nobody movie_Nobody’s Hero Review: Alain Guiraudie’s Scattershot Terrorism Satire

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As far-right sentiment mounts in France ahead of April’s presidential election – and lawmakers continue to grapple with hijab bans – it’s urgently time for artists to question the ongoing history of Islamophobia. At first glance, Nobody’s Hero appears to be a useful contribution in this regard. Set amidst the tense aftermath of a radical terrorist attack in the tranquil central French town of Clermont-Ferrand Alain Guiraudie‘s latest feature revolves around a weak-willed white man caught between ally and oppressor of a homeless Muslim youth in his neighborhood, and wryly comments on a bourgeois society oscillating between liberal altruism and cautious prejudice. Yet that promising build-up is derailed by a separate, not particularly complementary, narrative detailing the same protagonist’s troubled romance with a married local sex worker: moonlighting as a broad bedroom farce, this heavily staged but oddly low-energy film ends up being too distracted and watered down in score as vital politics -Satire.

That Nobody’s Hero takes some hits is particularly disappointing when it comes from Guiraudie, whose 2013 breakout feature Stranger by the Lake sealed his status as one of contemporary French cinema’s most edgy and playful provocateurs before he made its perverted, surreal sequel in 2016. up “Staying Vertical” delved into even wilder terrain. With its tough worldview and graphic but largely non-erotic sexual content, this film has garnered some interest from international distributors for Guiraudie. It’s hard to imagine Nobody’s Hero benefiting significantly from its Berlin premiere as the opener of this year’s Panorama sidebar – although, by the director’s standards at least, it’s an altogether more conventional affair.

According to the film’s title, the slovenly thirty-something Médéric (Jean-Charles Clichet) is an almost defiantly unsympathetic character from the outset that the film should focus on: In the film’s opening scene we meet him with a brazenly questioning 55-year-old sex worker Isadora (Noémie Lvovsky ) on a date and insists that he shouldn’t pay her for the pleasure. “I want to turn you on normally, for free,” he says with all the charm of someone who’s never hit on anyone normally in his life.

That Isadora, after initially turning him down, later calls Médéric to accept his offer is our first clue that Nobody’s Hero is unfolding in a Guiraudie-like parallel universe of perverted human behavior – that portly, balding digital programmer repeating itself is described as a strapping object of desire is one of the funniest running gags in the film. The riveting gender discourse opened up by this bizarre encounter is interrupted when mid-coitus in a cheap hotel room, news of a nearby terrorist explosion flashes across the TV screen. Isadora’s abusive husband Gerard (Renaud Rutten) further kills the mood when he bursts into the room to check on her safety, heralding a macho rivalry for her affections that runs the length of the film.

Returning home, Médéric is met by Selim (Iliès Kadri, in a flashy film debut), a young Arab drifter who deftly plays on both the older man’s paranoid suspicions about his ethnicity and his white guilt over that very distrust , asked for money. The child soon exploits this inner conflict for ever-greater hospitality: a place to shelter from the rain, a shower and dry change of clothes, and finally a place to sleep on Médéric’s sofa bed. With the notable exception of Muslim neighbor Mr. El Alaoui (Philippe Fretun), other residents of the building are similarly accommodating, although Médéric’s fears that Selim is implicated in the terrorists remain, fueled by a string of email snoops. (This is a man who gives with one hand and calls the police with the other.) Guiraudie’s slanted, opaque writing also aims to leave the audience guessing, inviting us to challenge our own biases and prejudices to the same Way to identify and question, as Médéric does.

It’s all pretty clever, but once these two sources of chaos in our bumbling hero’s life come together, the film’s focus blurs and its bite loosens. Any screen time devoted to Médéric, Isadora and Gerard’s old-fashioned love triangle does little to shed light on the more interesting, ambiguous trajectory of Selim – whose eventual involvement with Isadora only leads to this otherwise outright sensual film that uses sexuality as a punchline. As the film progresses, Selim’s recessive mystery feels less like a Rorschach test of the other characters’ prejudices and more like the film’s own blind spot, as it examines the causes and consequences of Islamophobia without bringing a Muslim character’s perspective into play to put in the center. Women, too, get much of a perspective in a film that paints an unflattering picture of possessive male entitlement, but Isadora – despite Lvovsky’s game, rough performance – doesn’t get much of a point of view.

Add in a host of other semi-developed storylines – Médéric’s passive-aggressive seduction by his new boss Florence (Doria Tillier), Selim’s association with Muslim hotel worker Charlene (Miveck Packa), and his encouragement by gun-toting neighbor Coq (Michel Masiero). ) – and Nobody’s Hero feels light and cluttered at the same time, its numerous moving parts never quite locking into fast, absurd gears. In one fell swoop, one could say that the film’s restless, uneven rhythm reflects a modern-day France being pulled in multiple political directions, and evenings descending into a bristly, unfortunate kind of stasis – at least for the years to come, Guiraudie’s film may seem odd, revealing the oddity of his era. Right now, however, it doesn’t feel quite the same.

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