Film: "Heading South"

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Charles Arthur
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Film: "Heading South"

Post by Charles Arthur » Fri Sep 09, 2005 7:09 am


VENICE, Italy, Sept 8 (AFP) - Sipping a coffee in a small cafe on the Venice Lido, Charlotte Rampling reflects on romantic love and says she believes that only the finest of faultlines exist between love and disaster.

"We think we're creating a home, that we're creating a universe, that we're creating a love relationship and we think we control all of that, but it takes just a grain of sand to unbalance everything, throw everything into doubt and then the little paradise you created turns to hell."

Rampling is speaking of her role in French director Laurent Cantet's new film, "Heading South," about three women looking for sex and sun in troubled 1970s Haiti which premiered here Wednesday in the official comptition for the Golden Lion.

Cantet's adaptation of the writings of Radio Haiti journalist Dany Lafferr
iere is a political metaphor that explores sexuality as an instrument of economic power.

It portrays three North American women, Ellen (Rampling), Brenda (Karen Young) and Sue (Louise Portal), who come to a Haiti beach hotel for relaxation and pampering as the country begins to convulse at the end of the notorious "Baby Doc" Duvalier regime.

The wealthy women shower local men with gifts and money, the men sell the only thing they possess, their bodies and their youth. The most sought-after of the young men is Legba, played by Menothy Cesar.

"Legba represents a metaphor for Ellen. She places in this young man all the desire and all the hope that she yearns for in her life, which finally turns out to be an imaginary life, but her imagination makes her really feel something for him."

"It's an impossible, unreal, situation: for a while she can dream that Legba represents all that is most beautiful in the world," Rampling said in an interview with AFP.

"This woman could have married, have had children, but she feels a form of desire which is not fulfilled either in her daily life or by her close acquaintances," says the actress, lighting a cigarillo.

"And that's like many women in our countries who could be thought to have everything."

In "Heading South", we see Rampling, whose starred in "Sous le Sable" (Under the Sand) and the "Swimming Pool" by Francois Ozon, once again taking on the role of a woman alone coming face to face with herself.

"These are roles which inspire something in me, through my own femininity through my own journey," she said. "These are roles which appeal to me, which challenge me."

"We are on the verge of this situation all our lives," she said. "You go though a period of immense pain when reality meets the dream," said Rampling, who went though a painful breakup with French composer Jean-Michel Jarre before reviving her career.

But she refuses to be pessimistic. There are reasons to be cheerful.

"If the woman creates in herself a concrete world which causes her to reach out for things, for others, the world in which she lives, then there are plenty of things which can happen," she said, echoing the optimism of Brenda in the film's closing shot, from the deck of a Caribbean ferry on her way to new adventures in other islands.

"There are a lot of men of the same age in the same situation, so there will always be encounters to have as long as you're ready for them," said Rampling.

"Heading South" is one of 20 films competing for the Golden Lion for best film at the Venice festival, which closes on Saturday.[/quote]

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The sex tourism trade in Haiti

Post by admin » Fri Sep 08, 2006 10:46 am

The sex tourism trade in Haiti

Troubles abound in an artificial paradise
Interpersonal politics, cultural gulfs, sex trade in Haiti are explored
Cox News Service | Fri, Sep. 08, 2006

Most depictions of the imperialist sport of sex tourism show the predator to be male. But in Laurent Cantet's languorous yet haunting drama "Heading South," it is the women who vacation at an all-inclusive resort on Haiti, chiefly for the sexual favors of the local black-skinned boys.

Based on several short stories by Dany Laferriere, the film is set in the 1970s during the dictatorial rule of Baby Doc Duvalier, who kept his people poor and subservient with the help of his secret police, the Tonton Macoute. Yet the affluent American tourists could remain oblivious to the politics of the island, safe and ignorant under the palm trees at their hotel, sipping an island rum punch and occasionally retiring to their rooms for a little physical exercise.

Into this world arrives Brenda (Karen Young), 48, a stressed-out Georgian who returns after three years, seeking 18-year-old Legba (Menothy Cesar), with whom she had a liberating affair that she is intent on resuming.

To do so, she will have to go up against Ellen (Charlotte Rampling), 55, a Wellesley professor of French literature, who has been coming to the hotel for the past six summers and now seems to rule the roost.

Their dynamic and the artificial paradise of the resort, in contrast to the squalor just outside its gates, forms the basis of "Heading South," which juggles interpersonal politics with the cultural gulf between Haiti and the United States. Despite the physical dangers in Haiti, the police are highly protective of the tourists, so when violence does break out -- as was foreshadowed from the film's start -- guess who does not fare well.

The screenplay by Cantet and Robin Campillo inserts the interior thoughts of Brenda and Ellen in monologue, as well as a third-wheel Canadian guest named Sue and, intriguingly, the career headwaiter Albert, who hides his hatred of the white visitors behind a mask of courtly charm. Unfortunately Legba, the one character we yearn to know, is not given a monologue and remains an enigma.

Away from the resort, we see Legba on the run, pursued in some deadly matter that we never quite understand, as if we viewers also are tourists. Cantet moves his camera fluidly through the narrow streets and atop the corrugated metal roofs of the town, with a completely different visual style and pace than at the hotel.

Rampling, who has elevated withering hauteur to an art, is very much in her strength as Ellen, bossing the hotel staff around, blithely demanding Legba's time and only occasionally letting her feelings peek through her armor. Young is an effective contrast, as the no-longer-young Southerner who has confused love with sex. "Heading South" does not judge these women harshly, but sees their barter of money and gifts for sex as the reality of the island economy. And the dark shadows of Haiti are unknowable to them, even if they tried to understand it.

