(director/writer: Albert Serra; screenwriter: Baptiste Pinteaux; cinematographer: Artur Tort; editor: Ariadna Rubas/Albert Serra/Artur Tort; music: Joe Robinson/Marc Verdaquer; cast: Benoît Magimel (De Roller), Pahoa Mahagafanaun (Shannah), Marc Susinini (L’Amiral), , Sergi Lopez (Morton), Matahi Pambrun (Matahi), Alexandre Melo (Le Portugais), Michael Vatour (Le Capitaine), Cécile Guilbert (Romaine Attia), Lluís Serrat (Lois), Cyrus Arai (Cyrus/Danseur), Mareva Wong (Maeva/The Secretary), Baptiste Pinteaux (Olivier), Mike Landscape (Mr. Mike); Runtime: 162; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Albert Serra/Montse Triola/Pierre-Olivier Bardet; Grasshopper Film; 2022-France-in French with English subtitles)
“Seductive tropical political thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra (“Story of My Death”/”Freedom”) is the writer/director of this original, seductive tropical political thriller, a cult film, that evokes in its fictional strangeness a banal kind of evil. It’s shot at a leisurely pace that mocks the film’s characters who drift through life without a serious thought to making the world a better place to live in.
It’s set in the scenically beautiful Tahiti, which is part of French Polynesia and therefore part of the French republic.
M de Roller (Benoît Magimel) is the dressed in a lightweight white suit patronizing French high commissioner, who hangs out at the local club owned by another white expatriate, Morton (Sergi López), drinking rum and flirting with the half-naked native women. He eyeballs the attractive female bar staff and greets the other lesser officials there with false cheer. He also loves hanging out with the almost naked native dancers, who perform traditional dances for the tourists. He has a naughty eye out for the transgender dancers’ choreographer, Shannah (Pahoa Mahagafanau, she also handled the dialogue).
The slippery De Roller’s mood has become more cynical as the end of his term on the island is nearly up and there are suddenly many military personnel around, like the appearance of a belligerent admiral (Marc Susini). When drunk, the slimy admiral tells the club crowd about the importance of behaving ruthlessly with one’s “own people,” hinting at possible nuclear activity on the island.
De Roller chairs a volatile meeting with indigenous representatives, who want to know if there is any truth in the gossip that the French government is preparing to resume nuclear testing on the island like it did in secret from the 60s to the 90s. De Roller, not part of the inner government circle, nevertheless tells the audience what they want to hear. He even promises that they would be welcome at the new casino being built, where the celebration for Bastille Day would annually be held.
It played at the Cannes Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 3/5/2023 GRADE: B