Thursday, 21 April 2016

REVIEW - DHEEPAN (JACQUES AUDIARD)


Jacques Audiard transitions from contemporary social issues to critical social issues with Dheepan, nevertheless confirming himself as one of cinema's most classical filmmakers. His insipid concoction of high drama and laidback realism purges from the film any of the genuine political or emotional power it might have possessed, by insisting on power it does not possess. And yet it is a soothing style that Audiard has developed, one that rather belabours its assets by positioning them as artistic theses - worthy of critical analysis by virtue of existing - yet is never too enamoured with itself to overshadow them. Dheepan is driven by narrative - trading in undercooked tension, and cultural and political concerns that promise more than Audiard makes of them - and by acting - fine, fully developed performances from all three Sri Lankan leads. These elements hold the film up, as flimsy as they may appear under scrutiny, simply papering over the cracks and the chasms in Dheepan's design. Depicting this most timely of struggles, with its modernity evident in even the most minute of details, in such retro simplicity, with ill-fitting outbursts of genre pulp, might have seemed like a smart connection to make; after all, Dheepan's story isn't too far removed from many dramatic narratives of early-to-mid 20th Century films. But it's a reductive connection here, often either excusing suspect directorial decisions or even abetting them. Odd for a film to attempt so little, yet to disappoint when indeed it accomplishes so little; it's only for its inherent narrative appeal and the strong work of its principal cast members that it could even be considered a disappointment.