Grigris Screen 8 articles

Grigris

2013

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  • Things start to feel forced when Grigris gets involved with wannabe-model sex worker Mimi, his uncle becomes sick, and he volunteers for a get-rich-quick crime spree that, predictably, goes wrong. As the script throws plausibility to the wind, Démé’s performance becomes just too opaque to hold our attention – and it all sort of devolves slowly downwards from there.

  • Maybe it’s still possible to do something interesting with such tired storylines at this late date, but Haroun treats them as if they’ve never been dramatized before—not in any self-aware, visionary sense, but with the obliviousness of someone who simply doesn’t know that he’s re-enacting clichés.

  • Haroun’s straightforward approach is surprisingly simplistic when compared to his nuanced direction of 2010’s A Screaming Man. With Grigris, he relies heavily on the character’s cliché external conflicts to convey a thinly explored ideology that gratuitously favors country living over urban existence.

  • As the Stefon character from Saturday Night Live might say, this film has everything: a dying parent, a heist gone wrong, a hooker with a heart of gold . . . It's all a bit rote, even by the middling standards of Haroun, who is a very talented director but tends to come up short when it comes to dramaturgy. At the same time, Grigris does offer more conventional pleasures than any of Haroun's features to date.

  • Unlike in “A Screaming Man,” sentimentality is strenuously sidestepped: Even Souleymane’s ailing stepfather is scarcely mentioned once the money for his care has been secured. As a result, the film is easier to admire than it is to invest in emotionally, though its pulse quickens with a dramatic, and boldly untelegraphed, feminist twist in the rural-set final reel, which is all the more surprising coming from a director whose previous films have been overwhelmingly male-dominated.

  • Haroun gracefully navigates the story through several shifts in tone; the movie begins as a naturalistic musical, veers into film noir territory, and concludes as something like a feminist parable. Consistent throughout is a spirit of warm solidarity—among Grigris's family, the discotheque regulars, even some members of the crime syndicate—that makes the good cheer all but irresistible.

  • Grigris’s trajectory ends on a leap into the unknown, that of the spectator into an unexpected vista. We are used to seeing Africa in a certain way, with our “knowledge” of a seemingly irresistible rural exodus. Haroun redraws the traveller’s map, reorients our gaze. He suggests that there is an alternative way of looking at “The Third World” and consequently at the world itself, through cinema. Even if it involves killing.

  • Haroun catches the incipient internationalism of the capital city and the corruption that the economic gap fuels (in one telling moment, Grigris powers up a portable generator to turn on an electric light), and finds the ambient Islamic faith casually and cavalierly instrumentalized. His deft, active, contrast-riddled, and subtly unbalanced images conjure a muffled cry of despair in a bottomless spiral of violence.

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