The Wedding Song (Le chant des mariées) (2008); After Fall, Winter (2011)

Yeah, like you’ve never enjoyed a Lizzie Brocheré double-feature before.

I kid. As it happens, I did last night…

The Wedding Song“The Wedding Song” (Le chant des mariées) tells the story of a friendship imperiled when the Nazis occupied Tunisia during World War 2.

Myriam (Lizzie Borcheré) is a Jewish teenager whose best friend, Nour (Olympe Borval), happens to be Muslim. The two are very close, sharing secrets about boys, sharing the large communal baths with the community’s women, reading, talking. Myriam is engaged to an older man, a doctor named Raoul. The marriage was arranged, and Myriam resists having to go through with it. Her family is insistent, though, because they need the financial help. On the other end of the teen relationship spectrum, Nour is engaged to her cousin, Khaled, a fellow Muslim who wants to marry her, but can’t find a job to support her.

The two girls share details with each other: Nour’s seemingly doomed love, and Myriam’s seemingly inevitable nuptial enslavement. Myriam loves living vicariously through Nour, grilling her about every kiss and touch she shared with Khaled. She’s thrilled by–and jealous of–Nour for being in love. The night Nour loses her virginity on a rooftop, Myriam is hiding in the shadows, watching.

Myriam’s wedding is a low-key event, and she’s still not really warm to the idea of Raoul, doctor or not. Especially when her mother asks him  the all-important pre-wedding question: do you want your bride “European” or “Oriental” on your wedding night. Raoul chooses “Oriental.”

“Oriental” is code for “hairless,” and we see Myriam getting “waxed” (it looked like some sort of plant goo, but it worked the same). When I say we see Myriam getting waxed, I’m serious: all of Myriam’s parts get waxed, and we see every one of them. Nour is there with her friend, holding her hand, brushing her hair back, comforting her as best she can while some village woman rips out all her body hair.

So Nour’s wedding plans are still on hold. She loves her deflowerer but, again, her father won’t let her marry him until he finds a job. Then the Nazis come to town, and guess who’s hiring? Yup.

So Khaled is hired by the Nazis as part of their community outreach program, “community outreach” meaning they go through the community and locate Jews to shakedown for “fines,” arrest without cause, and send to labor camps. Khaled begins to indoctrinate his beloved, and soon Nour breaks off her friendship with Myriam, based on a line in the Qur’an.

One day in the bathhouse, Myriam comes in to bathe and hit the steam room, etc. A smalll group of Nazis storm into the bathhouse, and rustle out every woman who doesn’t have a vail. Nour sees her old friend in peril, and comes to her rescue.

“The Wedding Song” isn’t a perfect film. At times, it feels forced in its message. Where it most succeeds is showing the complex relationships that develop between women: best friends, mothers and daughters, elders and young people. There is a pretty good amount of nudity, but it doesn’t feel exploitative. Writer-Director Karin Albou–better perhaps than a male director could–used the lush photography and nudity to capture womanhood at life’s different stages.

The result is a bittersweet story set in a corner of World War 2 most of us forget about.

after_fall_winter_posterTrying to explain “After Fall, Winter” is an exercise in futility. There’s no way to summarize the action and characters, and not make the film sound like a mess.

And it really isn’t. Eric Schaeffer wrote, directed, and stars in “After Fall, Winter.” He plays a has-been American writer named Michael, who has come to Paris to try and beat his depression. He meets Sophie (Lizzie Borcheré), a twenty-something French girl, and immediately falls in love with her. Sophie works as a sort of Hospice aide, helping comfort the dying. That’s her straight job. Her other job? She’s…a dominatrix. A nasty one.

Okay. That’s the easy part to describe. I’m just going to mention certain elements of this film: a lot of clever “When Harry Met Sally” dialogue; a dying 13-year-old gypsy girl who’s obsessed with old musicals; BDSM (giving and receiving); a little Romeo & Juliet; beautiful Paris; more gypsies; a curse from one of the gypsies that just might come true; the World’s Greatest Cheese contest; nudity; shopping; seedy Paris; Christmas; making dreams come true; tragedy…I could go on.

This is one of those rare films that captivated me from start to finish. There were a few times where I had to pause it, shake my head, and say, “What the hell just happened?” Eric Schaeffer did well at each of his jobs. He made Michael flawed and broken, but with an abundance of optimistic energy. Lizzie Borcheré plays Sophie as someone equally broken. She’s lived on her own since she was 15, and she has a tough time letting people inside her world. She does with Michael.

A lot of critics savaged this movie, and I can only say that it is definitely not for everyone. I adored this film. It hooked me, and dragged me through one hell of a ride. If you’re adventurous, give it a shot.

The Wedding Song: B  (Not Rated, probably R for nudity (some very extreme) and violence) in French and Arabic with English subtitles

After Fall, Winter: A-/B+ (Not Rated, probably R for nudity, sexual sadism, violence) Mostly in English, though parts are in French with English subtitles.

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About tom

B.A. in Literature, Minor in Film Theory and Criticism, thus meaning all I’m trained is to write blog posts here. Neptune is my favorite planet–it vents methane into the solar system like my brother does. I think Chicken McNuggets look like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. There are times when I’m medicated, which is why I wrote about McNuggets. Buy some today and tell me I’m wrong! Anyway, Beyond that: mammal, Floridian, biped.Good Night, and Good Luck. Besos, tom
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