Arrogantly conceived, pretentiously executed, and petulantly protracted, the politically-minded road movie Rome Rather Than You will probably strike a lot of people about as exciting as trying to watch The Brown Bunny playing on an SUV TV monitor…from the car behind. The film purports to present the moral atrophy that afflicts modern Algerians, specifically the young generation aiming to take flight somewhere else. (The copious walkouts at the press screening suggested the audience could relate.) All I could gather from the film was that almost everyone in Algeria had pretty much up and left already, as the film’s two main characters—working girl Zina (Samira Kaddour) and her boyfriend Kamel (Rachid Amrani)—spend almost the entire film trying to locate Bosco, who has fraudulent passports for their inevitable escape to Europe. Not only do they not find Bosco for days on end, they also don’t seem capable of finding anyone else in the construction wasteland that they spend roughly 20 minutes of screen time driving through. When the couple and an urbane, bespectacled traveling companion are collared by representatives of “The State” and grilled mercilessly at a Coca-Cola bistro about their papers, intentions, and physical appearances, it’s fairly easy to mistakenly assume they were targeted because the officers were outraged to discover there were still citizens mingling under their jurisdiction. Sure, their country is recovering from the ashes of a brutal civil war, but instead of dealing with the conflict and its 100,000 to 200,000 casualties directly, writer-director Tariq Teguia narrows his field of vision down to five or six young dreamers. That is to say, he makes it look as though those five or six people alone populate the entire country, quoting Kafka, sitting on the beach, playing metaphysical hide-and-seek, and dodging a few unmoored Godardian title cards. If the film’s cinematography were up to the level of L’Avventura or L’Eclisse (to which it occasionally bears superficial resemblance, only with a missing plot instead of missing lovers), then Tegula’s back-door method of making the film’s many absences bear the weight of the characters’ political depression might have gained enough traction to validate his impetuous, joy-buzzer ending. Instead, Rome Rather Than You seems to suggest its characters’ hearts are in the right place, but their bodies are, unfortunately, stuck in Algeria.
- 111 min
- Tariq Teguia
- Tariq Teguia
- Rachid Amrani, Samira Kaddour, Ahmed Benaïssa, Kader Affak, Rabie Azzabi, Lali Maloufi, Fethi Ghares, Moustapha Benchaïb, Khaddra Boudedhane
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