Friday, October 19, 2007

Mina Tannenbaum

A multilayered story, at first glance it looks quite frivolous, and you tend to frown upon encountering such a film, upon getting conned into an experience which does not seem would be much rewarding. The childhood stories of the two girls on whom the film centers only tend to reinforce the undercurrent that both girls are not the favorites of the social world that includes their parents - so both are very lonely, left to their own thoughts (always a dangerous thing), and destined to meet each other one terrible day. But this does nothing more - the film flows on turgidly for the first half hour.
The little girls grow up into Mina and Ethel, two Jewish irreverent girls played by Romane Bohringer and Elsa Zylberstein. The first one is bespectacled, the other one is gawkingly plumpy. They don't seem to have much confidence of ever attracting boys. And in that adolescent age, they don't have many other ideas about how to live - they just want to be free. How? They don't know.

Interestingly, except for their common inferior complex (let's give it that name for the time being), the two 'friends' have not much in common. Mina is crazy for arts, and has always been very good at imagination and drawing; whereas Ethel is just brash, not much talent in tow, just looking out, peering the world. It's funny that it's Mina who's the self-assured one in her glasses. The art instructor is rude and pricks her to the heart, yet Mina has the courage to answer that to place a nude among clothed does not require courage. Inspite of Mina already disturbed by her first crush.

The teen crushes of Mina and Ethel being got over with, the film then really takes on a headlong dive into layers of wit and irony and revelation of characters and the world in general - it is then that the film takes flight, soars high, and in the end burns itself in its greatness - a beautiful end.
As they grow up, their lives begin to get more entangled, mostly a result of their own thwarted desires and ambitions. Mistrust grows, especially as they are still not much sure about their charms on men. Mina falls for an art dealer, who conceals his dirty mind and dealings behind a brash, businessmanlike behaviour - even more than Ethel's final carving up a life for herself which has no Mina, it was the art dealer's dirtyness, I think, in the final analysis that made a lasting pessimistic impact on Mina, killed her off art, and led to the final end of the film. Of couse, in parallel Ethel became quite street-smart, misused Mina's name to further her own ends, and finally did make a comfortable home for herself, with a good career. The vacuum of Mina was only to be realized if she met you at the street-corner - but it's no vacuum if you forget it so very soon after in the arms of another. Probably, if Mina would have made some right choices or would have had some luck, Mina also would have been the same - but, she remained the forlorn, and hence she had no one now to fall back upon except her oldest friend, her only friend, Ethel.

Many critics have not approved of the tragic end of the film, but to me this was inevitable - Mina was Mina. To show something else would have made her very ordinary in the final say - any other end would have knocked her and the film from the pedestal.

Again, superb acting by Romane Bohringer after L'Accompagnatrice with good performance from all the other actors, especially the art dealer. Unconventional, crisp camera angles, and a good lighting usage make the film something to study.

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