Also with: Vincent Cassel, Tadek Lokcinski, Jany Holt, Marc Berman, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Brigitte Bemol.
“Metisse,” a hip interracial comedy with jaunty rap-inflected score, is bound to generate good word of mouth in France. Grounded in the reality of multi-ethnic city life, streetwise 100% French answer to “She’s Gotta Have It” is shot like a long urgent video report (credits include a nod to the “Shakycam”) only to mutate into an open-ended fairy tale.
First feature from 25-year-old scripter-helmer-actor Mathieu Kassovitz doesn’t develop its characters so much as it defines them by playing against racial and cultural stereotypes.
Kassovitz stars as scrappy, aggressive Felix, a wiry Jewish bike messenger who worships the driving beat of rap music. He and his working-class relatives are crammed into a tiny run-down apartment in a housing project. Jamal (Hubert Kounde), the pampered son of African diplomats, is a wealthy, well-groomed law student who can’t shoot hoops. Mulatto beauty Lola (Julie Maudech) summons her two lovers — pasty-faced Felix and ebony-black Jamal — to announce that she’s pregnant and intends to have the baby although she doesn’t know which guy is the father.
Two rivals are at each other’s throats but eventually reconcile in order to cater to Lola’s needs. Laid-back Lola, from Martinique, is not so much a fully formed character as she is an attitude with a winning smile. But this will probably be good enough for young auds, who will be pleased to see their fashions, their music and their concerns onscreen in a home-grown pic.
Jamal drops out of law school to take a minimum-wage job as a short-order cook, Felix is unemployed and Lola earns nothing, yet the trio live well in the sprawling luxury apart-
ment that Jamal’s absentee parents have conveniently left.
Helmer presents his racial, class and cultural melting pot as a simultaneously loving and belligerent milieu.
While some laughs — such as Felix’s eternal clutziness on his bike — are strained, scene in which Felix brings Jamal and Lola home for Shabbat dinner (“So, it seemsyou’re black?”) an episode in which two gents compare notes on how they wooed Lola, ring both true and funny. Pic hammers home it’s anti-racist message when Felix and Jamal are taken for car thieves on a midnight run to satisfy Lola’s food cravings.
Rap lyrics address the fear of “watering down” one’s racial roots while praising the mix-‘n’-match approach to daily life and romance. Although pic is set in Paris, it could be any metro area with ethnic neighborhoods and housing projects.