Heading South (France/Canada; 105 min.)


directed by: Laurent Cantet
starring: Charlotte Rampling, Karen Young, Louise Portal
Vers le Sud
 

Michael says: "Laurent Cantet follows up his compelling TIME OUT with a complex tale of political, sexual, and racial issues set in Haiti. Three middle-aged, American women spend extended time at a resort in Haiti where their every need is catered too, including their sexual needs with the beautiful, black teen-aged young men who fulfill their every need, whether that be attention, sex, or perhaps, even love. As the complex sexual dynamics play out amidst the sun and froth of the beach, the political backdrop of this third-world country play out quietly in the background. As the film plays out, the two arenas slowly come together with tragic consequences.

"Adapting the film from short stories by a Haitian writer, Cantet and his co-screenwriter Robin Campillo have created a spare yet politically-charged tale that uses restraint to tell a story fraught with issues and emotion. Charlotte Rampling is superb as Ellen, the eldest of the three women, who acts as their matriarch, bestowing favors and advice until someone gets in her way. Karen Young tackles the difficult role of Brenda, a naïve woman searching for love among the natives, in the form of one particular young man, who happens to be Ellen’s favorite. Louise Portal, a Canadian actress, shines as Sue, a fun-loving, slightly overweight woman who craves attention, affection and joy. With the least screen time of the three, she also remains the most sensible and self-aware as the story unfolds. VERS LE SUD is a worthy addition to Cantet’s socially illuminating films. 4 cats"

VERS LE SUD was screened at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.

 
Bruce says: "Laurent Cantet, director TIME OUT, captures the hearts and minds of characters that are functionally part of the mainstream but in fact are as lonely and isolated as someone in solitary confinement. Isolation is not the only concern in HEADING SOUTH (VERS LE SUD), a story of a trio of white women to go to Haiti in search of finding love among the native gigolo population. The sexy men they seek out are not always the best looking, they are the men who know how to flirt and make each woman feel that she is something special. The action takes place at the Hotel Petit Anse in the 1970’s, the period when Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier ruled Haiti with iron fists.

"Brenda, Ellen and Sue are the featured guests. Sue (Louise Portal) admits her island behavior would be laughable anywhere else. 'Black men don’t interest me at home, but I didn’t come here to get a tan.' Brenda (Karen Young) had a sexual awakening in Haiti on a previous trip with a teenager named Legba. Now divorced, she is anxious to recapture the lust she first felt with Legba three years before. Ellen (Charlotte Rampling) is a Wellesley professor for whom 'There is nothing for a woman over 40 in Boston.' She despises her students who are looking to snare Mr. Right between their legs. She is a repeat customer at the Hotel and has taken up with Legba.

"Albert, who picks up the women at the airport is also the maitre d’ at the restaurant where everyone dines in the evenings. The young boys are allowed to join the women on the beach for lunch at the outdoor patio and for cocktails in the bungalow rooms. Dining with the women at night is off limits. Albert, polite and proper, strictly enforces the rules in spite of his feeling that dollars are weapons that turn everything to garbage.

"Cantet use the monologue to explain his characters’ motivations and to fill in historical gaps. The one character who is not allowed to speak to the camera is Legba, the gigolo that both Brenda and Ellen favor. Legba does not really have a point of view; he lives in the moment trying to make his female companions happy and to build up a nest egg for his impoverished mother while steering clear of the corrupt police and government officials.

"As the rivalry between Brenda and Ellen intensifies, a happy ending is clearly not even a remote possibility. The two women are forced to confront their deepest emotions. How they respond to tragic events is unpredictable. Cantet claims that all his characters are wearing masks, hiding their true nature deep within themselves. The question is: underneath, are they good or evil? 4.5 cats

"HEADING SOUTH was shown as part of the Rendezvous with French Cinema Festival at Lincoln Center"

 
Chris says: "Laurent Cantet follows up his intriguing, sparse film TIME OUT with something a little different: an adaptation of a series of short stories about middle-aged American women vacationing at the Haitian resort in the late 1970s. The main attraction is not the sea or the sun but the sex, primarily with young unemployed Haitian men. Charlotte Rampling continues an impressive recent run of performances here as the domineering Ellen, while Karen Young is nearly as good as her more idealistic rival Brenda. Cantet adequately scrutinizes the cultural politics of the region and time, but the most effective moments come from confessional first-person monologues for most of the characters. Spliced into the film, they're an arresting counterpoint to the main flow of action. 4 cats"