Day 7 and an English language free day, taking in bored Israeli army admin staff, hilltop Calabrian gangsters and very French 'garage' music....
I can't say I've seen a great many Israeli movies, let alone Israeli comedies set in the army so Zero Motivation was a great surprise. Essentially the story of two girls with absolutely zero interest in extending their stay in the Israeli Defence Force beyond the mandatory two years. Zohar, initially the more responsible of the two girls is Postal NCO, Daffi, desperate to relocate to Tel Aviv for no particular reason other than 'it's a city', looks after paper shredding. They bond over mammoth Minesweeper records and a general dislike of all their fellow recruits.
Things start to go from bad to worse when the usual late teens issues start to arise, in particular Zohar's desire for Daffi to stay at the base and Daffi's unintentional liaison with a boy Zohar likes. When it's revealed that Zohar failed to mail any of the dozens of pleading letters written by Daffi, the latter resolves to become on officer to secure her re-assignment to the big city.
Zero Motivation is well pitched as a tale of close friends in the artificial world of non-war. Although conflict is clearly occurring, none of it comes anywhere near to affecting the base (the admin recruits undergo basic weapons training but are comedically unequipped to deal with anything resembling conflict) and the movie sits parallel to any real political or religious issue. The movie concentrates on the ennui of everyday life for the girls and this makes for an existential, surreal and darkly hilarious experience.
The Calabrian mafia is not an area of Italian criminal society that has been explored in movies before but it's one that Francesco Munzi's Golden Lion nominated feature takes on with some considerable success. Essentially a tale about family, Black Souls shows us the destructive forces at work in the area when one small act of petulance leads to dire consequences for three brothers and their families.
Having seen his father murdered on the roadside when he was twelve years old, eldest brother Luciano is out of The Life, or at least, as far out as you can ever get. He spends his days herding goats in the mountains of Aspromonte. His two brothers however, now based in Milan are still very much in the family business. Luciano's young son, desperate to swap the youth-sapping boredom of the mountains for the cosmopolitan lifestyle his uncles posses, attempts to gain respect by vandalising a local bar after an argument....
Munzi's film is an awesome exercise in restraint and building tension. And I really do mean tension. There is actually very little violence in his movie (though a little too much goat death for my taste) but the pervading air of threat is ingrained in every frame. Dealing with the nuts and bolts of family life, it's clear that something is very amiss and only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down. Black Souls is certainly not a typical gangster movie, its intelligence and dark heart mark it out as something special.
And finally for Day 7 we have Eden, which, to be honest, I'm not sure how to describe. I guess the best way is as a story of a DJ who just can't grow up. Which hardly seems credible does it? Ho ho. Anyway, this is the tale of Paul, a French 'garage' DJ whose due Cheers helped to pioneer the start of a new wave of French electronic music in the mid nineties. I keep putting garage in inverted commas because it seems to have a completely different meaning in France. Either that or I am way out of my depth here. Which is equally possible.
You may have spotted that I don't have a massive amount to say about this movie and that's really because I don't think it had a massive amount to say to me. Paul is a pretty typical character, he loves his music, he's great at it but this is at the expense of all the other areas of his life. He fails to complete his writing thesis, takes far too many drugs, is terrible with money and absentmindedly destroys any relationship he has. Plus ca change.
If you are familiar with the huge tracklist that accompanies Eden, you're going to have a great time here. It is stuffed with amazing tracks, cameo appearances that I only spotted due to ropey acting and you'll get a real buzz the first time Da Funk is spun. If it's a completely alien world to you, I don't think you're going to get much here. Paul's hardships are familiar and self inflicted and as such, he comes across as a pretty bland central character. The music is really the thing and in that, the movie succeeds. For the rest <insert Gallic shrug>.