a history of Lebanon on the borders of the tragic and the marvelous

The opinion of the “World” – Not to be missed

While the 74e Cannes edition is fast approaching (from July 6 to 17), now the films labeled “Cannes 2020” are coming out, in tight rows, a year ago, while the health crisis prevented the physical performance of the Festival. How long will there be for these feature films before they are “toasted” by the arrival of other works in theaters? Here is one, not to be missed, the wonderful one Under Alice’s sky, first feature film by Franco-Lebanese filmmaker Chloé Mazlo, selected for Critics’ Week in 2020, therefore (in a different genre, Gold for dogs, by Anna Cazenave Cambet, another film from the same parallel section which also comes out on June 30, deserves a lot of praise).

Chloé Mazlo, who studied graphic design at the Decorative Arts in Strasbourg, seized on the family album, and especially the fate of her grandmother Alice (Alba Rohrwacher), of Swiss origin, who decided, in the 1950s, to leave the family nest for a job as a nurse in Beirut. Very quickly, the astonished spectator is confronted with a patchwork of images mixing real shots and animation in stop motion. The young years of Alice, in these green Swiss pastures, take on a naive air ofHeidi at the mountain, before the farewell to parents and the arrival in a city bathed in light, Beirut, like an Eden.

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Treasures of poetry

Alice is just beginning to discover the delights of cardamom coffee when she meets Joseph (director Wajdi Mouawad), a gentle and scholarly physicist dreaming of sending a Lebanese into space. Around this lunar couple gravitate more extroverted and solar characters. Over the years, the grain of the Super-16 film brings the image closer to the stereotypical family photo of the 1970s. The Kamar family is alive and well, and their door is always open. Even in the darkest hours, the large apartment remains the home port of friends, always cheerful, even in minor mode.

The film thwarts the traps of the family fresco and crosses the “great history” through the sensations

All the singularity of the film is based on the rarity of these animated images that one discovers in the course of a shot, without expecting it, like the pearl encrusted in the oyster. These little treasures of poetry are linked to the tender and burlesque atmosphere of this solar and subdued film. Jumping with agility from one square to another, like hopscotch, Under Alice’s sky thwarts the pitfalls of the family fresco (ringing and stumbling pathos or, conversely, joy too good to be true) and crosses the “big story” through sensations.

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