Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Zeina Durra takes Mumblecore international with THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE!

Is there a chic word, something in the mode of Eurotrash, for those wealthy folk descended upon New York City who hail from the middle east? Don't offer Terrorist-Trash: That's too easy, far too all-encompassing and not very nice. Still, terrorist chic is certainly a noticeable part of the theme, events and even the opening segment of Zeina Durra's new movie THE IMPERI-ALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE! -- in which mumblecore meets the international set.

"Let's be transgressive!" Ms Durra (shown at left) seems to be saying from her opening moments (and onwards) -- in which her ever-gorgeous and voluptuous star Elodie Bouchez sets up a photo shoot that features Muslim women, the veil and weaponry. Then we're off for drinks with friends, only to discover that one of those friend's fiancé has been whisked away on a "rendition" plane. Or has he?  Since the friend seems alternately drunk/paranoid, we're not so sure. But then our heroine may be a bit paranoid, too. As would any intelligent middle-easterner living in the USA today.

Ms Bouchez (above), charisma intact, pretty much holds the movie together, as she moves from place (photo studio) to place (swank bar) to place (second floor of a Chinese restaurant, below, where you can get -- just like Alice's -- anything you want). Ms Durra keeps the focus smartly on her star, who, as usual, delivers. Evidently a kind of stand-in for the director, Bouchez appears in every scene.

Along the way, she picks up a young grad student from Mexico (below, left) played by José María de Tavira, star of Tear This Heart Out); the two take to each other, so he sticks around. But he, like everyone else in the film, save Ms Bouchez, is simply sort of "there." Nobody here seems to have much of an agenda or interest. The dialog is "real," often deadly so (at this point in her career, writing is not Ms Durra's strong suit): not strong enough for satire, nor specific enough for genuine importance. Incidents pile up, the movie meanders and then simply ends.

A few points are scored along the way -- with an Arab cab driver in whose vehicle Bouchez rides, at the photo shoot that open the film. Do excessive money, privilege and time on one's hands make an "imperialist"? It would seem so from what we see here. I am not at all sure this is the lesson Ms Durra wants us to go home with, though I'm afraid we will. For we have seen the imperialist, and he is us (if we're of the mumblecore persuasion, that is).

The Imperialists Are Still Alive!, from Sundance Selects, opens this Friday, April 15, in New York City at the IFC Center. It has also been playing for the past six weeks via VOD from Sundance Selects.

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