Saturday, January 7, 2012

Freedom Song

La Follie Almayer/Almayer's Folly (2011) - Akerman
Akerman stepping into Claire Denis territory? Loosely based on Joseph Conrad's first novel of the same title, the film finds a disillusioned French colonialist (Stanislas Merhar) deep in Malaysian jungle living with his loveless native wife and a half-breed daughter, Nina (Aurora Marion). Still dreaming of making it big in the mines with his shady business partner/former captain Linguard (Marc Barbé), while boozing and being nostalgic about great Europe, Almayer obliges Linguard's insistence to take his beloved daughter and put her in a boarding school in the city to be 'a proper woman' and join the European society in the future.

In the film's stunning beginning, Nina is seen dancing along with other girls in the background while her lover Dain croons (lip synching) an Elvis song at an outdoor club. As Dain gets stabbed to death, Nina takes the stage and sings. In Akerman's eyes, Nina emerges as the main character, not her pathetic, broken father. With its non linear structure, lush surroundings and long takes, Akerman creates some really blissful cinematic moments. At other times, it becomes a little tedious, especially with Merhar. I wish she chose Barbé (who resembles sedated Kinski and just as charismatic) for the title role and vice versa.

Almayer's Folly is a film of considerable hypnotic power. It hadn't left my head since seeing it on Friday.

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