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2014年12月2日 星期二

Geronimo (婕羅妮慕)

There are Romeo and Juliette stories aplenty: two young lovers caught between ethnic or clannish conflict for dominance, the inveterate hatred each side has for the other, the keenly felt dent to a very Mediterranean sense of honor involved and the ensuing violence this triggers. But seldom has such a theme been treated with the unrelenting tension one sees in Geronimo, a 2014 production written and directed by veteran director Tony Gatif who already had some 17 films under his name

Young Nil, a 16 year old Turkish girl ran away from her arranged marriage on the wedding day to join her lover Lucky (David Murgia) another teenage Gypsy boy. The Turk family consider it a huge humiliation which they are determined to expunge by demanding that the Gypsies return the girl and if they are not prepared to do so, to threaten and if need be, to launch an a full scale attack on their members. Geronimo (Céline Sallette ) a fearless ethnic Spanish female field social worker, an ex-"problem teenager" previously "canned" in a girl's reformatory but since rehabilitated and now assigned to work with the children and teenagers in a little suburban Council housing estate in Southern France and who still believes in "miracles" , is equally determined to stop what she sees as the impending bloodbath. Leading the revenge attack ostensibly for the recovery of tarnished ethnic "honor" is another teenager Fazil (Rachid Yous), the brother of the Turkish bridegroom.
It's a film of almost non-stop violence with constant confrontation between the youths of the two clans, anxious to establish their ethnic superiority through competing on hip-hop skills on the street as dance floor to actual bodily combat with or without the use of knives or something worse in that derelict suburban slum. It's a persistent "girl-hunt" to remove the "blemish" on their "ethnic honor"  for the Turks, and continuous "hide and seek" for the pair of inter-racial young lovers as they were quickly switched from one secret location to another. In fact, not every one on each side is in favor of gang warfare, especially the elders who know full well what would follow if left unchecked but they were powerless to stop the young acting out their anger and their desire for blood unless the Gypsies were prepared to hand Nil over. Geronimo had to do her best to defuse the worst excesses stemming such urgent and implacable need for revenge including persuading the father of Lucky to offer monetary compensation to the offended Turkish family, something which however was peremptorily rejected because according to Fazil, it was not a question of money at all but a question of "honor" of their clan. The result is an almost total absence of any moment of lasting respite.  From the start of the film, it's tension all the way, heightened by the pounding hip hop rhythms and from time to time those of the lightning fast clatter of flamenco tap dancing and the always proud and sad hondo, the camera prowling close at the heels of the stream of fiery outbursts of the teenage gangs as the Turkish youths relentlessly hounded the Gypzies, led by Fazil, punctuated only occasionally and thankfully by some beautiful shots of the desolate beauty of ruined factory under its broken roofs, rubbles, planks and junk, bathed in warm sunlight and shadows, the scene where most the gang violence are threatened takes place and by scenes of passionate embracing by Lucky and Nil in the wildness of the sea or amidst the swaying motion of the rushes on the beach close by their hideout.

Céline Salette is excellent as the tough minded, intrepid and quick witted Geronimo. So is Rachid Yous as the teenage boy burning with hatred, trembling with rage and whose youthful recklessness is fed by a misguided and exaggerated sense of "honor" and of ethnic "tradition" and as are some of the excellent  dancers on both sides. In the end, Geronimo herself got shot in the groin although she "miraculously" recovers. The last we see her, she is on a van with her unruly charges on their way to a Spanish village, happy to be able finally to see Spain for the first time because that's where they would see the their friend Lucky last seen as vomiting blood from a chest infection amidst the factory ruins and being carried away on a stretcher and presumably in the company of his hard won bride Nil,  A gripping film which manages to vividly show the reality of naked internecine violence lurking below the fragile surface of civilized "live and let live" racial harmony between certain marginal sectors of contemporary France.