Of One Determined Little Monkey
Sauce Tarte's Reveiw From The Other Side Of The Tracks
I feel fortunate to live in a city where I was able to see this
portrait of a not-so-ladylike young lady. Rosetta, a Belgian
Film by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, whose previous work includes
La Promesse, is a stark portrayal of the fierce drive for
survival that is instilled in only the very strongest, when life
offers little hope and no warmth.
Rosetta, a girl in her late teens, is struggling to raise her alcoholic
mother and keep a roof over their heads, food on their table, the
works. The details of their lives, down to the mothers bad hair
dye job, complete with grey roots growing in, ground this basic
premise, making it believable. We follow Rosetta, with the aide
of hand-held cameras, sometimes chasing her through the streets,
through her trailer park, and through her search for a job. Speaking
of jobs; her mother's blow-jobs are so cheap, she's practically
giving them away.) Rosetta is trying to keep her head above water
(literally in one scene) and not turn into her mother, as the film
implies is her biggest fear.
Rosetta, despite winning several awards, including Best
Film, Best Actress and the Palme D'Or (undisputedly) at this year's
Cannes film festival, is taking inordinate flack from some of the
most stringent, trigger-happy critics that could be scraped together.
I hate to point fingers but the east coast, especially New York,
know who they are. This movie, as is a given with any movie, is
not for all tastes. I also hate to point out the obvious but it
seems to me that this is sometimes forgotten in the heat of criticism.
That being said, there is absolutely no disputing that this rare
creation has near perfect acting and camera work, relying on a solidly
sparse script that manages, despite its lack of real action, to
constanly surprise the viewer. The entire tone is magnificent, as
I can't accuse a city, much less an entire coastline, without a
rebuttal. Let me help you nay-sayers out a little:
Part I of critiquing a film: Spotting the Film's Objectives.
The plot of Rosetta was not designed to make you comfortable.
(Nor was it designed to make you uncomfortable) The script was not
written to help you put the moves on your date. The action was not
inserted to both thrill and delight you. The sex scenes are not
fodder to your long, hot, nightly showers. This film will not cheer
you up. None of these things, however are the point. It is not a
sentimental look at the world. Mercilessly, it is also not a sweeping
generalization about anything. It is not a message movie about the
politics of poverty. Rosetta is trying to be a moody, realistic
portrayal of an individual, where she comes from, where she is hoping
to get to and the obstacles in between. Its goals are to show us
what sorts of winds fan this particular character's flame and keep
our disbelief suspended. Basic right?
Part II of critiquing a film: Does the Film Accomplish Its Objectives?
In an extremely compelling, surprising and original way, Rosetta
accomplishes its objectives. (The compelling, surprising and original
adjectives being used here are what separates adequate film from
excellent film, for you kids at home) It accomplishes its objectives
without being needlessly cruel to its viewers or its characters,
which is important in such a down-trodden piece. It never makes
you feel pity for its main characters. They aren't about to let
you. It even leaves room for hope and a future for all you happy-ending
nuts. You may insert your own dream ending without being left hanging
by the film's own ambiguous one.
Rosetta is a far cry from the wussy youth most often portrayed
on the big screen. She's a heroine you can get behind even if she's
so close to the edge that she's not quite sure whose ass to kick
and it might just be yours.