DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
BLAME IT ON FIDEL! (director/writer: Julie Gavras; screenwriter: Arnaud Cathrine/based on the novel Tutta Colpa Di Fidel by Domitilla Calaamai; cinematographer: Nathalie Durand; editor: Pauline Dairou; music: Armand Amar; cast: Julie Depardieu (Marie), Stefano Accorsi (Fernando), Nina Kervel (Anna), Benjamin Feuillet (François), Oliver Perrier (Grandfather), Martine Chevallier (Grandmother), Marie-Noëlle Bordeaux (Filomena), Marie Kremer (Isabelle), Mar Sodupe (Marga), Raphaëlle Molinier (Pilar), Gabrielle Vallières (Cécile), Christiana Markou (Panayota), Thi Thy Tien N'Guyen (Maï-Lahn), Francisco López Ballo (Emilio); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sylvie Pialat; Koch Lorber; 2006-Francein French with English subtitles)

 
" It offers a coming-of-age tale told unflaggingly from the point of view of a pouting, humorless and unsympathetic nine-year-old."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The daughter of celebrated leftist political filmmaker Costa-Gavras, Julie Gavras ("The Pirate, the Wizard, the Thief and the Children"), has adapted the screenplay from the Italian novel Tutta Colpa Di Fidel by Domitilla Calaamai and it's written by Gavras and Arnaud Cathrine. It offers a coming-of-age tale told unflaggingly from the point of view of a pouting, humorless and unsympathetic nine-year-old, Anna de la Mesa (Nina Kervel), who in the Paris of the early 1970s undergoes some radical changes in her rigid life when her bourgeois parents, her magazine writer French mother Marie (Julie Depardieu, daughter of Gérard) and her upper-class lawyer Spanish father Fernando (Stefano Accorsi), suddenly (with the arrival of Anna’s widowed aunt Marga—an anti-Franco exile with a young daughter named Pilar) take up leftist causes such as voicing feminism (she works for an abortion clinic), anti-Franco opinions and pro-Allende (Chilean president) sentiments (he quits his job to be a radical lawyer for the cause). The petulant Anna has trouble adjusting to no longer being allowed to take Bible studies in the Catholic school she loves attending, the move out of her big house to a cramped apartment where she must share a room with her younger brother François (Benjamin Feuillet), part with her favorite toys, eat strange peasant cuisine, to have radical international visitors (mostly Chileans) use the place at all hours as a meeting hall to plan revolutionary leftist activities, and feels saddened that her favorite housekeeper Filomena (Marie-Noëlle Bordeaux), a Cuban exile with a great hatred for Commies and Castro (whose rant against Fidel becomes the reason for the film's title), was fired for her politics and now works for her kindly conservative grandparents.

The gist of the film shows how diversity and different influences alter the precocious Anna's life, as she struggles to understand why her parents would want to give up their comfortable life and wonders about what gives over their new-found ideals. Through the little girl's view we see both the parents' shortcomings (mom's feminism clashes with dad's male supremacy, and both parents begin to have a strained relationship with Anna) and strong points (they are both caring parents), but as the rigid and selfish girl begins to thaw she never becomes lovable enough to really embrace with love. 

The schematic political film offers a full-blast lecture on the benefits of diversity and even the right to live differently, as it begins to squeak in spots from being so rusty in its do-gooder pronouncements. In the end, it brings to the surface its own liberal views as probably the best way for the world to achieve more equality and justice, but leaves it open that it's a bumpy road to take when causes don't always jibe with personal concerns. It also leaves open the possibility that much of this is autobiographical, as it relates to the relationship Ms. Gavras had with her left-wing upbringing.

Ms. Gavras does an accurate job depicting the era of the 1970s, but when stripped of its politics it plays out more universally and to greater benefit as how children are greatly affected by upheavals in their life and how even the more sensitive of parents can fail to take this into consideration. I relished more the ideas conveyed than I felt satisfied with the sometime heavy-handed dramatics.

REVIEWED ON 1/17/2008        GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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