2014; written and directed by Céline Sciamma; 113 mins
JOINT BEST OF THE FEST – plus, I will mostly be talking about one scene in this review. One of my favourite things in movies is when all the action stops and all the characters have a dance (Pulp Fiction, Quadrophenia, one of the only good bits in Godard’s Band of Outsiders). I like it because it is the epitome of “heightened reality”; it’s that moment when the characters shake off all their worries and become great dancers for about a minute – like we all do(!)- and Girlhood has one of the absolute best! Early on in the film, when heroine, Parisian teen Marieme (Karidja Touré), ejected out the arse end of her school with no prospects because she’s black, basically, has joined a girl gang with Lady (Assa Sylla), Fily (Mariétou Touré) and Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh), one night they all chip in to hire a room for a night at a cheap hotel. The drinking, boy talk, slagging off of other girls and dolling themselves up all culminates with this amazing moment in which the girls lip-sync to ‘Diamonds’ by Rihanna. The more I think about it, the more I think it may be one of the best, most perfect scenes I’ve ever seen in any movie. I’m sure I’ve heard ‘Diamonds’ elsewhere and not given it a second thought and as a boring, twentysomething punk rock fan, I could choose to be derisive and complain about what I see as the song’s aspirational, money-grabbing tone but it’s not for me. It’s for them – it’s their culture and why wouldn’t they like it? Rihanna is probably the only person giving them any hope in a way. The point of the scene is that those girls don’t have to give a second thought to middle class wankers like you and me. The direction is some of the most perfect I’ve seen aswell. As the scene begins, we have Lady engulfed in blue light and looking down, letting us know straight from the off that this is going to be a piece of performance – different from the reality of and within the film – and the track begins as she lip-syncs, raising her eyes to look at us. Soon Fily and Adiatou enter frame and the three of them dance and become rich and famous together but Marieme, for the meantime, stays on the bed, watching with an ever growing smile in her eyes, the reflection of the blue light outlining her, perfectly indicating her growing connection with these girls. Pretty swiftly, she gets up and joins her new soul-mates, totally blue now like them, dancing about with sheer joy on their faces. In this room, this haven, no one – not boys or grown-ups – is going to mock them, or tell them to pack it in, or say; “very good but what about your future?” This is their chance to be themselves and do what they want to do and not have to care about the future, near of far, whatever it may hold. All this to be read from – what? Three or four shots? That is world class directing, storytelling, cinematography, editing and acting and the rest of the film closely follows suit, thus making a fantastic film and in the top ten of films I’ve seen this decade, maybe even since 2000. All this being said, see the whole thing, not just that scene because I imagine it will not hold up so well without the surrounding story. Think if someone showed you Darth Vader’s revelation to Luke Skywalker out of context, you’d say; “well done… whatever”. It may just end up looking like a music video and the film has such a fantastic story with likeable characters and telling you a story from a world you almost never see (and there’s not one glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, this is almost entirely set in the Banlieue). Girlhood is a great alternative teen movie and not “just another one of them ones about poor people”.