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Film Festival - Wonderful World, One Day You'll Understand

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 17, 2009 - What a Wonderful World, Directed by Faouzi Bensaidi

One of the best films in this year's festival - and certainly the oddest - is an almost plotless assortment of generic tropes and deadpan sight gags whose title suggests a sense of narrative guided more by random networking than by rigid logic (IMDB makes the point even clearer by listing it as "WWW: What a Wonderful World").

Set in a comic-strip version of contemporary Morocco, it's a deliriously haphazard series of events involving a professional killer (played with comic stoicism by the film's director), a beautiful traffic director and her best friend, a busy housekeeper by day, prostitute by night. The festival notes cite Tarantino as an influence, and while that's certainly true - the film shifts from color to black and white and even into animation a la "Kill Bill," and there's at least one bit of gunplay that's taken from John Woo by way of "Reservoir Dogs" - Bensaidi is even more indepted to Godard and Tati for his wide-screen cartoon-panel compositions and general sense of urban malaise. (Many of the visual details - and its finest comic moment - would fit right into the puzzle-world of Tati's "PlayTime"). "What a Wonderful World" is fast, inventive filmmaking, full of surprising twists on genre conventions.

One Day You'll Understand

Directed by Amos Gitai

The events of World War II and their aftermath have become such a staple of European films that its hard to imagine any aspect of that period that hasn't been exhausted. Set in 1987 when the trial of Gestapo commander Klaus Barbie was being televised in France, Amos Gitai's "One Day You'll Understand" takes the rare step of acknowledging that society is inevitably moving further away from the events of the past. While many films have urged us to never forget the horrors of Nazism, the Holocaust and the Occupation, Gitai points out that each new generation is a further step away from direct, living memory of those events.

Gitai's protagonist, Victor (Hippolyte Girardot) becomes interested in learning about family history at exactly the time that his aging mother (the extraordinary Jeanne Moreau, as commanding a presence at 80 as she was 47 years ago in "Jules and Jim") would prefer not to talk about it. Though a powerful story is eventual unearthed, "One Day You'll Understand" makes its strongest mark as a series of understated vignettes, a test of will between different generations, between memories of the past and obligations to the present. The subject may be familiar, but Gitai's approach is perceptive and subtly original.

Robert Hunt is a freelance writer.