Criticism of alternative cinema | New Internationalist


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December 24, 2021

Little mom

directed and written by Céline Sciamma

72 minutes

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Sciamma’s latest feature film continues and moves away from the themes of her previous films. Tomboy, Water lilies and Youth make up a coming-of-age ‘trilogy’ on gender and sexual disconnection, on the conflicts associated with moving from childhood to adolescence and who we might be as adults. Little mom takes us back to childhood, with Nelly, an eight-year-old girl whose grandmother has just died. It’s a short film, shot quickly during lockdown by a small production team. Yet her ambition and scope resonates, dealing as she does with what connects us, the way our lives go and unfold the way they do, the tenor they have.

Nelly drove with her mother to her grandmother’s to sort her things and clean them. In the woods next to the house, she meets Marion, who is her age, and builds a shelter with branches. From the start there is a bond and we learn that Marion is Nelly’s own mother, at eight years old, living in the same house but about 25 years earlier. It somehow works and gets you there, maybe because Nelly and Marion accept each other.

They are friends, they play, they have a lot of fun. But we also look through the generations, back and forth, with a sense of wonder that our parents were once oblivious and untrained, and that we cannot know the fate of our children. Girls’ awareness of disappointment and loss makes them look gritty. There is no big reveal, no smart talk, no literature. It’s unpretentious, seemingly unassuming, beautifully performed by twin sisters, inexpensively written, and simply performed.

The invisible life of Euridice Gusmao

directed and co-written by Karim AInouz

139 minutes

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It’s not the flamboyant Brazilian melodrama you might expect, although the plot does have its extravagances. Set in the Rio of the 1950s, they are the two daughters of a conservative and controlling baker. Guida, the youngest, fluffy and fickle flees with a Greek sailor. This makes it impossible for the older and serious Euridice to also travel to Europe to train as a concert pianist – at the conservatory in Vienna, nothing less. When Guida returns pregnant and single, her father drives her out of the family home.

Euridice marries a postal worker and eventually has two children. Guida and her baby move in with a tough but caring former prostitute who has become something of a neighborhood nanny. Guida embarks on prostitution, then finds a job in a workshop. Neither of the sisters knows the other and does not believe in their parents’ inventions. Euridice thinks Guida is in Greece; Guida thinks Euridice is in Vienna.

For the most part, the film is well judged, paced and sufficiently anchored, socially and materially, to convince. There is a poignant scene in a fancy restaurant that reveals their different social positions. The children of the sisters, unknown to each other, meet, and as Guida leaves, Euridice enters.

It has a wonderful coda when you skip 50 years or so. Euridice discovers the letters Guida had sent her over the years, looking after the family home. Neither her father nor her husband had passed them on to her.

The invisible life of Euridice Gusmao is a revealing and moving drama about the obedience, suffering and challenge of women in a patriarchal society – and their strength, loyalty and solidarity.

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