Directed by: Abdellatif Kechiche
Distributed by: Curzon Artificial Eye
Written by Jeff Sparks
In 2013 Abdellatif Kechice told a story of two young women in love who navigate the complexities of relationships for which he won the Palme D’or, the film, of course, is “Blue is The Warmest Color.” Some wondered if the controversial filmmaker would make another film when he auctioned off that award four years later in a desperate search for funds to finish his next film, “Mektoub My Love” which later received the suffix “Canto Uno” when Kechiche made the plans for two more films. In “Mektoub,” Kechiche focuses less on individual relationships as he follows a group of young people as they mingle and party in their beachside town while they live day to day in this sun-soaked story of youthful recklessness and careless exploration of life and love. The film follows Amin, (Shaïn Boumedine) a college student who reconnects with old friends and makes new ones when he returns home on summer break. The film also stars Ophélie Bau, Lou Luttiau, Salim Kechiouche, Alexia Chardard, Hafsia Herzi, and Sieme Miladi.
The main thing that will bother many viewers is that unlike the previous works by Kechiche, “Canto Uno” doesn’t really have a story. There is no focal point, there is no conflict, it’s just vibes. The film is more about experiencing the summertime atmosphere that it portrays so well. A perfect example I can use to describe the structure of the film comes halfway through the film, during a scene where the group of characters we follow takes a lengthy amount of time to decide how to get to the nearest dance club. When the scene finally does end it doesn’t cut to them at the disco, but rather messing around at the beach the next day. It’s one fun thing to another for these characters whether they’re at the beach, the clubs, or the bars they are always looking for the next bit of excitement to experience together and not too much more than that.
Although the film is mainly about the vibes of partying with friends in the summertime, there is still a slight focus on the interpersonal relationships of these characters, albeit nothing too deep. Amin is in love with Ophélie but she’s cheating with Tony whose dating Charlotte who gossips about Ophélie etcetera. Little character moments like that are sprinkled throughout the runtime. Although they appear shallow at first these characters are very believable due to the great acting which appears to be heavily improvised. The very long scenes also add another layer that makes the characters feel like real people rather than caricatures. Whether they’re gossiping, flirting, or just choosing where to go next the nuances in the things they say allow their conversations to feel grounded in the real world. Some of the scenes go on for twenty minutes or more but are never dull due to the realistic dialogue that makes the characters feel relatable and real.
The beautiful camera work is another significant component of the film. The fact that not only is it handheld but also uses natural light adds to the realism of what you’re watching. Whether the camera is capturing the characters splashing around in the ocean, relaxing on the beach, dancing in the club, or just basking in the sunshine it is always moving, always feeling alive. The same can be said for the audio that picks up background sounds that aid the cinematography in immersing you in every scene. The waves from the beach, cars driving past, chit-chat in the background, and especially the deafening music played in the disco are part of the ambiance that Kechiche uses to bring the scenes to life. A six-minute scene in the first hour of Celine (Lou Luttiau) dancing in a bar is a great example of how the cinematography is combined with the audio to produce the liveliness of “Mektoub.” As she twists and shakes the camera spins with her. The music she gets down with blares as her friends drink and mingle, smiling as they vibe off her energy.
It may sound like three hours is a long time to watch people just having a fun summer, but it’s not. The atmospheric style and realistic characters make the runtime fly by, leaving me wanting even more. I’ve never seen another film like this and that makes me wonder if we will ever see another sensual portrayal of the summertime antics that reach the levels of immersion that make “Mektoub My Love: Canto Uno” a near masterpiece.
“Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno” Trailer