Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Belgian Cinema - Getting Seriously Funny in Nabil Ben Yadir’s “The Barons”

"The Barons" is a curious piece of Belgian cinema. If I were to choose a single Belgian film to showcase the country, it wouldn’t be “The Barons”. However, its power rests on the masterful film making and a seamless narrative flow that spotlights a bunch of lazyheads who call themselves “The Barons”.

The movie is set in an Arab neighborhood in Brussels where “The Barons” live their lives in pleasant apathy. They stand with their philosophy believing that “Men’s longevity is dependent on the number of steps he takes. Once he reaches that quota, he croaks.” This is a great excuse to lounge around, doing absolutely nothing.

Hassan (Nader Boussandel), the gang’s struggling stand up comic, is in love with his mate’s sister Malika (who anchors the local TV news). Hassan gets cold feet whenever she’s near, so he makes up excuses by rationalizing that your friend’s sister is off limits. When Hassan’s father suffers a heart attack after their altercation, he feels guilty, then takes the job that his father wanted for him – as a city bus driver; a way to join society’s working class, and mainstream Belgium. Before he knew it, he’s following the pattern of every working class man – find a wife, raise a family, get old and be boring. But his gang is not happy. Moreover, what becomes of his attraction to Malika?

The film takes a stylized and tongue-in-cheek manner of story telling, a character would sometimes break the 4th wall to directly address the audience. Color grading is experimented on, employing the subtlest of colors, which to my mind, isn’t really consistent with the ongoing screen humor. Besides, you somehow have that feeling of nostalgia even though our story is current! Despite these nitpickings, there is much fun to be had in this film’s subtle bursts of humor, polished photography and the unusual energy of the ensemble. For once, Arabs - Moroccans in particular- are portrayed in a more positive light.

No comments: