“If the wind falls” and “Towards the battle”, bordering on the absurd

If the wind drops **

by Nora Martirosyan

French film, 1 h 40

Towards the battle **

by Aurélien Vernhes-Lermusiaux

French film, 1 h 30

In the avalanche of releases scheduled since the reopening of theaters on May 19, it would be a shame to miss these first two films whose ambition and formal originality advantageously distinguish them from the ordinary of French production. Starting with the places they choose to show us around, bits of distant and inhospitable lands, whose sublime and threatening landscapes at the same time, transform into singular fictional territories.

→ READ. Six months after its victory in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan still triumphs

The mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh, when it still dreamed of an independent republic – the film was shot before the war with Azerbaijan in 2020 – are at the heart of the work of Armenian Nora Martirosyan. They surround and isolate its capital Stepanakert and its ghost airport, located in the middle of fields, which in theory is only waiting for its technical certification to make planes take off and open up the country. Frenchman Alain Delage (Grégoire Colin) arrives there one morning to carry out an audit and ensure that the infrastructures comply with international standards.

Beyond a reopening that geopolitics seems to condemn in advance, it is the very recognition of the country, absent from the maps, that the local authorities seem to hope. Only make mine, because in this shadow theater bordering on the absurd, everyone seems to want to play a role. Despite the incongruity of the situation of this territorial enclave which dances on a volcano, Alain will attach himself to its inhabitants who only ask to live in peace and maintain the memory of a people. It is symbolized by a young boy, Edgar, crossing forbidden trails every day to earn the money necessary for the sowing of a piece of land bequeathed by his mother. The beauty of the images and the nice work on the soundtrack help to create an eerie and hypnotic atmosphere. And if the news eventually caught up with the director and wiped part of this territory off the map, it only makes this drama all the more poignant.

A Mexican epic that looks like a western

The trip is both geographical and temporal with Aurélien Vernhes-Lermusiaux, since it takes us to Mexico at the end of the 19th century.e century, when Napoleon III led an improbable colonial war there, the very memory of which has disappeared from the history books. Louis (Malik Zidi), a French photographer, obtained permission from a general to take pictures of the coming battle. A battle as chimerical as his desire to put it into images. Because Louis, who left on horseback, gets lost along the way, and constantly at the wrong time, always arrives a day too late to take any picture.

His plunge into the heart of darkness, in a constantly hostile nature, invites him to another journey, interior this one, which will allow him, thanks in particular to his meeting with a Mexican peasant, to experience the violence of war intimately and to mourn a child lost in another conflict. Despite a scenario at first glance agreed upon, the director films in an almost organic way, amplified by the magnificent original soundtrack signed by Stuart Staples, this solitary epic with the paces of a western. Along the way, he raises some interesting questions about the ethics of the artist and the manipulation of images.


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