Heading South

STARS: Charlotte Rampling, Karen Young, Menothy Cesar.

DIRECTOR: Laurent Cantet.

RUNNING TIME: One hour, 45 minutes.

RATING: Unrated (sexual situations, violence, mature themes).

© 2006 Charlotte Observer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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Sex, struggles and oblivion in Haiti

Post by admin » Fri Sep 08, 2006 10:49 am

"Heading South": Sex, struggles and oblivion in Haiti

Movie Review
By Tom Keogh

Special to The Seattle Times ... ing25.html

Sexual rapture and cultural exploitation merge into something quite horrifying, almost gothic, in "Heading South," an unsettling drama by the director of two other remarkable films about class illusions, "Human Resources" and "Time Out."

French filmmaker Laurent Cantet sets his new work in late-1970s Haiti, when the country was violently ruled by Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. While ordinary Haitians are routinely harassed, waylaid and murdered by Duvalier's privileged thugs, sexual tourism thrives for oblivious North American women at a tropical resort.

There, Brenda (Karen Young), a 48-year-old divorcée from Savannah, Ga., arrives in hope of reconnecting with one of the local gigolos, 18-year-old Legba (Ménothy Cesar). Three years earlier, the then-married Brenda experienced her first orgasm with Legba and has pined for him ever since.

"Heading South," with Charlotte Rampling, Karen Young, Ménothy Cesar, Lys Ambroise. Directed by Laurent Cantet, from a screenplay by Cantet and Robin Campillo, based on stories by Dany Laferrière.

But Legba is also the favorite of the resort's visiting doyenne, Ellen (Charlotte Rampling), a 55-year-old, single professor at Wellesley. Ellen is both delightful and venomous, clear-eyed but confrontational. She has been sleeping with Legba for some time and instantly engages in a power struggle with Brenda over his attention.

A couple of other characters at the resort figure into the story, though somewhat awkwardly, not really having an impact. One of them, Albert (Lys Ambroise), the resort's headwaiter, comes from a line of patriots who fought the U.S. occupation of Haiti. Addressing the camera in an ill-fitting monologue sequence (a misstep by Cantet), Albert makes clear that despite his polished deference to the hotel's white visitors, he is ashamed of his work.

Then again, every Haitian we meet in "Heading South," including Legba, is making compromises to survive political realities on the island. The life Legba leads away from the resort, in the streets, is perilous, provoking both his fatalism and pride.

Brenda and Ellen, clutching at him out of need, know next to nothing of this. The tragedy is that it won't make any difference in their vacation plans.

Tom Keogh:

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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Post by admin » Tue Sep 12, 2006 1:34 am

Though Charlotte Rampling is said in the movie to have a British accent, I found her French diction marvelous. One thing I know for sure is that she is not an aging Danish porn actress, posing as a social worker to take pictures of Legba's derriere (rhymes with Laferriere, doesn't it?)

Anyway, that old biatch wasn't so heartless after all (unlike her nemesis, which went through a remarkable metamorphosis while taking a shower after seeing Legba's inert body... from sweet and vulnerable to "I am the Queen of the Caribbean... Legba has opened the gates of hell and paradise for me"). Why did Legba have to die anyway? This is what really annoyed me about the movie. The director seemed to sacrifice Legba and his childhood sweetheart, not for reality's sake and its dark references to babydocisms, but their lives were mysteriously taken to the altar of two white women's stem cell research, morphing one into another, even if imperfectly. The deaths themselves are mysterious, it's anybody's guess what really went on behind the scenes of that virtual reality of two young lives we have learned nothing about in the end. But the movie was just about those two white women, I guess, and everything else was put in as extras in a surrealist kind of way. I confess that I was truly taken by the local accents of the movie (the Haitian language, the market scenes, the music (ballad, konpa or troubadour styles... even what I would characterize as Ti Coca style, if it was not the genuine Ti Coca, for all I know). Yeah, I like that! But the story itself was interesting in a perverse kind of way (what are the mechanics of sexual exploitation, if not depradation?) even if ultimately depressing for what it says about the human race (or perhaps a woman's race to catch up with orgasms missed prior to the age of 45).

And what about Albert's character? In his monologue, he sounds like a few people I know. Quite sad: a highly principled man, who yet cannot align his instinct for survival with the nationalistic legacy of his lineage, particularly his grandfather who had to endure the brutal and dehumanizing American occupation of 1915. Can you imagine Albert going to sleep at night, at peace with himself? No. More likely dreaming of having the power, just for one day, and see how he would torch down the painful reminders of his tragic existence, which are like... everything around him. Indeed, Albert has the pride, but more than likely will take it to his grave after a long career of bending down to the massah's feet or the massah's cuckholding spouse and his contempt for the fools around him who can't even understand the lousy scripts that they have been given (and the less they understand them, the more perfectly they act them). But Legba seemed to understand his script, even tried to rise above it. That is perhaps the true reason why he had to die.

All in all, I rather enjoyed the movie (believe it or not!) I have a penchant for psychological development in movies, even when it is as twisted as this one. I would even enjoy it more if I had seen it for $1.50 as in that movie theater in Charlotte, North Carolina (with an even steeper discount on Tuesdays: $1.50 covers the entrance fee of three folks!) But since I live in northern New Jersey, which fancies itself as Manhattan outside of Manhattan, forgetting that in the eyes of the world it is still New Jersey, I had to content myself with a senior citizen bargain price of $6.50.

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