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42 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

homo erotic but with politics and brains

Author: jaibo from England
24 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the story of 3 working class brothers, living with a weak father in the aftermath of their mother's death. The film is formally divided into 3 sections, one for each brother, although the protagonist remains the first brother we explore, Marc, a tortured soul.

CONTAINS SPOILERS Marc is an interesting character, unable because of his position in a macho subculture to access his feelings, even though he often shows the potential to be a caring individual. When he is beaten up by some local thugs and his dog killed, he takes a revenge which rebounds on him, leaving him paralysed, machismo is paralysing being the point.

The most interesting section of the film has the older brother Christophe's taking a job in a meat factory. He soon rises in his bosses' estimation and is promoted. On the way he has learned that to survive in the workplace, one has to be ruthless. We last see Christophe with a girlfriend and a future. We know that he has achieved that future by accepting his part in a dehumanising world. It is no coincidence that he has been released from a spell in prison at the play's start. Prison has tamed him, he has agreed to conform, he takes his place amongst the dead meat, he is rewarded.

The film is strongly homo erotic and the camera spends its time dwelling on the brother's bodies, especially Marc who is exceptionally attractive (making it all the more tragic when he body is crushed. I have read a po-faced review which says that this reduced its characters to sex objects. This is telling about a certain type of Puritanism. Many young working class men are beautiful and indescribably sexy - the film puts this at the centre of the equation, so as not to geld the subject.

In any case, there is a narrative excuse for the camera's gaze: the story is seen through the eyes of a family friend, who is gay and eventually has a brief affair with the youngest brother, Olive. The affair ends abruptly. The film is no Queer as Folk fantasy. Olive retreats from a love affair in which his femininity can be expressed sexually and freely to become Marc's carer, his femininity giving him his dead mother's place in the family and so becoming helpful, familiar, imprisoned. His lover "escapes" to a "free" urban life in Paris, where people merely want to exploit him for sex. The choices given the film's characters are bleak.

Le Clan is slow and elliptical in narrative terms but eventually becomes clear. It is worth sticking with as a complex and honest dissection of working class masculinity.

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20 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Deep, powerful, moving

Author: kjm914a from United States
27 November 2005

I thoroughly enjoyed this dark, engrossing film that addresses the harsh lives of a group of young men in the not-so-gay boondocks of France. I am always amused at "reviewers" who slag a film because the views of life and lifestyles depicted are not "pleasant" or meeting with their social approval. To them I say, folks, that's what mainstream Hollywood films are for. Don't expect to find it in a challenging French melodrama. If you are able to open your eyes to a depiction of life without Hollywood endings, you may find that this film depicts relationships and unhappy lives with a stunning honesty, brutality and even, dare I say it, bleak but ravishing beauty.

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17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Interesting. Well worth a look

Author: jim smith ( from New York, NY
13 January 2007

A Gael Morel film whose theme will be familiar to viewers who have seen "Wild Reeds" or "Come Undone" : young, handsome, sexy, disturbed young Frenchies trapped in the limited prospects offered by the mediocre towns and cities far from Paris. Here we have the three sons of an indifferent French father and a Maghreb mother, recently deceased. Where they live horny young men lack even a town whore for relief and, resignedly, must rely on the local grouchy, bored transvestite.

Morel favorite Stephane Rideau is a 20-something, "scared straight" ex con who will trade his youthful wildness for the dull comfort and security of middle class respectability while his two younger brothers grapple, respectively, with intolerable powerlessness and gay love.

