SKIES OF LEBANON: A cute and watchable wartime romance
Many of the best works of art to come out of Asia and many of the difficult historical events that have taken place there have been brought to life. It’s an interesting choice to take a medium that has generally been considered, in the West at least, a children’s medium, to portray the adult world and the heartbreak and catastrophe it causes. Of Isao Takahatathe masterpiece the Grave of the Fireflies (1988) at Marjane Satrapithe superb graphic novel of Persepolis (2007) at Ari Fomanthe innovative animated documentary by Waltz with Bashir (2008) and more recently Jonas Poher Rasmussenit is To run away (2021), drawn sketches and portraits of war and revolution have touched forms of communicative tragedy as much as live cinema. The worlds of animation and live-action collide in the eclectic tapestries of Chloe Mazloit is Sky of Lebanon.
In times of romance and war
Featuring Alba Rorwachersister of the famous Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacheras the main character Alice, the film depicts a woman’s journey to Lebanon and her romance and marriage to a Lebanese astrophysicist named Joseph (Wajdi Mouawad) which is the subject of conflicts during the Lebanese Civil War. The film is partly based on a story by MazloThe grandmother of who lived through the war, the film paints a charming if sometimes twee portrait of an isolated and generally peaceful life of a family and a romance that is affected by “the real world” knocking at their door. gate. The film understands the human impulse to resist believing the worst and it very slowly brings war to the steps of Alice’s house. It starts with radio broadcasts of civil unrest, then reports of shootings, then smoke billowing on the horizon through the window of Alice’s house. Creeping feelings of fear and death are slow to kick in, and the film’s overall eclectic whimsical demeanor often clashes with what is a national tragedy.
sometimes too cute
Mazlo uses stop-motion animation, split-screens, cartoons, and even the scenes with real actors often painted city and community settings giving the film a quaint, theater-like feel. The comparisons often made with Wes Andersonwhose warm pastel color palette looks a lot like Sky of Lebanonare certainly suitable for Mazlobut I would also add Nobuhiko Obayashi and Jean-Pierre Jeunet as stylistic and conceptual counterparts. In the case of Obayashi, specifically but not limited to movie maze (2020), the deliberate falsification of the scenes arranged to be a moving contrast to the violence and trauma depicted therein is the source of the emotion. Likewise in Sky of Lebanon, we see a life blossoming in fake cinema, but it still sounds like a romantic, idealistic dream to us, which is then sufficiently shattered by the onslaught of national politics. Many sequences depicting violence are symbolic theatrics in the film and if there’s one serious criticism I have about the film, it’s that it deals with too much symbolism.
What I mean by that is that the movie’s eclectic charm often wades into the territory of being too cute to represent its feelings. A few times, especially early on, it replaces human interaction and actual character development with a token gesture or visual gimmick – a great example is when Alice decides she’s severing her ties with her parents in Switzerland and literally cutting a tree root attached to his shoe. In another instance, when Alice falls in love with Joseph, an animation of her heart changes from icy blue to red. They’re nice and cute pointers, but there’s a rush to them that seems to skimp on creating tangible, weighted bonds between characters. It’s not until the movie shifts to Civil War that we start to have a bit of dramatic interaction and find out how the characters are feeling and their true reactions to each other and the outside world.
Aside from these minor complaints, MazloThe film is endearing and paints a unique portrait of a national history that we don’t often see in the cinema. It depicts how war well affects personal relationships and security and it also understands how people both ignorantly try to deny the realities of war while trying, in its inevitability, to find some semblance of happiness in connections with those around them. Alba Rohrwacher gives a delightful performance that reminds me Marie-Laure Dougnac in deli (1991). Mazlo’s mix of animation and live action creates a dream world that’s shaken up by the real world and the result is both gripping and immensely watchable.
Skies of Lebanon was released in US theaters on July 22, 2022.
Watch Sky of Lebanon
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