Chiaroscuro on Netflix: a first film of great mastery [critique]

Rebecca Hall succeeds in exciting first steps as a filmmaker with this exciting variation of ambiguities around questions of identity and racism.

In these times when the question of identity divides so much and accusations of cultural appropriation multiply, there is something chivalrous about Rebecca Hall’s gesture to seize on such a subject for her first film. However, this desire arises from a long process, which began 15 years ago with the discovery of the novel by Nella Larsen published in 1929, Passing (the original title of the film, designating a person’s ability to be considered a member of another social group than their own) in which Clare, a fair-skinned mixed-race woman poses as white to her racist husband who sees only fire. This book echoing in the family history of his grandfather, his legitimacy to seize this story, combined with his desire gives birth to a daring film because far from any Manichean facility. Chiaroscuro tells how Irene, African American and childhood friend of Clare falls in the sky when she discovers her passing and how Clare will therefore become aware of the consequences of a gesture experienced until then in total casualness. A fascinating story of friendship where each one envies the other for what she is not, while trying to hide it. Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson excel at playing on the ambiguity of these characters. And choosing a treatment in black and white (sublime composition of Eduard Grau, the cinematographer ofA single man) and the 1/33 format, Rebecca Hall anchors the film in its time without departing from a modernity in its staging, including a work on the sound that creates an atmosphere as enveloping as it is uneasy. A work of great mastery.

Of Rebecca Hall With Ruth Negga, Tessa Thompson, Andre Holland… Duration 1 h 38. Available November 10, 2021

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