×

Film Review: ‘Mimosas’

Oliver Laxe's noncommercial second feature won the top prize at Critics' Week.

With:
Ahmed Hammoud, Shakib Ben Omar, Saïd Aagli, Ikram Anzouli, Ahmed El Othemani, Hamid Fardjad. (Arabic dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5606268/

“Mimosas,” the second feature from Morocco-based director Oliver Laxe, won the Nespresso Grand Prize at this year’s Cannes Critics’ Week, and Nespresso isn’t a terrible idea for anyone who walks in without preparation for this minimalist travelogue and crypto-Western, which offers relatively few clues to its goals and intents. Still, those familiar with the ethnographic works of Ben Rivers (who gets a thanks in the closing credits) and the films of Argentine director Lisandro Alonso (“Jauja”) will find much to admire in the movie’s combination of spiritual musings and stunning landscapes. Favoring longueurs by design, it is a decidedly noncommercial project that asks to be taken or left on its own terms.

Laxe’s first feature, “You All Are Captains” (which showed in Directors’ Fortnight in 2010), combined fiction and documentary elements, and he has said that “Mimosas” was inspired by his own travels with Saïd Aagli, who plays one of the main characters. The plot concerns a caravan in Morocco that’s escorting a dying sheikh to the medieval city of Sijilmasa, where he will be buried. At the film’s outset — which one might easily mistake for being set centuries ago — the travelers consider whether to shorten the distance by going through the Atlas Mountains, even though it’s not clear if that holds a route to their destination.

In a disorienting transition, Laxe brings us to a seemingly more modern place, where there’s a recruiting call for workers. Shakib (Shakib Ben Omar), who appears to be a mechanic but doubles as an amateur preacher for the locals (at one point he emblazons a car with a decal that reads, “Don’t forget God”), is selected as a co-driver for the caravan. He is told that his goal is to help the group arrive safely. When he joins the travelers, he arrives by climbing over a hill, looking very much like a prophet.

Although the sheikh soon dies, two roguish members of the caravan, Saïd (Aagli) and Ahmed (Ahmed Hammoud), who seem to have had plans to steal from the dead man, claim to know the way through the mountains. And so the film goes off the beaten track, plot-wise and geographically. The movie’s largely scenic pleasures — both visual and aural, with a great deal of windswept soundscaping — wouldn’t necessarily be out of place in Ford or Hawks, whether it’s in a scene of river fording, a stunning shot of a lake by moonlight, or the simple sight of a mule nibbling at the sparse grass.

But as the group loses its bearings — there is a bit of Gus Van Sant’s “Gerry” here, and perhaps of Beckett as well — Shakib grows increasingly overt in his appeals to faith, which he feels will guide the way to Sijilmasa. It’s at this point that “Mimosas” begins to grow repetitive and perhaps more obscure, to the point that the most agnostic and literal-minded of viewers may have trouble going with the poetic flow. It’s also clearly the sort of film that can seem at once spartan and over-conceptualized, in the sense that its narrative has clearly developed out of a series of abstract, academic theses.

“Mimosas” is divided into three sections named for different elements of Islamic prayer, which perhaps provides one entryway on how to view the film’s arc. The 16mm photography impresses, particularly in long shots of the characters trudging through the snow or — à la “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” — descending en masse from great heights, although the look was decidedly digital in the DCP transfer.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Mimosas'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week), May 16, 2016. Running time: 95 MIN.

Production: (Spain-Morocco-France-Qatar) A Zeitun Films presentation. (International sales: Luxbox, Paris.) Produced by Felipe Lage Coro. Co-producers, Lamia Chraibi, Michel Merkt, Nadia Turincev, Julie Gayet.

Crew: Directed by Oliver Laxe. Screenplay, Laxe, Santiago Fillol. Camera (color, 16mm), Mauro Herce; editor, Cristóbal Fernández; costume designer, Nadia Acimi; direct sound, Amanda Villavieja, sound design, Emilio García.

With: Ahmed Hammoud, Shakib Ben Omar, Saïd Aagli, Ikram Anzouli, Ahmed El Othemani, Hamid Fardjad. (Arabic dialogue)

More Film

  • Evolution

    ‘Deep’ Animation Studio The Thinklab to Relocate to Navarre for Future Projects

    SAN SEBASTIAN — Spain’s The Thinklab, based in Madrid since its founding in 2006, has confirmed to Variety that it will be packing up its digital paintbrushes and heading north to founder Julio Soto’s homeland of Navarre where the company will establish a new studio for the purposes of producing two feature-length CGI animated films, and possibly [...]

  • Johnnie To Quits Taiwan Golden Horse

    Johnnie To Quits Golden Horse Awards as China Builds Pressure

    Leading Hong Kong film maker Johnnie To has dropped out of the Golden Horse Awards, where he was set to be president of the jury deciding the prize winners. The awards, which take place and are organized from Taiwan, have long been considered the most prestigious prized in Chinese-language cinema. However they are currently under [...]

  • Zeroville

    Film Review: 'Zeroville'

    I’m tired of hearing how some novels are “impossible to adapt.” Balderdash! Just because some books don’t lend themselves to being translated from page to screen doesn’t mean that the attempt ought not to be made. Just ask James Franco, who’s shown a speed freak’s determination to tackle some of the unlikeliest literary adaptations of [...]

  • Red Penguins review

    Toronto Film Review: 'Red Penguins'

    “Red Penguins” is a cautionary tale with particular resonance in the context of our current bizarre intertwining with Russia, the country that interfered in the last U.S. presidential election and is led by the POTUS’ apparent BFF. This wild tale of attempted transnational commerce just after the demise of the USSR in the 1990s chronicles [...]

  • Danny Ramirez'On My Block' TV show

    Danny Ramirez to Star in Film Adaptation of 'Root Letter' Video Game (EXCLUSIVE)

    An English-language film adaptation of Japanese video game “Root Letter,” starring Danny Ramirez, is in production in the U.S. through Akatsuki Entertainment USA. Besides Ramirez (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Assassination Nation”), the film stars Keana Marie (“Huge in France,” “Live in Pieces”) and Lydia Hearst (“The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” “Z Nation”). With a screenplay by [...]

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Re-Elected as President of Writers Guild of America East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been re-elected without opposition to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. Kathy McGee was elected to the vice president slot over Phil Pilato. Secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider [...]

  • Running With the Devil review

    Film Review: 'Running With the Devil'

    A retired Navy SEAL who for a time was a military advisor on the Colombian drug trade, Jason Cabell conceived his first solo feature as writer-director to tell the story of that particular commerce “from the point of view of the drugs.” The result isn’t exactly a docudrama indictment like “Traffic,” a thriller a la [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content