22 October 1999 | gtran
First movie about a forgotten part of French history
Recent French history is full of holes that moviemakers tend to fill slowly because of local taboos. Though there are now many movies about suburban life and the plight of the second and third generation immigrant families, little had been shown (and told) about their parents who came in France to work. `Living in paradise' tells the story of an Algerian man who lives in a shanty town in Nanterre in the 60's, a place very similar to Rio's favelas, for instance. He arranges for his family to come to France, but he now needs to find a decent place to live, because the `paradise' he gives them is more like a muddy hole. The movie is the chronicle of this family, from the dignified father, a man with principles that he'll have to bend, to the silent mother, who will discover that she has rights too. The characters are not embellished in any way. They are not typical movie victims : they rebel, and sometimes they fight mean, or shamelessly exploit each other, thus going down even further. Also, they are harassed by the police (it's the end of the Algeria war), and for the first time in the movies is shown the October 1961 massacre, where the police is rumored to have killed about 200 Algerian people in Paris by beating and drowning them after a demonstration. Like other movies of this kind, it suffers from a lack of storytelling and from a tendency to be elliptical (we'd like to know more about this family), but yet it's a clichéless, decisive movie about a forgotten part of French memory.