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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Viva Laldjerie
Viva Laldjerie
Film Movement // Unrated // December 1, 2004
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Robert Spuhler | posted May 31, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The battle between modern day society and a society based on the tenets of the Muslim faith rages throughout Viva Laldjerie as a woman in her mid-20s, Goucem, and her mother, a retired exotic dancer, fight both for a nightclub and their rights as women.

Nadir Mokneche's distinct point-of-view comes through very early in the film; it is clear that the writer/director sees creeping Muslim fundamentalism as a major threat to society in general and women in particular. The pain caused by such a threat is apparent, and really more of the focus than the nightclub itself.

But there's a thin line between presenting the reality of the situation and presenting anguish for the sake of emotional manipulation. Mokneche crosses that line on a few occasions, and it is easy to tell – it just feels false and out of place.

What is most interesting, though, is how Mokneche treats this society's turn towards fundamentalism. It would be too easy for Mokneche to come out and make those responsible into militant, evil men enforcing rule at the end of a gun. But instead, the influence is subtler and better hidden. It is a slope, not a cliff, and it makes the "creeping threat" more universal; one could easily find parallels between the Algeria of this film and certain aspects of modern-day American society.

Special credit should go to Lubna Azabal, who carries much of the film with her presence alone. She is radiant throughout as Goucem; Azabal has the type of screen magnetism that makes it hard to look away.

The DVD

Video:

The Film Movement DVD presentation of Viva Laldjerie is presented in anamorphic widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is messy in many parts, with digital noise on occasion and over saturated colors. It's a miss for Film Movement, which is usually very reliable in the care it takes with its transfers.

Audio:

What the presentation lacks visually it makes up for aurally. A 2.0 track is all that is provided, but it is well separated and powerful, especially in an early nightclub scene.

Extras:

The short film du mois is Yashmak, an amusing look at what lies behind traditional Muslim dress. As funny as it is, it lasts all of three and a half minutes.

Other extras include biographies and trailers for other Film Movement releases.

Final Thoughts:

Viva Laldjerie is not the "feel good hit of the summer." It is, at times, an unbearably bleak look into the lives of women in modern-day Algeria, and how religious and conservative custom restrict or bind them. While its tone may turn off some, those that can deal with it will find an interesting character study here.

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