[OP 06/19/06 - French Cinema journal]
Loin, the remarkable and engrossing 14th feature from Andr Tchin, showcases the French filmmakers penchant for exploring the inherent class, identity and sexual politics with lan. Unfolding over a 3-day span, the film primarily dealing with characters who, no matter how hard they try to make a connection with a person or a place, are destined to be alone. Serge (Stphane Rideau) is a stoic French truck driver who shuttles between France and Northern Africa for a clothing manufacturer. Early on in the film, he reluctantly accepts an offer to smuggle drugs into Europe on his way back from Morocco. But once in Tangiers, his thought process shifts toward an old flame, Sara (Lubna Azabal), a young Jewish woman who runs a hotel there. We learn that their relationship had suffered previously due to Saras now deceased mother, but she still feels the hurt. To resolve this matter, Serge seeks the help of Saras family friend, Sad (Mohamed Hamadi), who works at the hotel but has dreams of starting a new life across the border in Spain. Hes very protective of his employer and perhaps holds some feelings for her as well, though is keenly aware of his limitations due to the differences between them.
Brilliantly Shot on digital-video, mostly in a documentary-like fashion in Tangiers labyrinthine streets, the film presents a city which, much like our protagonists, is no longer aware of itself and its roots. It may have left them in order to modernize, though it hasnt yet transformed into a modern-day Cairo or a Casablanca. And even the film's important secondary characters (intricately weaved in by the screenplay which Tchin co-wrote) who populate the city are caught in this push-pull dynamics: Saras sister-in-law arrives from Montreal to persuade her to leave Tangiers; Saras defiant pregnant friend whose love for the city hasnt wavered after the death of her husband; an American ex-pat whos unhappy with the citys current state.
Tchin only further accentuates the transitory nature of everyone's lives through his visual panache, whether it's by catching a patch of clouds being reflected on a windshield or focusing on a imperceptible shadow on the ground. And these were about the same grounds that once haunted the summer of 1962 in the director's most acclaimed effort thus far, Wild Reeds (1994). In that film, the young Franois was played by Gal Morel, someone Tchin has brought back to revitalize the character, now a struggling filmmaker. "You sense the fragility of life in that film," which is what Franois remarks about Renoirs The River (1951), the masterwork Tchin finds a way to pay an homage to while keeping his characters in a perfect imbalance: a snake slithers toward Serge and Sara in the outback, and then disappears, as if realizing that these two are already aware of their fate -- in other words, they dont deserve to be bit.
*LOIN had its international premiere at the 2001 Venice Film Festival (in-competition).