HEADING SOUTH

NR

-By Doris Toumarkine


For movie details, please click here.

In this third outing, director Laurent Cantet delivers a forceful tale of lust, power and exploitation that also reverberates with insights into female sexuality and power dynamics. While his recent Time Out was realism spiced with suspense and his debut Human Resources was realism sprinkled with satire, Heading South is in-your-face, even to the extent that principal characters, in several scenes, confide directly to the camera.

Such an approach in no way interferes with your ability to suspend disbelief but renders the filmmaker's intentions clear: Heading South means to deal with sex and power in a distinct but brutally honest way by putting its main characters under a microscope.

It's the late 1970s and Wellesley French lit professor Ellen (Charlotte Rampling), the neurotic and troubled Brenda (Karen Young) and fun-loving Montrealer Sue (Louise Portal) all show up as returning tourists to a beachfront hotel in search of uncomplicated sex with the accommodating young black hangers-on.

Legba (Ménothy Cesar) is the stud who fulfills the fantasies of these idle pleasure seekers. Wise Albert (Lys Ambroise) is the hotel's maitre d', a kind of one-man Greek chorus comfortable with a status quo that keeps the poverty and violence of nearby Port au Prince galaxies away from the idyllic resort. Also following the libidinous action is 12-year-old Eddy (Jackenson Pierre Olmo Diaz), a sort of hotel mascot who may also be a stud-in-training.

While the vacationers, Ellen and Brenda especially, come across as brittle and competitive, Legba takes his job in stride, skillfully attending to the needs of both women. When Legba turns his attentions to Brenda, Ellen is not a happy camper. What soon emerges, although never clearly enough, is Legba's other life. He's got an ex-girlfriend who has become a successful hooker and a loving mother to whom he gives his gigolo earnings. Worse, he has the corrupt Haitian killer squad after him, for reasons never clarified.

Cantet's flirtation with the politics of the period goes unconsummated, unlike his exploration of what drives his female protagonists. The filmmaker does give the broad strokes of the political picture-Haiti's severe poverty and the broad divide separating the hordes of underprivileged and the island guests, here symbolic of colonizers everywhere. But politics mainly supplies the bookends: the opening scene where a woman offers to sell her daughter, and a final episode where violence, not lust, has the final word. Otherwise, Heading South eschews critical details about the sociopolitical backdrop.

Murky politics aside, the film triumphs as a prism for intimate, personal truths. Its impact has much to do with the superb and brave performances. Again, Rampling startles with the magnetism and honesty of her character. And Cesar, in his film debut, is that proverbial revelation.

Shot largely in the Dominican Republic, Heading South delivers an authentic Haiti, along with a handful of authentic people.

-Doris Toumarkine


Save | E-mail | Print | Most Popular | RSS | Reprints

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Penguins of Madagascar
Film Review: Penguins of Madagascar

Frenetic vehicle for supporting players from the Madagascar films will entertain kids but prove a little wearying for their parents. More »

imitation game
Film Review: The Imitation Game

Terrific biopic about world-class mathematician and social misfit Alan Turing, who, in spite of a painful struggle with his homosexuality, helped the Allies break the code of the Nazis' Enigma machine. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here