Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tsotsi

by Nick
Not as excellent as I'd anticipated but still pretty damn good.

Those with high expectations of this being the South African City of God should perhaps lower them a bit. This is a much smaller story, taking place over a much shorter span timespan. It doesn't have the frenzied pace of that Brazilian film, and elects to tread a more mainstream path.
The film starts, and mostly takes place, in the shantytown of Johannesburg (a slum with a population of over one million people), where a young man calling himself 'delinquent' ('Tsotsi') is the leader of a small gang of thugs. After a robbery gone wrong, the gang begins to dissolve and Tsotsi, through a series of mistakes and mishaps, lands himself the caretaker of a wealthy suburban couples' baby.

As I said before, though it shares many outward similarities to Meirelles' film, this is a much more internalized story, though no less ambitious for that. Like the poster of the film says this is a story about redemption, but not just if it's possible for the main character, but South Africa itself, a country still torn apart by social injustice, with one of the highest crime rates in the world, only beaten by Rio de Janeiro.

Presley Chweneyagae is convincing in the title role - 'tsotsi' may look like he's posing, but he's got quite the killer instinct, even if he may not be as cruel as his actions suggest. I was initially a bit annoyed with Chweneyagae's 'cold stare', but you get it later on.

The cinematography's also managed to catch the, pretty dangerous, charm and allure ofmodern Africa, its shantytowns and slums more specifically, even if it's beaten by - there he goes again - Meirelles' Constant Gardener.
Some of the supporting characters feel a little etchily sketched, but this is a story that is almost fable-like in its simplicity.

The film's complemented by a pretty good, bombastic, soundtrack.

I have a hard time imagining anyone not liking the film, except perhaps someone actively involved in African politics. Found it a worthy winner of Best Foreign Picture, at least among the alternatives.

4 Comments:

Blogger Brian said...

Will be seeing this Friday, hopefully. I don't know why it's taken so long to open here but I probably shouldn't complain. At least it's opening.

3/14/2006 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Saw it last night, and I think you got it pretty much right. Good review.

Although I'm not sure where the City of God comparisons came from in the first place. The only similarity between the two is that they take place in slums.

3/18/2006 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

I enjoyed this film, and was moved by it, but while thinking about it driving home I just couldn't completely buy the transformation of the main character. He went from a thug to a softie just a little too quickly. It's kind of like Scrooge's transformation in lesser adaptations of A Christmas Carol. I suppose it is bearing responsibility that triggers this change, but I just didn't buy the speed of it.

I'll post a full review, complete with spoilers, later today on my very own blog, gogorama.blogspot.com.

3/20/2006 07:08:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

To answer your question, Brian; it's not just that every review here in Sweden has mentioned City of God in conjunction with this film, but the fact that the film's poster quotes from these reviews in bold text. So ones expectations get somewhat twisted when they shouldn't be.

I just couldn't completely buy the transformation of the main character.

I thought it was well played by Presley. Once a guy like that realizes how wrong his life has gone, I'm guessing it starts to unravel pretty fast, especially considering the rather pressing circumstances he was in, which might have precipitated and/or been the cause of his moral transformation.

3/26/2006 05:59:00 PM  

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