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Saturday, March 17th, 2012

LA PROMESSE

With the Belgian film auteur
Dardenne brothers latest movie ‘The Kid on The Bike’ opening in NY to near rave
reviews, it seemed like a good time to hone up on some of their earlier successes
that are playing in a Retrospective at the Miami Beach Cinematheque this month.
With five films in their resume winning at Cannes Film Festival, there is a wealth
of history to choose from, and strangely enough my first taste was to be the
brilliant ‘La Promesse’, which for some odd reason the folks at Cannes let it walk away without an award.
Filmed in 1996 it could
almost be called ‘The Kid In The Bike Mk 1‘ as Igor the protagonist is
a 15-year-old boy who is swept up in his father’s world that ruthlessly exploits
illegal immigrants and is always racing around their small rather squalid
looking town on his motorized scooter. 
Roger (the dad) runs a construction
business and forces the immigrants to work for him as laborers to pay off their ‘debt’ of being given a safe haven.  They try to hide when an Immigration Inspector turns up one day and Hamidu, one of the men, has a serious accident and falls badly off the scaffolding, and rather than allow Igor to take him to hospital Roger
persuades him to be complicit in letting the man die, and then help him dispose
of his body to avoid any trouble with the authorities. Before he dies, Hamidu begs Igor to promise to take care of his wife Assita and their baby who have recently arrived
from Africa.
Igor tries to salvage his
conscience by doing small favours for Assita like paying off her debts, whilst
at the same time Roger frantically goes to great length to cover up the crime.  As time passes and Assita grows more
suspicious about their excuses for her husband’s sudden disappearance, she
consults an African seer who confuses her suspicions which sends her into a
real panic.  When her baby gets seriously
ill and much to Roger’s chagrin Igor rushes to help her, there is the inevitable brutal and nasty
showdown between father and son.
It’s time for them all to make choices, particularly Igor, who has grown fond of Assita and feels that he
should tell her the truth regardless of the consequences. But in the end nothing is left
neat or tidy, and even by making moral choices there is still no conclusion. Yet somehow it
seemed OK that the Dardennes just left us hanging there wondering.
The frenetic pace never
let up for one single moment and with the sheer nastiness of this society’s underbelly of
racist xenophobes that profited by making a quick buck out of exploiting helpless
and desperate immigrants who placed their lives in their hands had me walking
out of the theater totally stunned. It’s obviously not just something that could
happen only in Belgium (although after watching the ultra-violent ‘Bullhead’ recently I must say I’m rethinking the idea that they are such nice gentle
people after all ..LOL).  It could happen
anywhere , and sadly at any time.
The shining exception was the
character Igor played quite brilliantly by a very  young Jeremie Renier  it was a remarkable performance.  Now I cannot wait to see ‘The Kid on The Bike’ as in this new movie,  a very grown up Mr Renier gets to play the dad!

★★★★★★★★★


Posted by queerguru  at  15:33

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