"Bamako" Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako gives an impassioned voice to the voiceless in this film, part primer on world politics and prejudice, part detailed account of everyday life in Bamako, Mali.
Set in a surreal courtyard, people put out their wash, children play and judges officiate over a trial of the People of Africa vs. the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. While the courtyard ambience captures the emotional complexity of the debate, the arguments start to feel a bit C-SPANish. Aïssa Maïga's performance as Mele a bar singer with an unemployed husband and daughter is beautiful and heartbreaking, even with little time on the screen.
Ultimately, the permeation of the never-ending trial into everyday life and the fluid movement of the characters in and out of the debate become poetic visual meditation on the harsh reality faced by a world in which the G8 countries and massive debt dictate the social welfare of millions. Where films like "The Constant Gardener" or "Blood Diamond" use a hammer to make a point, "Bamako" uses a chisel. (Not Rated) 115 mins. **** S.O.
"Le Passager de l'été" ("One Summer") A triangle of conflict between a woman deserted by her husband, her daughter and a mysterious man is at the heart of this film set in the post-World War II French countryside.
Joseph (Grégori Derangère) is a seasonal laborer who appears on the farm of Monique (Catherine Frot). Joseph's handsome, cavalier and hardworking presence among the weary women raises suspicions in the village and invigorates the plot with a jolt like Brad Pitt's legendary scene in "Thelma and Louise."
The acting is careful and not overdone, particularly Catherine Frot's impeccable performance as a woman completely in control of her world but not her heart. The dialogue is honest and brazen, especially the scenes between Monique and her schoolteacher daughter Jeanne (Laura Smet). A pioneer spirit pervades the film think "Places in the Heart" crossed with "Bridges of Madison County." Director Florence Moncorgé-Gabin has taken a well-worn story line and added suspense and insight to the reality of love. (PG) 97 mins. **** S.O.