All the guys are eye candy and Morel and his actors have never suffered from fear of frontal. All of which would mean little were it not for the interesting characters and Morel's unique cinematic style. Rent it. You'll enjoy it. And if it turns out you disagree, hell, it's only 88 minutes including the credits crawl. Jim Smith

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16 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A developed aesthetic in an underdeveloped director

Author: graham clarke (
12 February 2006

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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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Marvelous Non-Hollywood film making

Author: dedwardloftin-1 from United States
15 August 2008

This is a beautifully made film. The acting and production values are superb. I think the reason that some reviewers have difficulty with this film is just that it's a very simple film...It's about three young men dealing with the loss of their mother, and a father who has lost his wife. Each brother finds his own way to deal with his loss; one through drug abuse and self injury, one becomes his father, and another discovers the courage to express his desires. Morel allows the characters to breathe, and respects us enough to expect us to pay attention to visual clues which are equally important as spoken dialog, without spelling out all the details. Morel is masterful at depicting the emotional tone between individuals and groups. For instance, the scene in which Christophe has just come home from prison is extremely complex. There's a great deal of homo-erotic nuance between the brothers and their friends in this scene. While Morel creates a space for it, and fully inhabits it, he never feels a need to make a point of it, to make a statement. There's simply no need for that. It's not that they are gay or straight, but precisely that the lines between gay and straight are rather fuzzy between these good friends. Putting that message into words would create a self conscious tone in the film which could destroy the dense fabric of emotional ambiguity in which the brothers live. It may well be that part of the brothers emotional problems have to do with the intensity of their feelings for each other, and their fear of expressing them, as well. All three have shortcomings, and none find a way to fully escape the trauma that defines their family. In the end, the ironic point is that the slave dancer is free enough to take a principled, self respecting stand to end a demeaning relationship, yet the three brothers who look down on him are enslaved to their past.

The plot(and there is one) is entirely subservient to the emotional issues of the characters. If you're looking for a plot driven movie, this film has a plot, but the issues that drive the plot are almost entirely internal. This is a film not primarily about events, but how people respond to events and the ways in which their responses shape their lives. Viewed from that perspective, this is a unique and powerful film.

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18 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Short stories

Author: RNQ from Canada
4 December 2005

For the originality of its content and manner of telling, Gael Morel's "Le Clan" deserves wide art-house distribution. It does, however, need a better English title. Life may be difficult for people in the film, but they are not slaves and make choices that attempt to better their situations, if not always happily. Why not simply "A Clan," since nobody remembers Griffith's second title for "Birth of a Nation," or "Brothers"? Two boys practice a North African "slave dance," but for sport and release.

The tightly edited movie can be thought of as short stories about three brothers and their father. With rapid shifts we keep learning new things about the characters. Sometimes one wonders what went on during a gap, but usually one can figure it out and the dialogue that would have worked it through would have been sentimental and out of character.

One shot of the brothers huddled together watched by their father is difficult to justify realistically, but it works as a symbolic representation. If meanwhile one wants everything spelled out and sweetened, there is the Québec film "C.R.A.Z.Y." The brothers do maintain enormous familiarity. The youngest one, very drunk, is helped by a brother to vomit.

If that's shocking, we have to take it as a fact of the milieu. The banlieux of France have recently been in the news. "Le Clan" goes much further with stories that lead one to care for the characters in the variety of their difficult situations of social derogation, dangerous labour, sexuality, and self-esteem.

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12 out of 18 people found the following review useful:


Author: gradyharp from United States
16 January 2006

Gaël Morel (Wild Reeds, Under Another Sky, Full Speed) seems to continue to test cinematic minefields and while not every film is a success, they each indicate that there is a reservoir of talent in this writer/actor/director that will eventually galvanize into to a significant voice. This much maligned little tale 'Le Clan' (oddly but in the end appropriately titled in English 'Three Dancing Slaves') has more going for it than most audiences acknowledge: for all its weakness there are some very sensitive moments about father/son relationships, filial love, romantic love, racism, bigotry, and the ever-growing dysfunctional family problem.

