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Heading South - Vers le sud (2005) (France/Canada)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 9:49 am
by trevor826
Heading South - Vers le sud (2005)

Directed by Laurent Cantet

Starring Charlotte Rampling, Karen Young, Louise Portal, Mnothy Cesar

A rather subdued and sombre romantic tragedy revolving around middle-aged women from the U.S. taking long breaks in Haiti to get a little attention and excitement from the young bucks there.

Not ignorant of but definitely ignoring the poverty and pain of the Haitians the ladies, all well into their forties and fifties reside in a tropical paradise where every whim is attended to with the utmost politeness. Smiles and good manners hide the deep resentment and for some, shame felt at selling out to the Yankee dollar while their own people suffer under the regime of "Baby Doc".

No problem then, these pampered, rich but emotionally and sexually starved women pretend they're in some form of Garden of Delights, the young local men are more than happy to provide the attention and sexual favours knowing they will be well rewarded for their ministrations and exertions.

Problems arise though when two of the ladies start a psychological tug of war for one of the boys, 18 year old Legba. Ellen has spent several months at the resort for the last six years and is seen as being akin to the queen, usually getting everything she wants. The pretender, Brenda who visited the Island three years previously with her then husband lays claim to Legba because during that first trip, she had taken advantage of him at the tender age of 15, in return she had her first orgasm at the age of 45.

Brenda openly professes her affection; Ellen condemns her for believing she could be in love with the boy while secretly hiding her own deep affections.

Legba on the other hand is starting to feel the strain of years of being just a plaything, sure the rewards are good but the building tension between the rivals for his affections plus trouble brewing with his friends and family all add to his growing resentment. On an island where a little trouble can lead to your permanent disappearance, it can be a strain just to survive and sure enough, trouble eventually catches up with Legba.

The performances are all very good as you would expect from the older cast, theres also a great first time showing from Mnothy Cesar as Legba. The tension and poverty of the locals is well represented as is the brutality of the police, placing small minded thugs in positions of minor power is a great way of keeping people subdued and under control.

The way the women use the local boys seems almost acceptable, yet if the position was reversed, middle aged men with young girls it would rightly cause an outcry, though of course unfortunately it does happen in a few parts of the world.

Although the film doesn't cover the political climate to any major degree, that isn't really its intention anyway. It does convey a sense of reality that is full of subdued emotional strain and tension.

A decent romantic tragedy with a strong cast and a sense of melancholy that ably captures a moment and place in time without any overwrought Hollywood histrionics.

Cheers Trev

BBFC rated 15

R2 dvd released by Soda Pictures

Re: Heading South - Vers le sud (2005) (France/Canada)

PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2006 7:41 am
by arsaib4
I'm a little surprised that you didn't mention any of Cantet previous three films: Time Out, Human Resources and Les Sanguinaires. (The obvious reason would be that you simply haven't seen them, though that'd also be a surprise.)

I agree with you. It's a good, ambitious film which perhaps tries to tackle a few too many issues, but that's certainly preferable than suffering through yet another safe, middle-brow affair.

Heading South was adapted from three short stories by Haitian-Canadian writer Dany Laferrire, which might be the cause of a certain unevenness in the script. But it starts strongly, with Cantet meticulously mapping out the emotional, physical, and psychological terrain. The way he showcases the bodies with all the desires they embody is almost Denis-like (who probably could've made a masterpiece from this material).

"Although the film doesn't cover the political climate to any major degree, that isn't really its intention anyway."

You're right, local politics initially did remain in the background. Though they did play a role in the film's final, somewhat conventional thrid act. (Cantet made his point earlier, and quite poignantly so, by not allowing Legba to have a "say," unlike the trio of white woman and the black restaurant owner.)

"The way the women use the local boys seems almost acceptable, yet if the position was reversed, middle aged men with young girls it would rightly cause an outcry, though of course unfortunately it does happen in a few parts of the world."

You mean locally (the outcry, that is)? Either way, black or white, men or women, it's always the poor who get taken advantage of.

"The performances are all very good as you would expect from the older cast, theres also a great first time showing from Mnothy Cesar as Legba."

True.

