Monday, May 21, 2012

Lila dit ça

by Drew Martin
This weekend I watched Lila dit ça (Lila Says), a French film about a fleeting relationship between Chimo, a Muslim living in an Arab quarter of Marseille, and Lila, a fresh, blond beauty who moves into the neighborhood with her batty aunt. Chimo and Lila are blossoming teens. She drifts with the wind while he eddies in her current. Chimo lives with his mother (his father left her for a French woman) and his three closest friends hold him back: they mock his potential as a writer when he is offered a chance to attend a literary program in Paris. The teacher who makes this offer to Chimo explains that all he has to do is write a story to be considered for the school. His time with Lila becomes the story and the narration of the film. Chimo is twice the observer; the first time as a cool witness to Lila's actions and stories, and then in retrospect, recalling the details of their time together after she leaves for Poland. What is interesting is that the source of Lila's stories is not her real life but a fantasy she creates from a mix of magazine articles she collects in a scrapbook, which is left behind for Chimo to find. Lila's claims grow from somewhat believable stories of her making love in a haystack in a big, red American barn, to more surreal tales of being visited by the devil with a smoking penis. Lila flashes her privies to Chimo, pleasures him while riding a moped through an empty, industrial part of town and tells him about her wanting to be filmed making love and her dreams of making love to a hundred men. Her desires always circle back to him, for him, but there is the misunderstanding of just how sincere she is. Chimo adds to the end of his narrative that she served up all of her spicy stories because she liked the look in his eyes in the moments she told him about these things. Lila is the talk of the quarter. All the young men who desire her, frustratingly call her a whore and make up stories about her based on what they believe her to be, a loose woman. Lila is provocative but she remains a virgin until finally being raped by Chimo's friends. What I like about this film is that it is titillating on the surface and creates an illusion of being more erotic than it actually is. In this regard the film is very much like Lila, not because it teases us but because it works on our desires and the imagination that accompanies strong emotions, like displaced fantasies in the absence of our intimate partners. I think this why one woman posted online that she put this movie on a list of films she wants her boyfriend to watch. More than anything else, Lila dit ça is a film about understanding the passion of a desired love. The use of space is very interesting here. Interiors are not comfortable places. Streets are labyrinths. It is only through movement away from these spaces that we feel liberated and it is only in parks and gardens where intimacy is achieved.