Winner of the Best Actor and Best Screenplay awards at this year’s Venice Film Festival, Christian Vincent’s dryly comic courtroom drama was selected as the opening film for the 44th Hong Kong French Cinepanorama on 18 November.
We first meet a young Hibat in 1955, growing up as a one of 12 children, in southern Iran. As he gets older, Hibat (Kheiron) blossoms into a brilliant student, but also becomes politicised, angry at the oppressive rule of the Shah. He becomes a leftist agitator and soon finds himself in prison, serving a ten year sentence for political activism.
By the time he leaves prison, change is sweeping Iran, but the rise of the Ayotollahs is not the kind of revolution Hibat hoped for. He meets and falls in love with the beautiful Fereshteh (Leïla Bekhti), however, any future life together, as well as the safety of their newly born son, is threatened as Hibat again finds himself persecuted for his political beliefs. The family decide find to leave to leave Iran, making a hazardous mountain crossing to Turkey, before eventually settling in France.
Once there Hibat’s story changes and becomes a classic immigrant tale as the family struggles to adapt to life in a new country. However, Hibat’s social conscience doesn’t stay idle for long and he soon takes on a local government role, managing a run down community centre in a poorly serviced housing block.
Kheiron, a popular French comedian directs and stars in this film, based on the true story of his own father, who defected to France in 1983. This accounts perhaps for the slightly breezy portrayal of Hibat. While his imprisonment is bleak and bloody, we don’t see much darkness or self-doubt in his decision to leave Iran or in the face of the struggles he faces in France.
Thankfully, this isn’t at the expense of giving us an immigrant’s view of social change. Few recent films I can recall do as good a job of capturing the humour new settlers experience as they find their closest friends not in the locals of their host nation, but in the opportunity seeking folks who’ve come from other countries and whose cultures and customs are every bit as new and strange as those of the country in which they’ve all chosen to settle. The richness of this in the final act, is what gives All Three Of Us it’s wonderfully memorable humanity.
One reviewer posted on Twitter that this film was too beautiful to be true, which is at best the jaundiced view of a critic out of touch with the human condition and at worst, the voice of privilege and perhaps even racism, out of touch with the plight of immigrants around the world. The triumph of All Three Of Us, a success that far outweighs the films other possible limitations, is the way it manages to sympathetically portray the contribution immigrants can make to their new host societies at a time when the debate around immigration in so much of the world and especially in Europe where this film is set, has become so charged and toxic. This allows All Three Of Us, to not just be beautiful and true, which it is, but also timely, important and perhaps even revolutionary.
And, it helped All Three Of Us secure the Special Jury Prize at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival.
Lots to talk about on today’s show, including Luc Besson’s rebooted action franchise, now sans Jason Statham, The Transporter Refuelled; Charlize Theron takes on Gillian Flynn in true-crime drama Dark Places, while Huang Jung-min and Yoo Ah-in square off in Ryu Seung-wan’s excellent thriller Veteran.
Liam Neeson’s third outing as over-protective family man Bryan Mills sees him on the run for murder after his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) turns up dead in his apartment. Forest Whitaker heads the investigation, which soon enough uncovers the involvement of nasty Russian gangsters, but Olivier Megaton’s uneven, anaemic direction ensures Taken 3 fails again to recapture the magic of the original.
Autumn is my favourite season of the year. There’s something about the first hints of cold in the air, the shorter days and the general feeling everyone is moving just a little faster, that really makes me feel alive. Looking back over the years, as I get older, it’s clear I’ve done a lot of my best work in autumn.
This is the second year for me that autumn has coincided with covering the Tokyo International Film Festival. I adore living in Tokyo, but one of my few complaints is the range of films screened here, especially once we get past local releases (of which there are of course many) and blockbusters (which are increasingly same-y and comic book derived) is limited. The Tokyo International Film Festival is therefore a bright shining beacon in my calendar that I look forward to for months in advance.
So, it was rather apt that my first screening this year was a film about a film maker trying to make a film. Romain Goupil wrote, directed and stars in The Days Come, where he plays a fictionalised version of himself, an ageing director struggling to find a theme for his next work. The film opens with Romain walking the streets, where twice he nearly has a piano fall on him, in what looks like a spectacular crane accident, but which seems to not register any alarm with his characters. The pianos fall a few more times in the film and they are one of several markers that The Days Come is allowing itself to have a meta-narrative, to communicate with the viewer on a number of different levels.
This slight is used in a quite brilliant way by Goupil, to allow the film to feel simultaneously old, political and idealistic while also also reflecting on the apolitical society we live in today. Romain’s struggles are not just creative, he is also a child of ’68 (as Goupil was in real life), an old revolutionary firebrand who seems now more concerned with mundane, almost middle class concerns about raising his kids, managing his finances and keeping his neighbours happy.
But, all these concerns, while on the surface appearing mundane, also have deeper political implications. Goupil’s real life wife and children play themselves in the film and around 10 minutes of the films running time is actually archival footage Goupil shot of his family when the children were younger. What makes these images so dramatic, apart from the reality of seeing all the characters as their younger selves, is that the footage was shot in Sarajevo, after the war, where we see life coming back to normality amidst the rubble and bombed out buildings. The politics here are not explored in detail, but there are some delightful moments with Goupil’s mother in law, who is both a Muslim and also a devout fan of former dictator and strongman Josip Tito.
The politics are more explicitly developed in Romain’s relationship with his children, especially when his oldest son interviews him for a school project and the events of 1968 in Paris and later, is taken in by the police for vandalising public bicycles which Romain had suggested were a symbol of communist idealism at work. Just as Romain’s son seems to have abandoned his father’s ideals, we also see that Romain himself, has let down the idealism of his parents, coming across to them as almost shockingly conservative and petit-bourgoise.
Moreover, Romain’s relationship with his neighbours is actually a tricky, complex set of relationships with fellow artists, which includes the troubled young writer Marie (Marina Hands), all live in a sort of commune, a residential artist community. Their numbers are small but their conversations, insults and interactions and deeply, almost nostalgically political.
But, perhaps the most complex of Romain’s relationships is with his bank manager (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), with whom he has a flirtatious and spectacularly confessional relationship. There’s a surprising hint that the bank’s vault might make for a suitable location for a mutually agreeable seduction, which feels like a play on the idea that money, rather than idealism or freedom, has become the real facilitator of sexual attractiveness in today’s culture.
Autumn of course, has a darkness about it, a sense that gloom and death lurk nearby. It’s not hard to see why the major festivals we associate with Autumn, from Halloween to Dia De Los Muertos, celebrate, or at least pay respect to the inevitability of death and decay. There is something autumnal, something honestly and tragically dark and human about The Days Come that transcends the artifice and cleverness of the way the film was made.
The Days come is a very personal, engaging & profound film, which poses many questions about life, love, politics and the inevitability of growing old, in a restrained, carefully constructed, entertaining & thoroughly unpatronising way. One of the best films I have seen this year.