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The French film Le fils de Joseph (2016) was shown in the U.S. with the translated game The Son of Joseph. The movie was written and directed by Eugène Green. (Don't allow the accent in Eugène fool you. Green is from the U.S., but he lives in France and apparently is very, very French.)Victor Ezenfis is brilliant as Vincent, a young boy in his teens who has been raised by a single mother. As the film begins, he learns the name of his father, and the plot of the movie follows from that discovery.Natacha Régnier plays Marie, Vincent's mother. She is a caring nurse who has devoted her life to raising Victor. Régnier is impossibly beautiful, but she isn't elegant and haughty. Instead, she looks as if she should be the person who lives next door. (OK--next door if you live in the 2nd arrondissement.) Fabrizio Rongione plays Joseph, a boy who develops an unlikely friendship with Vincent. If you have a girl called Marie, and a boy called Joseph, you know that Jesus is going to fit into the plot in some fashion. That's true, in a way, but director Green doesn't push it too far.This is an absolutely fascinating film, with nice acting by the lead actors as well as by the helping characters. (Special notice to Gargantua, who plays a captured rat that some men are torturing. The credits at the end of the movie mission out that Gargantua is a professional actor, who was not injured in any method during filming.)We saw this film at the outstanding Dryden Theatre in Rochester's George Eastman Museum. It was part of a two-movie miniseries of the movies of Eugène Green. (The another film was Sapienza, which I also reviewed for IMDb.) Unlike Sapienza, alienation is not as obvious in The Son of Joseph. Even so, I compared Green with Antonioni in my review of Sapienza. Apparently, Green has made the same comparison. In The Son of Joseph the characters go to a movie, and what they see is a revival of Antonioni's Red Desert (1964).This movie will work well on the tiny screen. If you can't see it in a theater, see it at home. It will be worth the effort.
The storyline of the illegitimate kid in find of his father has been said and said and told.It has spawned more melodramas than you'll ever see.Eugene Green has fully renewed this hackneyed subject;his film looks like no another one,and on the actual feel-good French stage ,it's like a bolt from the blue.The viewer may feel bewildered,lost ,searching something vaguely related to cling to.Robert Bresson is the first name that comes to mind :the method the actors deliver their lines ,in a neuter almost robotic voice,refusing any dramatization,may place off some people.But if you carry it on,the film grows on you and culminates in one of the most moving finale I know:Victor Ezenfis 's last shot reflects happiness,nay bliss.The film is divided in five chapters ,three inspired by the Old Testament , the others by the Gospels.It's not unwarranted .Genesis and Exodus are cruel books: Oscar,the wealthy editor , is some type of Abraham who did not hear God's voice (see Joseph's explanation);in the second part ,he is an equivalent of Lord Herod. Biblicals references abound.Oscar's and Joseph's father treated his kids like Isaac in Genesis ,who favored Jacob and denied Esau's birthright .The Fresh Testament,on the another hand , is a providential merciful holy scripture ;in Vincent's bedroom,there's Caravaggio's painting which represents Abraham 's sacrifice.When he meets Joseph (the carpenter),both go to a museum and stop in front of Georges De La Tour's painting : a stark contrast to the violence (look at the terrified child's face) of the Italian painting.Although there's a cross on it, Jesus's and Joseph's faces reflect excellent heavenly bliss.The "golden calf" represents the material globe , that of Oscar and his "Bourgeois Bohèmes" ,who drink champagne ,exchanging would be "intellectual" lines -the "critic" who's just talked to late writer Nathalie Sarraute ,it takes the biscuit- , a self-centered selfish milieu.Oscar 's cynicism knows no bounds : not only he hacks on his wife almost in front of her ,but he does not know how many kids he fathered!Natacha Régnier's Mary is the only light in the first chapter : she wants to bring relief ,so she became a nurse .Vincent resents the fact that she has never revealed his father's name : she knows it's beyond her ,that old God of the Old Testament.It takes Joseph to build a real family ,and even if they escape from the powers- that-be on a donkey ,they are stronger than Herod and his cops/soldiers .Eugene Green achieves the wonderful feat of getting a tiny humor in a rather dry work: both scenes of the guy who sells sperm on internet and needs an associate are a nice comic relief in that context ;so are the blue jokes Vincent cracks with his adoptive father.Sometimes,lines which are not funny become so ,by the method they are delivered :"can't you see I'm working?".That there's only one (non French) comment on such a remarkable film is nice .This film is so rich it deserves hundreds of reviews.Is it a Christian movie,by the way?
The poster shows a girl sitting on a donkey being lead by a boy and, in this instance, a man and with a game like "The Son of Joseph" and characters named Marie and Joseph you might be forgiven for thinking Eugene Green's movie is a modern take on the Christ story, (the chapter headings also allude to the Bible). However, the url is a tenuous one at greatest as young Vincent goes in find of his biological father. With all the characters speaking as if to the beat of a metronome and behaving a tiny like robots it often feels like a comedy minus the jokes, a parody of French art-house cinema which it may well be since its director is now American though long domicile in France. Of course, you should take it seriously as some sort of religious allegory, (the clues aren't just all there but very much in your face), ot just play it as some type of piss-take or just abandon it altogether since, to be honest, it's not all that lively. The choice, as they say, is yours.
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