Abdellatif Kechiche's L'ESQUIVE

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Abdellatif Kechiche's L'ESQUIVE

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Oct 14, 2005 4:59 am

Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux, one of the greatest of French playwrights, probably wouldve never imagined that his work will one day be rehearsed in Parisian housing projects even though it has always been ripe for such an experience. After all, most of his plays from the 18th century give much importance to the secondary characters the kind that are usually glanced over in historical theater, and as Abdellatif Kechiche, the director of a riveting new French film LEsquive said, "With Marivaux, the valets, maids, peasants and orphans not only play important roles in the story, theyre also attributed an inner life, an interiority and nuances of feeling. They do not only play a social role. They become men and women with the right to a complex psychological make-up." And with that in mind, Kechiche has crafted a film which not only displays an abundance of socio-political intelligence, but its fascination with language is just as intense as Marivaux's.

Set in Franc-Moisin projects at the outskirts of Paris, L'Esquive vividly showcases its characters -- the main one being Adelkrim (Osman Elkharraz), a 15-year-old otherwise known as Krimo, who unlike most of his boisterous "homies" usually keeps to himself. His father is in jail and the mother is mostly absent. His apathetic behavior is the reason why his girlfriend has broken up with him. But soon after, he runs into a lifelong friend, a beautiful blond named Lydia (Sara Forestier) who is roaming the "banlieus" with an angelic pretense. The reason being that she is the lead in the school play based on Marivauxs "Le Jeu de l'amour et du hazard" ("Games of Loves and Chance"), and for that reason shes donned on an 18th century costume. Krimo is instantly smitten, but cant put two words together to express himself; instead, he lends her some money for the dress and gets an invitation to watch her rehearse in return.

The French title "LEsquive," which is a fencing term for "dodging," perfectly suits Krimo. Thats what hes been his whole life. On the other hand, Lydia is tough and self-sufficient. She has to be because shes the minority in this neighborhood being overrun by low-income Arabs and North Africans. In the Marivaux play being rehearsed, shes the recipient of a declaration of immortal love from a young man. Krimos friend, Rachid (Rachid Hami), is playing that man named Harlequin so that gives our lover boy an idea. He bribes Rachid with a few minor goods to he can take over as the lead. Many are surprised, including Lydias fiery friend, Frida (Sabrina Quazani), who is playing a maid in the play, not to mention their drama professor. Krimo stumbles and mumbles with the overbearing dialogue during in-class rehearsals, eventually drawing the ire of the professor who once claims, "the way you express yourself, tells others where you are from." Lydia agrees to help Krimo out with private lessons and that provides him with the perfect opportunity to proclaim his own love. But the Games have only just begun.

The Tunisian born Kechiche started off as an actor in a film called Le Th la menthe (1984). He courted success with roles in Andre Techines Les Innocents (1987) and Nouri Bouzids Bezness (1992) (hell also appear in the upcoming drama called Sorry, Haters with Robin Wright Penn and Sandra Oh). Kechiche wrote the screenplay for L'Esquive over a decade ago but wasnt able to get financing. He wanted reality but didnt want to follow the route that films set in the those neighborhoods usually take. L'Esquive is raw and poignant due of its language, not because of drugs or weapons. Kechiche expertly contrasts the "marivaudage," the bantering thats ever-present in Marivaux, with "verlan," slang which sounds like rap and is delivered with confounding accents. The multiple heated arguments in the film that are littered with threats eventually develop their own rhythm and poetry. And thats the mode of communication available to these urbanites caught underneath the towering gray buildings that surround them. Unfortunately, for Krimo this mode also represents a challenge.

Winner of 4 Csar Awards (French "Oscars") including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Best Female Newcomer (Forestier), L'Esquive is shot with a Dogme-like aesthetic by Kechiche. His camera dances rhythmically with the performers, zooming in-and-out, channeling itself with the energy of the participants yet never drawing attention to itself. The seemingly never-ending arguments are remarkably played out by the actors with not a false moment in them, and Kechiche at times gets lost with them. Yet its his editing skills in the one sequence which does feature a confrontation with the authorities that makes it that much more harrowing to watch. Osman Elkharraz with his hang-dog face is perfect as the dreamy Krimo. Sara Forestier deftly switches between being a cultured leading lady of Marivaux and acting as just another bitch of the banlieue; French cinema doesnt exactly lack young female talent but this ball-of-fire might be someone special. Most of the actors in the film are newcomers, and Kechiche didnt want to betray them or the milieu in any way. He certainly hasnt; instead, hes given us a relevant and timeless tale of youth, language, culture, identity, and, above all, love.

