Je Veux Voir (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/09/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 68 mins

This unusual project is part documentary and part fictionalised road movie – as such, it offers an intriguing portrait of war-torn Lebanon, though the blurring of the lines between fiction and documentary is occasionally frustrating.

What's it all about?
Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Je Veux Voir (which translates to I Want to See) is an unusual project that's part documentary and part drama. On a visit to Beirut to attend a gala in her honour, actress Catherine Deneuve declares she wants to see the war-torn areas of southern Lebanon before all evidence of the conflict is removed, so she takes a trip to the countryside south of Beirut, with Lebanese actor and artist Rabih Mroue acting as her guide.

Plot-wise, that's more or less it – they mistakenly drive up a landmined road, Deneuve gets spooked by a low-flying plane, Mroue searches a destroyed village for evidence of his family home and they're frequently prevented from filming. Along the way, they bond over several chats (including one about Belle de Jour), though they're somewhat hampered by Mroue's limited French.

The Good
Despite the relative lack of dialogue, the film is surprisingly engaging, thanks to the touching relationship that gradually emerges between Deneuve and Mroue and some stunning imagery – the shells of bombed-out houses are remarkable enough, but they're compounded by extraordinary scenes of diggers shovelling all the rubble into the sea (which is turning a distinctly odd shade of orange), towards the end of the film. This is a weirdly surreal, hauntingly symbolic image that succinctly captures the themes of the film.

In addition, the film flows seamlessly from quietly moving moments (Mroue searching for his family home) to tense, unsettling scenes (people surrounding the film crew and insisting they turn off the cameras) and disturbing moments such as Deneuve's reaction to the sonic booms. There are also tiny moments of humour, such as Deneuve's amusing obsession with seatbelts.

The Bad
The main problem is that it's impossible to tell how much of the film is staged. The landmine scene seems pretty obviously contrived, for example (there's no sense of real danger), but the tense crowd scenes and the plane scene (we never see the plane) are ultimately diminished by nagging doubts over their veracity.

Worth seeing?
Je Veux Voir is an occasionally flawed but frequently rewarding film that paints an intriguing portrait of war-torn Lebanon. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 22/10/2017 12:50

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