Thursday, March 30, 2006

Invasion of the Baby Snatchers.

2005, South Africa
Gavin Hood

In the past few years, the profile of international cinema has really been significantly raised in the US. The success of films like City of God have shown audiences that foreign filmmakers can make American action films just as good as Tony Scott can. Consequently, everybody and their immigrant mother are making foreign films about ethnic gangs living in slums, with originally being measured by the style of the subtitles. Tsotsi is the latest of the new wave of transplanted American gangster films, coming to us from South Africa. In this film, white Afrikaans director Gavin Hood orders around a group of young, poor black actors in a violent tale of life in the ghetto, demonstrating that while South Africa may have lost the letter of the apartheid laws, they’re keeping the spirit alive.

Because no one is capable of making a gangster movie not directly influenced by Martin Scorsese, Tsotsi is a tale of redemption, following the titular Tsotsi through his attempts to rehabilitate his gangster lifestyle by stealing a baby. If I’d known child kidnapping is all it takes to make things right with karma, I would have stopped my catch and release regimen a while back. Nevertheless, confusing moral message aside, this sweet story of an urban black man taking care of a child was a surprise winner at this year’s Oscars, as the Academy generally does not reward fantasy films unless they’re about the Holocaust. The film is not without its positive qualities, however. Since the film is emblematic of the Oscars’ recent attempts to replace their voting body with the United Colors of Beneton, Tsotsi does provide ample opportunity for reactionary racist jokes that help keep American theatres focused on Hollywood movies for white football players, as evidenced above. Taken on its own terms, the film is capably made, and entirely watchable, but aside from a strong performance by Presley Chweneyagae as the lead, there’s nothing that really distinguishes this movie from its imitators, or the films it imitates. And while it’s a good movie, I still think that German movie about the Holocaust should have won.


Anonymous broadzilla said...

What, this won an Oscar?

Style over substance. Although it does give a pretty accurate representation of my neighbourhood. The country was so stunned that we've finally cracked the nod - and frankly, relieved at no longer having to hold up Charlize Theron's accent as our only successful cinematic export to date - that the prez came out and declared a national holiday. I believe banknotes are being printed with Presley's visage as I type.

It's a good movie - for SA. But not great by international standards. I expect I'll be deported now.

4:54 a.m.  
Blogger Squish said...

This looks very decent. I'm going to be seeing thing on wednesday at our little independant theater. Doesn't that automatically make it better?

9:22 a.m.  
Blogger Squish said...

Hey Ash, just reviewed this myself, and again we seemed to have similar reservations. The whole premise from time to time just rubbed me the wrong way, like a six-year old with a cheese grater. Now when you mention 'that German movie about the Holocaust', you wouldn't be talking about Fateless would you? I'm guessing not, since it's about a Hungarian, but if so I found it lacked original substance.

9:15 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Squish - no, I was talking about Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. I'm not sure its actually a movie. More than likely, it's just a hastily scribbled note on the Awards Ballot.

Broadzilla - I'm sorry that your neighborhood looks like a drier version of Blade Runner.

5:28 p.m.  
Anonymous broadzilla said...

In reality, I live about 2000 kms away in an apartment overlooking sun-drenched beaches, several drug enclaves and about a mile of transvestites in scarringly short skirts. I just threw in the bit about Soweto in the hopes of sounding tougher and more convincingly African - instead of just white and therefore ‘previously advantaged’. I don’t speak like anyone in the movie either.

1:33 p.m.  

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