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EXILES is a Tony Gatlif fantasy, complete with lots of music and dance, of what it might be like for a young French couple of Algerian roots, to hitch their way from France back to Algeria (for most, these days, it's the other way 'round). The two seem not to have much or any money, but then they do, but then they don't. They occasionally work to pay their way (with a rather laissez-faire attitude, I must say), screw (not always with each other), and have beaucoup psychological problems. For a couple who carries no baggage, there is way too much emotional baggage here. That's usually the mark of a young filmmaker, but as Mr. Gatlif is nearing 60, I guess we'll have to chalk it up to something else.
I call his film a fantasy because, try as I did to believe these characters and their situation, I couldn't. Or, if they ARE believable, then they are also sometimes simply too stupid to be endured: the couple sneaks aboard a ship without knowing where it's going; they haven't bothered to bone up on Algeria enough to know that certain of its borders have been closed for several years; worst of all, they have no clue that women in Muslim/Arab countries are expected to cover themselves (the year here is 2004, well past 9/11/01, and these are Frenchies, for Christ's sake: If they are not used to Algerians, who the hell IS?). On the plus side we have a lot of color, music and dance, nice cinematography (dig that succulent orange near the finale) and the gorgeous Romain Duris (most recently of "Russian Dolls" and "The Beat My Heart Skipped"). Mr. Duris, hirsute and slender, appears fully nude, front and back, in a rather lengthy shot at the film's beginning; this may be more than enough to induce some viewers to stick around. Did I mention that the film deals in fantasy?
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