Monday Movies: Black
My neighbor played the piano. He was all by himself. It was something sad. I went out for a smoke in the back yard. I listened a while. My wife was waiting inside. She cried a little. A tear had made one spot on her T-shirt a darker grey. We left the door ajar and shared a beer.
Such was our mindset after watching Black. With hindsight it is shameful we didn’t see it a lot earlier. Maybe because it is a Belgian movie and it drew Belgian criticism of being full of cliché. It drew this criticism in large part because the film’s directors, Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi, were always cheerful when interviewed. They kept the painful and dark script for their art and were just their genuine happy selves when interviewed, proud to have done it and done it well.
Only once did I see a hint of irritation in their non-composed attitudes: when screening of the film was banned for a couple of days in Belgium back in the November ’15 lock-down. A ban which was even more senseless than the lock-down was. They did not complain that they were censored although they clearly and intentionally were: viewers for which it was intended could not see it because some felt its content was dangerous for them.
The best thing about Black is this: it just shows and tells.
The truth is that neither story, nor plot, nor setting are original. The creators also have no apparent aspiration to be the brothers Dardenne – or Coen. As far as I can tell, they are just brothers wanting to make the Hollywood career they dreamed of as kids. Maybe that’s why they can picture the kids in their story in an authentic way; not because these kids are, like they are, of African origin but because they are, like these kids, still kids.
Typically I leave the theater in the best of cases with a sense that it would have been better if it were shorter. In the case of Black – which we saw on a small screen because of our own fault – my wife and I could find fault only with a 10 second intermezzo explaining why its darkest character was so dark. It felt like a concession because the darkest character of the movie also happens to have darker skin than that of the directors.
As most concessions in art it was unnecessary. Still, it didn’t disturb the experience and in fact shows that these kids know what they’re doing. All the more reason to find no reason to have banned (even if it was just postponed) screening the thing. It is screaming out that violence is futile. It doesn’t have to say this, as it shows it. I wouldn’t have resisted, as Adil and Bilall did, the temptation to make this point publicly.
So, go watch the damned thing! Watch it like a kid would go see darker superhero movies, for fun. The rest is just bonus.
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