En Attendant Les Hirondelles (Until the Birds Return)
There are many informative films to be made about the contemporary Arab World. Unfortunately, Karim Moussaoui’s elegy to modern-day Algeria is an often-stupefying exercise in tedium. Three stories cross paths throughout the picture: a nouveau riche property developer, a put-upon bride-to-be and a respected doctor with an ugly wartime past. The problem with movies set up in this way is that the segments must resonate with one another without being clearly contrived, which is no easy task. You can show the protagonists of each segment bumping into each other’s narrative, but without substantial reason it looks like a gimmick.
The opening passes without much interest – the upstart businessman is a character well travelled, all executive decision making that masks indelible insecurities. The middle segment with the bride and her goateed chauffeur is the strongest, with a natural, almost comical dance at its centre. It’s well observed and oddly sensuous. We root for them, at least. The late scenes where the neurologist is forced to face up to a rape victim – for whom he did nothing to protect – are tense but not exactly involving. The film is a cinematic equivalent of a somnambulist.
Until the Birds Return’s themes of money, independence and tradition are relatively intriguing but hardly original. The colour palette is uniformly dull – it has the hue of any run-of-the-mill European art house drama. The camera follows cars at a middle distance, presumably to perpetually invoke the notion of a journey rather than mild boredom. Perhaps many of these criticisms are more the fault of a saturated schedule of worthy, mediocre fare that Cannes often dishes up. The film isn’t bad by any stretch, and for any unfairness this critic apologises, but Moussaoui offers little to remedy the stupor.
En Attendant Les Hirondelles (Until the Birds Return) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch a clip from En Attendant Les Hirondelles (Until the Birds Return) here: