Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ginger and Cinnamon, Raja

Ginger and Cinnamon (directed by Daniele Luchetti): Rating 8/10

Normally I am not a big fan of movies which ooze with sugar and syrup. But every now and then, I enjoy such efforts. This Italian movie (original title: Dillo con parole mie) is a sort of coming age movie set in Greece. 14 year old Megghy does not want to go on her girl guides camping tour. Instead she wants to go Ios, the Greek Island of love where she wants to lose her virginity. So she tricks her aunt, Stefania, to take her to Ios. The aunt on the other hand has recently broken up with her boyfriend, Andrea. As chance would have it, Andrea is on the same island as well. And Megghy falls for Andrea and believes him to be the one. Stefania is unaware of all of this and tries to give her niece men advice. Meanwhile, on an island full of horny backpackers and tourists, who are either drinking, swimming, making out or doing ‘it’, something has to give. The movie is not that bad although it does drag on near the end. I suppose some sugar everything now and then is not that harmful. As Stefania keeps repeating in the movie ‘Chocolate makes you lose weight’.

Raja (written and directed by Jacques Doillon): Rating 9/10

Oh what complicated lives we lead! On top of that we make our relationships even more complicated. One can easily dismiss this movie as an old man trying to screw a younger woman. But it is much more complicated than that. The movie brings in the angle of slavery, imperialism, sex, power, money and survival into the mix. As a result, no conversation is that straight forward, no intention is that clear. Fred is a white French man living in Marrakesh. Raja is a young Moroccan woman working in his garden. Fred instantly likes Raja and wants her. He does not hide his approaches either. The two elderly women cooks and house help advice Fred to stay away from Raja. But Fred does not listen. He gives Raja a full time job in the house. Meanwhile Raja is thrilled – she freely takes gifts from Fred and the extra money she gets keeps her boyfriend happy. Raja’s brother is not happy with the arrangement – he wants Raja to get married to a policeman who will keep her happy and away from trouble. But when Fred meets the brother, he proposes something completely different – he tells Raja’s brother that he will pay for her marriage not to the policeman but to her boyfriend instead, provided the couple stay at his house. Huh? This is a slow movie which takes its time but it is also interesting because of the issues it brings about. Did the western imperialist powers behave in a similar way to the native women they met? Did they feel they can take anyone they like, use them and move onto the next woman? They knew money was a major bargaining tool they had, so they abused its power. On the other hand, women like Raja needed the money to sustain their family. So in turn the women used the men for their benefit. In the movie, Raja is as cunning as Neve Campbell in When Will I be Loved, but unlike Campbell’s character, Raja is more vulnerable.

Also, this movie is another example of festival foreign movies which are better enjoyed in the confines of one’s home as opposed to a movie theatre.

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