Friday, March 23, 2012

FREE MEN -- French Algerians under the Vichy regime -- opens in L. A. and Boston

What makes FREE MEN, the new film from Ismaël Ferroukhi (who gave us a better one, Le Grand Voyage, a few years back), so initially fascinating is its time and place (WWII France under the Nazi-driven Pétain regime) and char-acters (Algerian émigrés, some legal, some not). This is a situation and subject we've rarely if ever seen, and it is a good one. The movie stars A Prophet's Tahar Rahim (below, left), along with Michael Lonsdale (shown at bottom in virginal white), here playing the Imam of the Paris Mosque, and Mahmoud Shalaby (below, right) as an Algerian singer with the voice of a sexy angel who has a couple of secrets best kept under wraps. Unfortunately, as writer and director, Ferroukhi tends toward melodrama as events build, some of which are simply unbelievable (would the French police so easily dimiss their illegal-immigrant informant, once his usefulness has ended?)

The movie's thriller elements are mostly made hash of, coincidence plays far too large a role, and M. Rahim, practically one-note throughout, is not used here as well as he was by Jacques Audiard. Still, there's that terrific time and place to enjoy, and I have to say how lovely it was to witness Arabs rescuing Jews. Ah, those were the days!

Free Men, distributed in the U.S. via Film Movement, while continuing its run in New York City at the Quad Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinema, opens today, Friday, March 23, in Los Angeles (at Landmark's NuArt) and Boston (at its Kendall Square Cinema). Click here (then scroll down) to discover where else around the country you'll be able to see the film.

Sorry for the short post (adapted from my earlier one when Free Men made its New York debut at the beginning of this month as part of Rendez-vous with French Cinema), but TrustMovies is flying back to NYC from his visit to L.A. today, so there is little time to expand on that post.

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