Scheherazade: Gangsta love [Critique]

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A first film which balances between lyricism and documentary harshness and tells the love story of a small pimp and his prostitute.

Scheherazade was one of the big winners of Caesar 2019. From the first minutes of the ceremony, the feature film by Jean-Bernard Marlin won three awards : best female and male prospects for Kenza Fortas and Dylan Robert, as well as best first film. Deserved rewards: this drama had marked First at its release in September 2018. Here is our review, on the occasion of its rebroadcast on Arte, this evening, at 10:45 pm, after Lola, a german woman, at 9:05 p.m.. Note that the two films are already visible on and will remain online throughout August.

Dylan Robert (Scheherazade): “Today, it is no longer delinquency that attracts me, it is cinema”

From the title emerges a scent of oriental tale, Thousand and One Nights, colorful dreamlike, idea quickly showered by the foregrounds. By scrolling through the images of historical archives on the migratory strata in Marseille, Jean-Bernard Marlin introduces a naturalistic invoice to Scheherazade, confirmed by this initial exchange between Zachary, 17, and a prison guard, on the day of his release from juvenile prison. While the teenager with the leonine mane is about to finally smell the outside air, the guard gives him a caustic “See you soon!” “. It’s both funny, because Zac answers him tit for tat with humor, and sad, about what it says about the vicious circle of recurrence in the economic slump of the Phocaean City. Left to his fate by a resigning mother, Zac will indeed return to the street. Attempt to resume its small illicit trafficking. “Coal”, as he says, without being “muddled”. Rediscover the path of lawlessness. We know the song. While the relapse of the dealer in the delinquent routine begins to take shape, a motorized trip between friends in search of priced loves ignites a new wick in the announced tragedy. A wick named Scheherazade. ” You work ? »Asks Zac, who thinks he remembers the young girl’s face, from the distant era before the homes, the jail, the sidewalk. Are we witnessing a commercial negotiation for a pass or a teen movie flirtation? A bit of both. She feigns indifference, he harshness. Their social shell holds the shock but their eyes are already burning.

The pimp and the whore

This love at first sight will set the whole story ablaze, tilting the social chronicle into a love story forbidden and ambiguous (the pimp and the whore) in unexpected fictional zones. Melodrama, urban thriller, gangster film or trial film will be all fuel. So much so that the film joins in its own way the literary Scheherazade: to the intoxicating entrenchment of fables narrated by the courtesan to repel death, Marlin responds by stacking genres. The latter aggregate with a porous nature, like so many facets of the exacerbated but repressed emotions of the cursed couple. All things considered, the tone oscillates between a “documentary” fable à la Pasolini (sparkling non-professional cast) and polar proxo post-Taxi Driver, with a melancholy heart and James Gray dilemmas, moved under the Marseille sun (superb incandescent and sticky photo of the chef op ‘of Mange tes morte), without refusing the sugar of romance or the aridity of court scenes .


The last two registers collide ideally. In a last movement in crescendo, the coldly judicial aspect descends on Zac and Scheherazade like a aftermath of drunkenness. It encircles with a moral halo this love story until then carried out instinctively, the nose in the handlebars, by these teenagers who have become adults too soon: the story was basically only a path of resilience towards life. acceptance, by the hero, of his emotions, his sensitivity. It is only by packing up his manly pride – the one that made him trumpet: “I respect women, not whores” – by agreeing to lower his arms in front of Scheherazade, that he will be able to set himself up as a man. As such, the last scene, all unspoken, is disarmingly graceful. Without revealing it, let us say that it draws its strength from the desperate lyricism of a melodrama such as The Fever in the blood of Elia Kazan, and her final words: “Although nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, nor glory in the flower, we will not grieve, but will find strength in what is left ”. It is of a slight gravity, overwhelming.

Trailer of Scheherazade :

The complete winners of the César 2019

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