When Rouch digs in to film village rain dances and rituals, pic slows down and becomes solidly informational, losing altitude. Most of the rituals, although explained by the villagers, remain incomprehensible to outsiders. But just when the litany of legends gets monotonous, Rouch throws in another bit of magic — ghosts, a flood — to wake up the audience. In the end, the chatty Gao-beri tree gets back on its feet, as do our heroes.
Shot in washed-out, sometimes shaky handheld 16mm, pic piques the imagination more than one’s visual sense. Flashes of scenes from Rouch’s early films are cleverly worked into the plot as the oldsters’ fantasy-memories of “when we were young, in Paris …”