In A Summer in La Goulette, writer-director Ferid Boughedir brings his own memories of summer to a forefront in order to share with audiences a story that manages to feel both carefree and surprisingly serious. There are certainly deeper messages lurking beneath the humor and carefree nature of the film. La Goulette certainly has undertones aimed at delivering thoughtful viewers with more to examine than mere carefree memories.
The summer can represent a variety of things to a number of different people. For some, the season captures the positive memories of youth, escapism, and how those times can come to help define us in our present lives. Any individual might choose to look back at such past sunny days and view them with a sweet smell of nostalgia. Others may instead think only of those moments as framed memories that contain elements of youthful regrets.
Boughedir seems to represent all of these potential opinions in his film. A Summer in La Goulette follows three teenage girls who by all appearances seem to be extremely close as friends. They determine a need to lose their virginity by the end of summer. The setting is 1967 Tunisia. Meriem is a Muslim, Gigi is Jewish, and Tina is Catholic. Moments of hilarity ensue to mixed but nonetheless satisfying results.
One of the main elements of the film is the conflict between these girls and their fathers. The adults in this scenario quite frequently behave like children in several pivotal scenes, including one where they practically start to abuse their daughters after they believe they have lost their virginity. The fathers are all scolding their daughters, grabbing their arms, and yelling at them for bringing disgrace to their families. The film never takes things quite as far as it might sound (most of it is done in a joking manner) but it is suggestive enough as an issue to reinforce the sexism of the times and the ridiculous differences found between religious men who aren't willing to consider the stupidity of their own actions. These fathers even seem upset over the backgrounds of their daughter's potential suitors. Why should their daughters be with men for any reason other than economic stability? This question goes down an interesting path. There is a plot-line involving a perverted old man: the greedy and cruel landlord named Hadj. He seems to fall for one of the girls (who he also 'accidentally' sees naked) and this leads to the daughter's father being faced with making an important decision before the story comes to its close.
This curiously weird foreign film has probably garnered less of a reception than it actually deserves when further analyzed. If you stop and think about the story being presented, it reveals itself to being about the ridiculous nature of gender discrimination, religious judgments made onto others, and to some degree the fear and acceptance of what could be an oncoming war for Tunisia (as presented through the eyes of a supporting-character who is constantly listening to the radio to hear updated news reports). Most of the characters in La Goulette think little of the potential dangers of their future. If only these characters were aware of what might be coming so soon. The Arab-Israeli war would begin (following the events found in this film) and kick those breezy summer memories into the sweet nostalgia of tomorrow.
Summer in La Goulette is
presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:66:1. The
film is given a moderately decent anamorphic transfer. It is certainly
watchable. The PQ is nothing to brag about though. At times it even
of a VHS quality transfer. I must say that I was disappointed by the
presentation of the film.
Ferid Boughedir's A Summer in La Goulette is a surprising comedy that focuses on the differences between daughters and fathers. It also uses a character-driven mold to craft themes out of the story that are rather serious (regarding religious turmoil and looming war). There is also a decent amount of sexually charged comedy. If that sounds like an interesting cinematic experience this is certainly worth watching. The downside is that the film is given a disappointing treatment and the DVD contains no extras. If you can get past the DVD shortcomings: Recommended.