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Annecy is no tourist destination for three working-class Algerian brothers and their father, in the months after their mother has died. Marc is deeply troubled: he tries to stiff drug dealers and then plots revenge. Christophe is released from jail, lands a job, and must overcome various temptations in order to keep it. Olivier, nearing 18, may be falling in love with Hicham, a young man who constantly practices capoeira on the shores of the lake. Both violence and fraternity are close to the surface of most interactions. How each brother emerges from his challenge comprises the film's drama. Is there any way in which these men can be a family? Written by
A developed aesthetic in an underdeveloped director
Director Gael Morel debuted as a young actor in Andre Techine's excellent "Wild Reeds". In it he plays a teenage boy who develops an obsessive passion for a young Frenchman of North African descent, played by Stephane Rideau; Rideau being something of a prototype of the exotic, masculine male in question, (though in "Three Dancing Slaves" he has clearly outgrown the boyish stage.) In retrospect it's safe to guess that Techine cast him in such a role, having knowledge of Morel's own passion for the fore mentioned type. Morel films as a director are clearly dominated by this passion, overshadowing his treatment of the elements of story and character development which are somewhat lacking in his movies this far.
Morel is true to himself is expressing his personal fascination with the specific male type in question. "Three Dancing Slaves" abounds in images of the actors in various states of dress and undress, filmed with great care and with a genuine love for the form. It's a very specific gay aesthetic, expertly executed and one that will resound with those who share Morel's particular tastes.
Yet Morel aspires to more as a filmmaker and so he should. "Three Dancing Slaves" reveals moments of promise but ultimately falls short in most areas. His future as a movie director of merit will depend on his own development as an artist and his ability to bring his passion to the screen as an integral and balanced part of his work.
Despite the inherent weakness of the the film, "Three Dancing Slaves" does at least mark Morel as a possible talent to watch.
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