Daily Archives: January 4, 2021

Trial of the Century (BAMAKO)

From the Chicago Reader (March 9, 2007). — J.R.

BAMAKO ****

DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY ABDERRAHMANE SISSAKO | WITH AISSA MAIGA, TIECOURA TRAORE, HELENE DIARRA, ROLAND RAPPAPORT, AMINATA DRAMANE TRAORE, DANNY GLOVER, AND ELIA SULEIMAN

Before the main title of Abderrahmane Sissako’s startling new feature appears, an elderly farmer arrives at a hearing that’s being held in a shared backyard in a poor section of Bamako, the capital of Mali. He’s there to testify, but when he steps up to the microphone he’s told politely to remove his hat and wait his turn.

What’s on trial in this backyard court is globalization, particularly the high-interest loans of such organizations as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and the pressure they put on governments to cut costs by privatizing or ending social services and firing workers. Unlike the seemingly random everyday details that surround the mock trial — small talk, the performances of a pop singer in a club, the illness of the singer’s daughter, a wedding, clothes being dyed or hung out to dry — this public reckoning is obviously staged. A year before he began filming, Sissako hired the judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, real lawyers who wrote their own dialogue, mainly in French (we’re often reminded that Mali is a former colony of France).… Read more »

The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema

From the Chicago Reader (March 16, 2007), slightly corrected (in terms of title and running time).. — J.R.

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If Daffy Duck ever became a film critic informed by Lacanian psychoanalysis, this three-part English entertainment (2006) by Sophie Fiennes would surely qualify as his Duck Amuck. Theorist Slavoj Zizek, inside beautifully constructed sets matching various films’ locations, lectures provocatively and dynamically about 43 screen classics, often sputtering like Daffy himself. Hitchcock and Lynch are favored, but among the many filmmakers considered are Coppola, Lang, Powell, and Tarkovsky. Zizek is especially sharp about manifestations of the maternal superego in Psycho and The Birds, maverick fists in Dr. Strangelove and Fight Club, and voices in The Great Dictator and The Exorcist. 143 min. (JR)

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