Movie Suggestion XLIII: Partisan
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Directed by: Ariel Kleiman
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Nigel Barber, Jeremy Chabriel
“Inspired by an article about child assassins in Colombia and set mostly in an isolated compound in an unnamed city, the debut feature film of Ariel Kleiman is nothing if not disciplined. A graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts, whose short films have picked up awards from festivals including Cannes and Sundance, the writer/director brings to difficult subject matter a mature style that feels more like the work of a veteran than a 30-year-old first-timer.
Partisan is a moody thriller told from the perspective of 11-year-old Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel). The wide-eyed tyke lives with his mother Susanna (Florence Mezzara) and a group of women and children in a closed community ran by the charismatic Gregori (Vincent Cassel). You could call Gregori a surrogate father, a patriarch, a cult leader or a flat-out criminal. In his relationships with people under his care – eight mothers and their kids – Gregori is loquacious, sensitive and even benevolent. He also send the young ’uns on dangerous errands to the city is raising them to be a cottage industry of killers.
When one of the children commits an act of defiance and is subsequently reprimanded, Alexander begins questioning the values around him. In its depiction of a close-knit community bound by the extreme ideology of a magnetic head honcho, Partisan has shades of 2011’s Martha Marcy May Marlene (with John Hawkes as an enigmatic alpha male) and 2012’s Sound of My Voice (with Brit Marling as a white-robed cult leader who claims to be from the future).
Positioning children at the heart of a violent adult universe gives Kleiman’s film a different kind of kick. His direction is acutely aware of the kids: the minutiae of their expressions and reactions; the way they hold themselves; the natural contrast they provide to adult counterparts, particularly Cassel.” (theguardian.com)
“Cassel provides a chilling, commanding performance as the commune’s leader, complete with both the compulsory patriarch traits and the lingering sadness of what he’s doing. A particularly disconcerting scene involves a “pop star” awards ceremony in which the top children, after running their “errands,” are awarded by putting on karaoke performance. As Kleiman pushes in on Gregori’s face we see the earnest sorrow his actions are causing. Another gripping sequence, featuring a paintball gun fight, gives another facet to the perverse kinship unfolding within the community.
Beautifully shot by Germain McMicking and featuring electronic-infused original score by Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), who also provided music for The Bling Ring, the accomplished technical elements work wonders to sell this world and add tension to the small-scale story. By stripping away the surrounding factors — the only way of income for the group is briefly displayed in a quick exchange — Kleiman keeps us trapped in the community to a chilling effect. Exploring the ramifications one’s singular influence can have, Partisan is an often riveting drama that proves Cassel can give fascinating depth to a contemptible individual.”
“The film sets up with a hopeful Utopian society but turns quickly Noir as several twisted, internal conflicts develop and Alex starts to challenge his father’s utilitarian command. The story-telling, cinematography and dialogue are chilling. Throughout the film many of the shots are as long as 25 seconds with no cuts.
Prepare yourself for a visceral, emotional journey. Partisan is not just entertainment, it is profound art. I had the honor of seeing this film at the world premiere in the Library Theater at Sundance 2015 and meeting the cast and crew. It was my favorite of the festival.” (Tom Vykruta – imdb.com)
All images belong to their rightful owners.May 26, 2015