Three brothers live with their recently widowed father in a small town near the Alps in France. Marc (Nicolas Cazalé) is a rebellious youth, into drugs and petty crime and at constant contention with his overbearing father (Bruno Lochet); Christophe (Stéphane Rideau) is recently released from prison and is trying to live straight by starting from the bottom in a pork factory and working his way to the top; Olivier (Thomas Dumerchez) is the youngest and though tattooed and quasi-rebellious is the sensitive one whose gender issues are just beginning to focus. The film is told in three versions, one by each brother, and from these segments we paste together a family disrupted and needy. Marc fights and performs dangerous deeds, Christophe struggles to re-create his broken life, and Olivier finds love and passion with Hicham (Salim Kechiouche), Marc's friend, who is North African and repeatedly dances the capoeira, a slave dance, for his own expression and his need to connect with Olivier. Despite the differences in these young men there are repeated encounters that signify their bonding. One quiet scene shows the father awake, sitting and watching the troubled sons asleep, naked, entwined in each other's bodies: it should be clipped for a still shot as it is very beautiful.

There really is little resolution of an overall story; these three short stories simply end in their own fashion and the interlocking meaning is left to the viewer. Each brother is a 'slave' in his own manner. Yes, there are moments of violence, a pitiful animal abuse scene, and gaps in dialogue that bump the film around in a clumsy fashion, but look for the little moments of visual beauty and the movie takes on different meaning. In French with English subtitles. Grady Harp

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A beautiful experience overall.

Author: swmyers from United States
21 April 2006

We tend to laud films like American Beauty because they peel away the veneer of idealized American domesticity to reveal lives of quiet desperation. We take comfort in that -- knowing that even seemingly perfect lives are, under the surface, as miserable as we might view our own to be. In Morel's Le Clan (Three Dancing Slaves was the title I saw it under here in the States), we get a truer, less sanitized view of real lives laid bare. The desperation isn't quiet. It's crazed and exposed and all too believable. It's a very masculine film showing how men just do what they do. No apologies and, all too often, no explanations. Yet, somehow, it's relatable and understandable. Yes, it's a slice of pain punctuated with too few moments of what we would call joy. But sprinkled throughout are small glimpses of a more beautiful world. It's not lost on these characters. And it's not lost on the viewer. I found it haunting and heart-wrenching.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

simply great!

Author: seanxguy from Malaysia
2 September 2008

well, lets just say, from my very point of view as a gay man, this is such a phenomenal movie.

its not really all about gay life to be fair, but the messages are equally distributed. in the sense, the center of the storyline is pretty balance. gay life, brotherhood, friendship, and family.

i watched this film right after i watched the mostly unfabulous life of ethan green(which was like at 5 in the morning and i was freaking sleepy), well all i can say is Le Clan is nothing like mostly cliché American gay movies. it made me awake and just simply focused on the film. then, i went to sleep feeling so satisfied by staying up for watching the film.

fantastic job!

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

An effort that aspires...but falls short......

Author: russ453 from United States
22 January 2006

I believe this film aspired to tell us something, but I can't say that I discovered it in the course of viewing. To guess along with some other reviewers, perhaps the director wanted to show a realistic depiction of the despair and turmoil in the a family destabilized by the death of a parent and the effect on the survivors? But my question is - what is it about this director's way of telling the story that makes this film unique? Or different? I learn nothing from this film and come away asking 'why was this film made?' Perhaps this film resonates differently in its home market (France?) than in the U.S, but I can understand why most US audiences would be disinterested: the English title :Le Clan" mystifies me - (a translation issue perhaps? whatever - a poor choice for the US market) and besides the uninteresting theme, there is poor story development, gaps in some of the story that leave one groping for "what happened?" and an odd final scene: the ending of the film is just plain strange.

The production team clearly had higher ambitions than an eye-candy film (and the homo-erotic visuals aren't bad) but the subject matter is largely depressing and the story itself poorly developed; i was never drawn into the brother's plight, their individual stories, or a sense of what their lives hold for them in the future. Despite the failures, there is one bright spot in Salim Kericouche, who is excellent, His character plays a friend of the family(Hachim) and it is through his eyes most of the story is told. The sub-plot of Hachim's affair with youngest brother Olivier was well done, but late in the film and inadequately explored. The final scene of the film of Olivier meeting the flying instructor and going into the cabin left me mystified; I'm not sure what it meant (???) I would like to rate this one higher, but I feel a bit generous giving it 4 stars out of a possible 10...

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