Re: Heading South - Vers le sud (2005) (France/Canada)

PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2006 2:56 pm
by trevor826
"The way the women use the local boys seems almost acceptable, yet if the position was reversed, middle aged men with young girls it would rightly cause an outcry, though of course unfortunately it does happen in a few parts of the world."

You mean locally (the outcry, that is)? Either way, black or white, men or women, it's always the poor who get taken advantage of.

Agreed but there's a climate where a young boy having a sexual experience with "the older woman" is almost seen as "rite of passage" and not as some sort of paedophilic act whereas if the roles were reversed...........

I'm a little surprised that you didn't mention any of Cantet previous three films: Time Out, Human Resources and Les Sanguinaires. (The obvious reason would be that you simply haven't seen them, though that'd also be a surprise.)

I have seen the first two, indeed I have the dvd's. There was no reason for not mentioning the previous films, It didn't really cross my mind but I'll write some notes next time I watch them.

Heading South was adapted from three short stories by Haitian-Canadian writer Dany Laferrire, which might be the cause of a certain unevenness in the script. But it starts strongly, with Cantet meticulously mapping out the emotional, physical, and psychological terrain. The way he showcases the bodies with all the desires they embody is almost Denis-like (who probably could've made a masterpiece from this material).

Totally agree re Denis, also thank's for the info re Dany Laferrire. Did you see Heading South in the cinema or on dvd?

Cheers Trev.

Re: Heading South - Vers le sud (2005) (France/Canada)

PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2006 8:04 pm
by arsaib4
Heading South became available on DVD earlier this week through an online rental service. I believe it'll officially come out in the U.S. in February. Has it been released on DVD in the U.K.?

Re: Heading South - Vers le sud (2005) (France/Canada)

PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2006 9:47 am
by trevor826
The UK dvd was released by Soda Pictures 23 Oct, a good transfer with 5.1 sound (a rarity for Soda). Extras include trailers, biographies and an image gallery. Needless to say it has found a place in my collection.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Heading South - Vers le sud (2005) (France/Canada)

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 3:52 am
by A
Since I have previously missed this thread (what with my not being able to keep up to date with our board for the last two months), I have copied my short comments on this remarkable film from the last Movie seen thread.

Quote:Laurent Cantet's vers le sud (2005) was a very good emotional drama about the impossibility of a global perception in personal history. Set in the late 70s in haiti, it is an exploration of politics via their "absence" in the narrative of the film. The viewer has to fill out the blanks along with the female protagonists. Great structure, masterful directing, etc. Cantet is clearly one of the most gifted current french directors. Comparison with Robert Guediguain in the combination of personal and social history, though Cantet is as far as I can see superior in a lot of ways. Also a rare case of an completely honest film that doesn't try to ridicule anyone. In our "postmodern" age this may be hard to swallow for many viewers who think they can pass their judgement on a lot of things... Strongly recommended.
72/100

I have seen the film at the cinema, and I also loved the way it reversed the usual roles, making the viewer uncertain at times what is morally "expected" from him (as Trevor has pointed out). The film has a lot of "problems", although Cantet is such a capable director that he smoothens them over. But it could have been better if the picture had been a bit longer or a bit shorter. I did like the strong statement Cantet was making by keeping Legba silent. Another ambivalent move, as he denies him the right to speak, but at the same time allows him to keep his dignity. The psychology also sometimes stumbles, but it is played out on such a high level, that it is already rewarding if you only consider this part of the film. And Cantet is really a master when it comes to pulling the right strings for an emotional and honest scene.

The only other of his films I`ve seen, is his masterpiece "Human Ressources" from 1999. Seems like Cantet has to be careful to bite off only what he can chew, but the risks paid out this time.

Re: Heading South - Vers le sud (2005) (France/Canada)

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 8:38 am
by arsaib4
I hope you get the opportunity to watch Time Out. It's one of the better films French cinema has produced in recent years.

Re: Heading South - Vers le sud (2005) (France/Canada)

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 11:50 pm
by A
I absolutely loved "Human Ressources" and wanted to see "Time Out", but it looks like the film isn`t available in Germany yet. It`s on my to watch - list though.