Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 2015. Artangel. Screenplay by Ben Rivers, based on the story by Paul Bowles. Produced by Jacqui Davies. Production Design by Hassan Osfour. Costume Design by Julie Verges. Film Editing by Benjamin Mirguet, Ben Rivers. Toronto International Film Festival 2015.
Ben Rivers combines his uncompromising experimental style with a narrative taken, loosely, from a Paul Bowles story for a haunting and disturbing film. Filmmaker Oliver Laxe is shooting a film in a North African desert, requiring some daring stunts from the local and mostly non-professional cast (much of this footage is actually observing Laxe making his own film). At one point, the director leaves the film shoot and comes across a group of bandits who brutally maim him, cover him in a costume made of tin can lids and force him to be their jester. With brutal imagery and delicate narrative force, Rivers examines the ease with which western artists mine third world countries for their cheap and plentiful beauty, touching on themes of colonialism and privilege while also making a strangely beautiful thriller. The many long, still shots maintain a pace that is more a captivating deadlock than stilted or difficult.