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  • Hut_Syndrom7 April 2012
    When I watched the trailer for Low life I got the impression that I am about to watch an subversive contemporary french film. But when I am writing these words, an hour after I left the theater I feel like I was cheated and misguided. It is like someone seduced me because they knew what I was looking for but eventually these were nothing but two hours of bad cinema.

    I don't want to discuss much about the plot, but do like to discuss the way it was told.

    The premise of the film tells the stories of bunch of young activist who dedicate their lives to protect illegal immigrants in France while they all live in a squat located in the city of Lyon. One of the main story lines follows after the love story of Carmen and Hussain who has no legal staying visa.

    Immigrations is a burning issue in Europe and especially in France, where every 8th person is an immigrant. But when it comes to independent cinema it is just one of these themes that you can exploit in order to be accepted to big film festival as much as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or hunger in Africa. The movie discusses heavily about the immigration reality in todays France but instead of trying to create a dialog with the audience and send them home with some thinking material, it lectures them. The creators even twist the truth here and there in order to justify the phrase "we live in a reality that acts like we are the Vishy regime" as it had been said by one of the characters. It is a soft and cowardly way to say that the French government treats it's immigrants is similar to the way that the Nazi's treated the Jews. To support this argument there are many visual and textual references during the movie such as presenting the police as the gestapo and the police camera coverage on the streets as a self-fulfilling prophecy of 1984. The most developed character in the film is Hussain, an Afghan refugee poet who has to struggle everyday between his will to experience and enjoy life to the very basic need of existence which is survival by forcing him to hide from the authorities what later becomes a solitary. Unfortunately due the directors choice to tell multiple story lines that never really cross each others way, we never get to feel and experience with the character what is a so- called modern version of Anna Frank.

    The director's intentions was to create a non compromised realistic film. In order to do so he uses method that 15 years ago could have been considered dogmatic: Hand-held camera or street view camera, rough cuts, natural light, Hyper realistic sound (apart from some very few scenes with music), the characters consciously looking directly to the camera while a meaningful texts are being heard on the background. All these artistic choices were suppose to hit the spectator in the stomach and open his mind to the "real other truth", But it doesn't work. This "shtiks" are nothing but a sand that is being thrown to the spectators eyes in order to blind them from the lack and shallowness of the story. Maybe the director should have gave up the need to have a plot and than it could have been a better film. But instead there are couple of plots that are not fully explored. In some point you find yourself putting the pieces together while asking yourself will this lack of coherency and overloaded texts will get any better? The director had all the components to create something different and strong - the subject - immigration in France, artistic freedom, very motivated cast but judging by the result he wasn't able to put all these elements into a shocking or moving film. I sense that the directors aimed to high, I guess that he wanted to achieve to many goals and it leads to disorganization that might feel cool on the set but doesn't pass the screen test. As a result the acting suffered as well. While it seems that the actors worked hard to develop their characters by creating multi emotional layers, it still feels like you watch an acting class more than a film. I don't blame the actors at all, I blame the script writers for writing long pretentious pseudo intellectual monologues and dialogs and the director (who was one of the writers) for his inability to actually direct his actors and use their abilities. Most memorable was that very annoying emo kid, instead of letting him whine about his difficult life he should have gone to a homeless shelter or to the Holocaust memorial museum or at least someone could have slapped him so he will realize that his life are far from being dark, sad and horrible.

    The movie demonstrates unexplained and undeveloped relationships and story lines, comes with a strong message by stating that the life and condition in France for immigrants are unbearable. But it draws a reality where you either support this message and you are a good liberal person or you either one of the french gestapo and you probably will vote for Marine Le Pen. But as it already known the reality is much more complicated than what is being demonstrated in this film. It doesn't do justice with nobody not even with the immigrants. in in the end of the day it is an arrogant self righteous caricature of of unfortunate reality.
  • "Low Life" is an intellectual and eerily poetic romantic drama filled with discomforting sexual tension- made by French director Nicolas Klotz.

    The film focuses on a group of young French activists who have dedicated themselves to protect a group of African Immigrants that live in a squat somewhere in the suburbs of Paris. Their group consists of a number of people, but we mainly focus on the disintegrating relationship between Charles (Luc Chessel)- who has gone annoyingly emo- and Carmen (Camille Rutherford) along with their close friends, Djamel (Michael Evans) and Julie (Maud Wyler)- who have issues of their own. (There are also a few other characters that IMDb doesn't have listed and whose names I forget at this point in time as they had smaller roles)

    It is more than just a romantic drama though. Klotz has actually taken two story lines and interwoven them with a few connecting factors- mainly: the beginning of the film; the end of the film; and Hussain (Arash Naimian), an Afghan poet that is in the country illegally and living at the squat where he rooms with a young African boy. This second element of the plot focuses on a bizarre series of unexplained deaths.

    After a brief introduction to the characters, the film begins with its most ambitious scene; one that instigates both elements of the storyline. As the state has begins to crack down on illegal immigrants- a reflection of France's growing sense of xenophobia- a protest is organized to prevent the police from seizing an African woman they are seeking to deport. The activists form a human wall to prevent the police from entering the squat, but they are unsuccessful at holding them back when they resort to force. A group of skateboarding anarchists intervene- setting cars ablaze and firebombing the police. During all the hooplah, Carmen and Julie are slightly injured, and the officer in charge of the raid is struck by a molotov cocktail- his leg catching on fire.

    We are introduced to the more intriguing but less dominant plot line when, ironically, the burned officer is taken into the squat where his injuries- which did not seem to be life threatening- are tended. Nonetheless, he oddly ends up succumbing to this injury.

    The more dominant romantic element of the drama is also exacerbated in this scene when Carmen- who had come into the squat to get her own wounds tended- briefly meets Hussain, who becomes instantly infatuated by her compassionate presence and beauty; as she is a seductress, of sorts.

    After both the immigrants and activists encounter a number of threatening run-ins with the police, each of which- in some sort of bizarre twist of fate- leads to an officer dying. The police react by stepping up the level of harassment: targeting the squatters; profiling them; and serving more and more people with what the immigrants call their "death papers" (deportation papers).

    Meanwhile, as Charles struggles to win back Carmen's affection, she becomes distant to him, as she has suddenly fallen in love with Hussain; won over by the allure of his poetry (which she can't even read).

    The climax occurs when Hussain receives his own "death papers". After a close call, Carmen goes against the code of the group, bringing Hussain into their home where she can hide him from the authorities and have him all to herself.

    Subsequently, the African boy that Hussain had been rooming with at the squat is subject to a humiliating encounter with the police, which has a drastic affect on him. Evoking the Bison God of his homeland, the boy gets together with a group of African Witch Doctors, who perform a ceremony on the deportation papers that he was given by the police. It turns out that these men have been placing spells on their "death papers", and each of deaths in the film can actually be attributed to the possession of a set of these hexed papers.

    I won't go into details about the conclusion of the film as you should watch it to find out for yourself. But I will say that it ends up a tragic love story.

    The atmosphere of the film is very dark and bland- almost colourless- except for the deep red of blood and dark orange of fire. Both of which could be used to symbolize passion. It is also an extremely slow moving and poetic film. Klotz uses a number of long lasting, aptly placed, stationary shots with only subtle movement that forces us, as viewers, to ponder these moments during which an important detail of the story is being revealed. Overall, the film is long, depressing and utilizes a dialogue that is so overly poetic that it borders on pretentiousness. I still kind of liked it, but it is definitely not for everyone. 6 out of 10.