Mimosas Screen 92 of 15 reviews

Mimosas

2016

Mimosas Poster
  • What ensues, apart from hazardous terrain challenges and murderous, roving bandits, bears not a little resemblance to Gus Van Sant’s 2003 landscape poem Gerry, right down to that film’s atmosphere of despair, indistinguishable from its lyrical abstraction.

  • The most obvious—and the most remarked upon, if least interrogated, in many similar movies—is the cinematography, which one might call “gorgeous,” “striking,” “beautiful,” or any similar adjective. Mimosas is indeed all of these things, capturing palatial mountain structures with careful precision with regard to both framing and lighting, as well as watching taxis coast through the open desert at sunset from a few distinct, equally awe-inspiring shots.

  • It’s a neo-western about faith, inspired by Sufi mysticism, Roberto Rossellini’s The Flowers of St. Francis and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev. It’s an elliptical and adventurous odyssey with some very arresting 16mm cinematography.

  • It doesn't take a whole lot of work to make the deserts and Atlas Mountains of Morocco look breathtaking (being shot on 16mm admittedly helps). But Mimosas is far more than its jaw-dropping exterior, and Oliver Laxe is the tremendous force at its helm.

  • Featuring terrific performances by its mostly non-professional cast, stunning landscapes, and hypnotic 16mm photography, Mimosas is tactile and sensual. Sure, there are some inexplicable leaps in time. But when those ruptures deliver exhilarating moments of cinema, like the image of taxis racing across the desert at sundown to an ominous score, who really cares if it all adds up?

  • Although Mimosas is not without its stock characters and recognizable functions—it’s essentially a Western, very much in the John Ford / Howard Hawks mode—we get to know these highly idiosyncratic outcasts by watching them struggle against a limpid but unforgiving landscape. Laxe produces genuine moral dilemmas, not “typical situations.” By attending to the most basic problem of visual art—figures in a landscape—Laxe pinpoints the quotidian extraordinary.

  • Olivier Laxe’s Mimosas, a lyrical celluloid journey through the remote valleys of southern Morocco, with minimal narrative but mesmerising cinematography, portents the arrival of a new cinematic voice working in the vein of a Lisandro Alonso or a Ben Rivers (a kinship evinced by the fact that the latter filmed the shoot of Mimosas for his film The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Afraid and the Two Eyes are not Brothers).

  • A Western with shades of the uncanny, Mimosas has the openness of a parable: it doesn’t dramatize so much as embody the mysteries of faith.

  • A Sufi western? In the parole of Cannes’ critical taxonomy, the designation bestowed upon Oliver Laxe’s desert-fevered, Semaine de la Critique-winning allegory would seem reductive if it didn’t allude, paradoxically, to the film’s radically expansive nature.

  • Laxe seems distinctly taken with the idea of cinema as an apparatus for cultural appraisal and analysis. And in that way it feels like the perfect bookend to The Sky Trembles, though crucially it manages to stand on its own as a cogent work of investigative, reflexive integrity.

  • This is partly a consummate figures-in-a-landscape study, with characters – and their accompanying mules - often merging into the vastness of a varied, but usually profoundly, inhospitable landscape. But the cast makes striking use of non-professionals, and Laxe has an unerring eye for faces that tell a story – including that of Ahmed El Othemani who plays Mohammed, an old man who helps the travellers on their journey.

  • A fleet of taxis - like the limos in Motors - drives away into the desert, clouds of dust at twilight. "Those two birds..." says our hero - though no birds have previously been mentioned - indicating two grey shapes high on a rocky bluff, and the crazy first-timer (angel? devil?) responds with a raised-hands-and-sidestep gesture that only makes sense in his own private world. Wilfully strange.

  • Laxe, a Franco-Spanish filmmaker based in Morocco, goes for handmade, faux-naive primitivism, mixing eras as he follows his rag-tag crew (eventually joined by an elderly nomad and his mute daughter) on their quest. Mostly, I was impressed by this very low-budget production’s use of a mountainous landscape—a “location, location, location” approach that’s in keeping with the film’s non-professional cast. In the unadorned and unprepared, it seeks myth.

  • This unusual clarity and the anecdotal, unpretentious nature of the story's bare, quiet movements, admittedly had me struggling for the source of the film's inner purpose, as I found myself a bit stranded in the abstraction of an empty landscape with few signposts. Quite possibly, Mimosas may be subtly playing off of cultural or literary traditions and sources lost on me, not being familiar with the Sufi religion or the tales of the region.

  • As the group loses its bearings — there is a bit of Gus Van Sant’s “Gerry” here, and perhaps of Beckett as well — Shakib grows increasingly overt in his appeals to faith, which he feels will guide the way to Sijilmasa. It’s at this point that “Mimosas” begins to grow repetitive and perhaps more obscure, to the point that the most agnostic and literal-minded of viewers may have trouble going with the poetic flow.

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