19 February 2017 | dbdumonteil
Ashes to ashes
The movie comprises a long prologue and a short epilogue .
Shot in black and white close to documentary ,the prologue(Berlin ,1921) depicts the assassination of Talaat Pacha ,main responsible for the Armenian genocide ;during the flashbacks ,we are told about the horrors the convict endured ,how his whole family and a whole people were butchered like lambs in a slaughter.Against all odds,he is acquitted and the audience gives him a standing ovation.
The main subject takes place in Marseille and in Beyrouth,sixty years later; a young generation rises and wants to stigmatize the genocide which the Turks have never acknowledged.A young man,Aram,joins the ASALA (Armenian liberation army) ;he blows up the Turkish ambassador's car in Paris but a young cyclist,Gilles ,is seriously injured and becomes crippled .Eaten up with remorse ,he leaves for Lebanon where he joins the forces fighting there .
Then the screenplay alternates scenes in Lebanon where the terrorist does not know where he stands anymore and his victim 's horrible fate: " I'm in my twenties ,can he give me back my legs" Gilles's character was inspired by an injured Spanish journalist who reportedly forgave the man who made him a crippled man for life. Aram's mom is eaten with remorse too,she goes to the hospital ,and she leaves him a note which reads :" ask us whatever you need" ;some French critics found it incredible and melodramatic .But Ariane Ascaride is an actress to be reckoned with:I once wrote ,about Guédigian's earlier "Les Neiges Du Kilimandjaro" ,that no living French actress could express compassion as she does ;both movies deal with forgiveness in a shaggy-dog story (that's what the title means)and miss Ascaride ,the director's partner in life ,has a face which can lighten the darkest night.Leprince-Ringuet is equally efficient as the victim who,like many French at the time ,had never heard of the Armenian genocide.
A short epilogue:ten years later, two persons who experimented both tragedy bring back Arem where he belongs .
It's not the first time Robert Guédigian has used intertwined plots: "La Ville est Tranquille "(2000) ,for instance ,could be subtitled "Sous Le Ciel De Paris" sorry Marseille".A thousand miles away from the trends ,the crazes and the feel-good atmosphere which mar much of the French scene, along Philippe Lioret,he stands alone.