THREE DANCING SLAVES (**1/2 out of ****)
Reviewed by Tim Sika
Three Dancing Slaves
marks actor-turned-director Gael Morel’s foray into the world of familial masculine angst. Set in a rural French city, the story follows three brothers trying to cope with the death of their mother while
living under the domineering, abusive hand of their widowed father. Unresolved loss
permeates the film.
brother, Olivier (Thomas Dumerchez), is quiet and shy and struggling with his emerging homosexuality. Middle brother, Marc (Nicholas Cazale), is caught up in bodybuilding, drug dealing, transsexual sex, rebellion
and machismo. He hopes his older brother, Christophe (Stephane Rideau), about to be
released from prison, will help him avenge wrongs suffered at the hand of rival thugs. But
the newly reformed Christophe intends only to go straight and build a respectable life as he takes a lowly job in a meat processing
factory with the intention of being promoted. The film’s title takes its cue
from Capoeira street dancing (which originated from slavery) practiced by Marc’s best friend, Hicahm (Salim Kechiouche),
to whom younger brother Olivier is physically attracted.
concepts abound in the film. Though its sense of family angst and grief is immediate
and palpable, its thematic relevance remains curiously elusive. Director Morel provides
precious little information or indications that go beyond the surface. The viewer
may be expected to fill in the blanks. One suspects though that there is more here
than meets the eye, yet it is difficult to ascertain just exactly what that is.
previously starred in Andre Techine’s pivotal Wild Reeds and one presumes
a heavy Techine influence on this film. Yet the two films are stylistically and tonally
Bernard’s cinematography is arresting. The camera tightly frames the characters
that the effect is nearly claustrophobic. Oddly enough this close physical proximity
does little to reveal further thematic intentions of the script. Indeed, the so-called
money shot of the three brothers sleeping together naked, while their father curiously looks on at them, their bodies and
limbs intertwined so that each is indistinguishable from the others, is part of the film’s theme and mystery.
stabilizing factor comes from the responsible actions of eldest brother, Christophe (Rideau is also a Wild Reeds veteran) which contrasts with middle brother Marc’s
behavioral ineptitude and confusion (bringing as it does, no small amount of trouble and tragedy). The young Olivier’s unfolding sexuality has a sweetness and gentleness even as it remains remote.
is prevalent in this heavily male cast, though its unbridled-ness less than the ads would lead you to expect. This film--more a coming of age story than a sex story—remains nevertheless a story reluctant to yield
its secrets or its emotional center.
Three Dancing Slaves
is always interesting. Its level of profundity is perhaps limited only by Morel’s
burgeoning, still green, cinematic language and communicativeness. Perhaps the viewer
is indeed meant to fill in the gaps. Or perhaps this film is really just an intriguing
portent of this decidedly intriguing young director’s rich output to come.