Léa Fehner's eloquent SILENT VOICES is an exceptional imagining of the lives of others. Most films attempt this leap but few have done it with the skill of Ms Fehner -- all the more surprising because this is her first full-length feature. As director and co-writer (with Catherine Paille), she chooses her scenes and her dialog carefully, pulling us into her stories (there are three of them) with a visual immediacy that is rare.
It is prison that links these stories. Ms Fehner (shown at right) is not afraid to let her camera scans many inmates and their visitors, in addition to those we come to know best, and from the short sharp "takes" she gives us, it is clear that she probably could have devoted her story to any of these people and come up with a movie worth watching.
Farida Rahouadj, above), who receives her son's casket-bourne body sent from France and so goes there to learn what happened to him.
Pauline Etienne (above, right: seen in Restless at last year's Rendez-vous with French Cinema) meeting a young, strange but quite enticing "Russian" immigrant (Vincent Rottiers, above, left, and seen in last year's In the Beginning and I'm Glad That My Mother Is Alive, both at Rendez-vous).
Reda Kateb, above, right, from A Prophet) and his angry girlfriend (Dinara Droukarova, above, left of Since Otar Left) and the fellow (fine French standby Marc Barbé, shown below, right), whom they meet perhaps by chance.
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arthouse circuit. Too bad, because he's a good-looking and talented guy who may just now be coming into his own. Over the past few years he's co-written some films, and in 2010 -- with the new movie TURK'S HEAD (Tête de turc), he's gone solo in the writing department, taken a lead role in the film and directed it, too.
A sudden triple threat, as it were.
This writer/filmmaker covers it all, packing it in and wrapping it up in a fast-paced 87 minutes (including credits) that are awash in irony. These are neither simple-minded nor heavy-handed ironies: They're as pointed as most of the events shown are believable.
Simon Abkarian, waits for the medical services to arrive. They don't because, as the doctor sits in his car phoning for help, banlieue kids atop a nearby building start pelting his auto with rocks -- large ones -- and finally a molotov cocktail. At that point, they take off, except for the cocktail tosser who realizes that the occupant of the auto is not moving and will die (if he isn't already dead) once the fire reaches the gas tank.
Roschdy Zem), a police officer clearly of eastern descent who already hated the kids even before his brother went into a coma; and from the kids themselves who are beginning to suspect one of them own is a turncoat.
Ronit Elkabetz, above and below, left) and her two sons, Bora, that cocktail tosser (Samir Makhlouf, at left, two photos above) and his little brother. The filmmaker does not tie up everything into neat bows, though I wish he had left the Akbarian character to stew in his own juices, rather than becoming the official boogey man who must have vengeance but is too strupid or grief-stricken to manage it properly.
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