paris. Marieme (Karidja Toure, Skoken, Le grand journal de Canal) grew up poor with a struggling, hard working single mom, an abusive brother and a younger sister in need of protection. Her opportunities are limited. She aspires to go to academic high school but her grades are pushing her closer to vocational education. She isn't exactly Cambridge bound.
With so little opportunity, Marieme falls in with a girl gang, is given the new name "Vic" and begins stealing to be accepted by the other girls. It gets pretty dark pretty fast.
Girlhood definitely gave me a Fruitvale Station vibe. " How could this not end badly?"
Honestly, it's very difficult to feel for Vic. Every time she played with my heart strings by being sweet, loving, and sensitive, she'd do something moronic. She'd bully or rob some innocent, which apparently is a gateway to selling drugs. I began doing what I hate. I judged every life decision she'd make for my own convenience so that I'd feel better about myself.
Despite all of this, the movie was completely engrossing.
The duo who truly stole the show for a fella like myself were the director Celine Sciamma (Tomboy) and the cinematographer Crystel Fournier (Paris Can Wait, Tomboy). One of my favorite feelings to experience in life, is witnessing someone take a camera, and make a professional film on an amateur budget.
Fournier's skill was a pure exhibition in mise-en-cine leaving nothing to bare. It's always refreshing to see a film in her natural beauty. I go the theater to see films, my video games provide plenty of special effects.
If you love a raw, gritty indie, you'll bathe in Girlhood and feel good and dirty. You'll smell like a bouquet of documentaries.
It wasn't long before I'd gotten used to the beautiful black faces speaking French while I read the subtitles. I'm ashamed that it was so jarring. Maybe I'm not as open as I thought I was. However, I know admitting is the first step.
This review was first published on Narrative Muse, http://www.narrativemuse.co/movies/girlhood, and was written Ernest Green. Narrative Muse curates the best books and movies by and about women and non-binary folk on our website http://narrativemuse.co and our social media channels.
I just didn't get into this movie like I had expected. It is extremely slow moving with lots of character development. I just didn't get attached to the main character. I appreciate that it was a low budget film with a large amount of thought and meaning to each scene. I understand that the director wanted to delve into the life of a black 16 year old girl from the projects as she navigates herself through different stages of development. Her life was terribly difficult but she still manages to be a girl. Just not that memorable of a film.
Unconvincing set up, leaving us with a patronising image of working class black girls (and to a much lesser extent working class black men) unable to escape their "fates", their choices reduced to automated responses, mixed in with boring plotting and direction that seeks the incidentally startling over the informative.
Not sweet but a bitter coming of age film for these girls at the bottom of every social and economic ladder.
3/4 of this film is downright brilliant, bringing to mind and standing up in comparison to one of my favourite ever films 'La Haine'. The final section doesn't quite work on the same level but I can live with that because of the excellence that goes before. Marieme is a fully fleshed out character, not everything is explained to the viewer, you're left to draw your own conclusions and the film is the better for it. The best bits of the story focus on the central quartet of girls and one particular scene where they cut loose in shoplifted dresses and mime along to Rhianna's 'Diamonds' is as good as any cinema I've seen in years.
Hard to watch...I didn't make 20 minutes before turning it off and doing something else...
"Girlhood" is a French film by director Céline Sciamma about the coming of age of a teenage black girl in Paris under tough circumstances, who decides to go in a more sinister direction with a new group of friends, and she has to prove herself, but there are family complications, and a romance is involved too. Yes we've seen movies like this before; this film, unlike "Boyhood", won't be talked about as some kind of cinema revolution in decades to come (the two films really are so different they shouldn't be readily compared, though they have similar titles, came out at close to the same time, and deal with the experience of youth). But that's perfectly fine, because the craft is exceptional. The story is interesting the way it builds, the acting is great, particularly by Karidja Touré in the lead as she physically transforms once, and then again completely believably. And what's more, this has the most memorable use of an American pop song in a foreign film I have seen in a very long time. Just great.
Gritty, determined, well shot and well-acted.