sun 07/08/2022

We (Nous) review - a low-key look at life in the suburbs of Paris | reviews, news & interviews

We (Nous) review - a low-key look at life in the suburbs of Paris

We (Nous) review - a low-key look at life in the suburbs of Paris

Nothing much happens in Alice Diop's documentary portrait of the periphery

Railway lines feature large in Alice Diop's film 'We'

Director Alice Diop read an article by Pierre Bergounioux in which he described how he began writing to draw attention to his overlooked neck of the woods – Correze, in central France. It was a lightbulb moment for her: “My approach as a film-maker suddenly became clear to me, I realised I’d been making films about the suburbs in an obsessive way for the past 15 years… to conserve the existence of ordinary lives, which would have disappeared without trace if I hadn’t filmed them.”

We is a celebration of some of those ordinary lives – people who live alongside the RER railway line to and from Paris. We meet a car mechanic from Mali keen to return home because, as he tells his Mum over the phone, “They’re mean to us, when we only come here to work.” Young boys try to have fun sledging down a sandy slope on bits of cardboard, bored teenagers hang out on the grass, a congregation listens to the testament of Louis XVI proclaiming his innocence in 1792, and a bunch of men dressed in frock coats and blowing hunting horns ride with the hounds to slaughter deer at dawn (pictured below, the hunt followers).We 2 © Sylvain Verdet.jpgThe main trigger for the film, though, is Diop’s desire to honour her parents. The first film she ever made was a video of her father describing his life in France, but she only has glimpses of her mother in home movies taken back in Senegal. So perhaps by way of compensation, she obsessively records the lives of others.

Having been brought up in the suburbs of London (rather than Paris), I don’t share Diop’s affection for the periphery. I was desperate to escape and, even now, the thought of returning fills me with dread. This may have coloured my response to her film, which seems drenched in the stifling atmosphere I recall from my childhood. Despite Diop’s sympathetic approach and some beautiful camerawork, the only time We takes off for me is when she accompanies her sister on her rounds. Her sister is a carer dispensing medicines and kind words to desperately lonely people, some of whom are eager to chat and have interesting tales to tell.

Now that’s a subject that, on its own, would make a really interesting film.

It's a celebration of some of those ordinary lives - people who live alongside the RER railway line to and from Paris

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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