Reviews - Félicité
Reviewed By Vaughan Ames
The storyline was simple; set in Kinshasa in the Congo, we followed the life of Félicité as she tried to gather money to save her son's leg after a motorbike accident. How could this take two hours?
The secret, for me, was shown to us in the very first scenes. The camera followed Félicité almost exclusively throughout the film, full in her face for much of it. In the background was music, varying from exhalant to miserable, from frantic to spiritual: For me, what the film was trying to do was to follow Félicité's moods with little (often no) words, our main clue being the music. The result gripped me from beginning to end.
Félicité is a club singer, very proud, very independent. Her very existence depended on the meager sums she earnt as a singer, so music was all to her. The director Alain Gomis also managed to show us the extremes of life in the Congo through music: her life in the slums was emphasized by the shots of the Kasai Allstars – her band in the backstreet bar playing the up-tempo parts of her life – whilst the richer side was shown by the Symphony Orchestra of Kinshasa who were seen playing the spiritual and sad music to accompany her down hours. Altogether, Alain Gomis used this variation of music to let us see her moods; words, and even the plot were hardly needed.
To keep the magic flowing, there were also dream sequences where Félicité thinks about drowning herself; these stopped when she begins to fall in love with her 'saviour', Tabu - a drunken fan from the nightclub who is the only person to realise Félicité's beauty. At this point, her dreams become more magical still with Tabu appearing as the strange horse-like Okapia in the forest; her life begins to have hope again.
Back in the real world (!), Félicité has a large dollop of feminism too – her struggles to get money in a man's world are central - plus showing us the horrors of a poor health service where her son eventually loses his leg as she cannot get the money in time. She and her son Samo are both struck down with depression (no music at all for a while) until Tabu begins to make them both feel better – the film ending with Samo finally using his crutches to get down the bustling street, full of life: love conquers all..?! And I haven't even mentioned her fridge...
A magical film for me, then; whether my take is in my own mind alone, or what the director intended is up to you to decide...and is the joy of seeing alternative films! What would we discuss in the pub otherwise??!
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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.
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