Re: Abdellatif Kechiche's L'ESQUIVE

Postby A » Fri Oct 14, 2005 8:17 pm

Hey, nice to see your review of this great film. I believe I wrote one myself on the old board, but well, it's been a while. I liked the film also very much. Went to watch it after some great reviews, and because I had once seen the last 20 minutes of Kechiche's previous film "La faute a Voltaire" (i believe this to be the title...) which were a joy to watch.
Imo one of the best films of the year, and I don't have anything to add to arsaib's review. Yes, the main actress was great, could have even gotten a cesar for best actress imo.
I think this will appear in my Top Ten 2005, and is already a favorite.

Re: Abdellatif Kechiche's L'ESQUIVE

Postby hengcs » Thu Oct 27, 2005 2:28 am

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Cast: Osman Elkharraz, Sara Forestier, Sabrina Ouazani, Nanou Benhamou, Aurelie Ganito, Rachid Hami

What is commendable ...
-- I have to say that one of the most compelling factor is ... the film feels VERY VERY VERY REAL ...

-- Unlike many films about teenagers, this film did not resort to lots of guns/blood/drugs/sex ... and yet, it managed to highlight the problems that these teens faced, which could be quite universal across the world ...
-- The overall pacing was good, with frequent intense moments of confrontations ... and guess what, most audience would be keen to know how the film would end ... and amongst these, the scenes with the police had to be one of the more riveting ...

-- The entire cast is commendable ... and the characters are not "boring" ...
-- The dialogues were well written ... and the film described contradicting relationships/feelings very well ... about friends who quarreled and argued and yet were still friends ...
-- Several themes surfaced
e.g., about communication, about words, about "confrontation" and "dodging" ...
e.g., about relationship/love ... about being "proximal" versus "distant"
e.g., about being "foreign" ... about your own language (identity) ... about "belonging" versus "lost" ...
e.g., about past and present ... about being "reserved" versus "contemporary" ...
e.g., societal class differences

What may be problematic ...
-- It seems like much is lost in translation
e.g., the fact that the children spoke predominantly in non standard French
e.g., despite multiple people talking at any one time, they could only subtitle one person ...
-- Some people might be upset over the extensive use of profanity ... but hey, this is reality! ... To some, the constant squabbles/quarrels might be too overwhelming ...

Question for those who have watched ...
-- Although I do think there are some interesting connections with the overall theme, I hope someone who has a better grasp can help explain further the following (possibly with some quotes from the play) ... hee hee
(i) the relation/parallel of that particular school play to the overall film theme (in terms of relating societal differences and in terms of relating romance) ...
(ii) the purpose of the play by the younger children at the end (before the teenagers' play) ...

I definitely recommend the film ...

Re: Abdellatif Kechiche's L'ESQUIVE

Postby hengcs » Wed Nov 02, 2005 6:08 am

Hi arsaib4 or A ...

would you like to share with us your views on

(i) the relation/parallel of that particular school play to the overall film theme (in terms of relating societal differences and in terms of relating romance) ...

(ii) the purpose of the play by the younger children at the end (before the teenagers' play) ...


Re: Abdellatif Kechiche's L'ESQUIVE

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Nov 02, 2005 7:40 am

Switching of identities is the main theme of the play. In the film it's accomplished superficially but as we saw the backgrounds of the participants played a big part in determining if it was successful. However, even more than the overall theme, it's the language that updates Marivaux's tendencies.

I don't recall if the play put on by younger children was related to anything else. If it was then I need to see the film again.

Re: Abdellatif Kechiche's L'ESQUIVE

Postby A » Thu Nov 03, 2005 3:10 am

The play is a satire on society, with it's "social classes" and all the prejudices that go with them. The play makes us think about the facts that people who are from are lower class aren't automatically stupid illiteral incompetent, etc. and vice versa. When they take on another role in the play, they are regarded as another person, because people mostly observe superficially.
With the film its similar. These kids can't be judged on their social status, but are individuals, with the same potential in them as anybody else.
I won't go on with this, as a whole book could be written about this topic.

(ii) I think it's that everything has to be taught from the beginning. The small kids who can already express themselves creatively, will probably be better off than the older protagonists, for whom this is their first encounter with their creative potential. Krimo's failure hopefully won't happen to them. The scen is for me the most beautiful in the film, as it is one of pure enjoyment and of hope, for a better communication between people. If you start early, you may accomplish more in terms of self awareness, etc.

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