This 2010 French film starring Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Judith Godreche and Jeremie Renier; begins with a cheesy 1970s jingle as Suzanne Pujol (Deneuve) jogs in the morning light by beautiful lakeside scenery with her hair in curlers and covered with a net. Suzanne is the spoiled and self defacing housewife of industrialist, Robert Pujol who owns an umbrella factory he received through her dowry. The movie is first set on Suzanne's birthday which is like any other day for her as she goes for her morning jog in her bright red 70s running suit, blows kisses to doves, writes poems about squirrels and nags her husband to take his medicinal drops.
They have breakfast together and Robert, instead of remembering her birthday, reminds his wife her place is not in the kitchen, as she has given the servants the week off. Suzanne wonders out loud to him where her place is. Robert tells her they both must not forget she is Mrs. Pujol, as if she has no thoughts for herself and her thoughts are the same as his. And she says she tells herself everyday, "Je suis Madame Pujol, Je suis Madame Pujol" - yet she doesn't know what her place within that role is.
After Robert leaves for work but not before complaining about his workers, Suzanne realizes he forgot his drops and she calls the Pujol- Michonneu factory to have her husband's office wife, Nadege who is the company's top secretary, make sure he takes them. Their brief talk is hilariously awkward. Nadege is upset to find via Suzanne that Robert has been to Badaboum with a so called German buyer and she tells him to get it from his whores at the club. He whines that the place is closed on Thursdays.
Joelle, the Pujol's grown daughter, comes to visit Suzanne who is making a bed and fluffing pillows. In honor of Suzanne's birthday Joelle picks a rose from her parents' garden and gives it to her mother. Joelle shares news with Suzanne, who is shocked and saddened to hear Joelle might be divorcing; as her husband, Jean-Charles is always traveling, is not spending time with their boys, and Joelle is afraid he is having affairs.
Suzanne encourages her daughter to stay with her husband as sparks may fly again, Joelle's response is, or not, as she cruelly points out Suzanne and Robert sleep in separate bedrooms. Suzanne says sex is not everything and Joelle says, at her age perhaps!
Joelle tells her mother, she does not want to be like her; an overly accepting potiche (pretty vase on a shelf). Joelle continues that she thinks her mother is a doormat and women don't have to put up with men's whims in such a manner anymore, it is the late 1970s after all.
Robert arrives home to take his drops as he was too busy at Badaboum the night before to take them. His daughter reminds him of his wife's birthday and he is surprised, says he is busy and tells Suzanne to buy whatever she likes. She meekly thanks him. After Joelle leaves, Robert takes his drops but spits them up when his wife says their son, Laurent, is considering marrying Floriane Marquiset. Robert shouts that Floriane is no better than a prostitute, and Suzanne calmly replies that he is being a snob, he doesn't even know Floriane, that her father owns a patisserie and Floriane is accomplished and highly proficient at the piano.
Robert does not care about any of this and says Suzanne has no right to an opinion. That she is a spoiled little woman who should be happy with kitchen appliances. Then the phone rings and it is someone to inform Robert all of his workers have gone on strike. He leaves after pondering out loud the cost of the strike to himself and an announcement that he will show all the workers his fists. Suzanne contemplates the strike and then writes a poem about a rose.
Suzanne's relationship with Laurent is much more relaxed. She encourages him to study art as he doesn't like political science. He is gentle and conversational. She asks him to tell her about Floriane and then mentions while peeling a carrot how it is too bad Mrs. Marquiset died by electrocution from a hairdryer.
Later that evening the family is gathered together, Joelle with her two boys, Suzanne and Laurent, as the adults smoke, eat well coiffed appetizers and drink bubbly alcohol. Robert is not there as Suzanne comments that her husband's whereabouts have become more and more mysterious.
The doorbell rings and everyone assumes it is Robert, "J'arrive Papa, J'arrive," says Joelle as she dashes to the door with a cigarette held between her manicured fingers. "Nadege, what are you here for?" Nadege tells her it is urgent and Joelle gestures to an absolutely gorgeous and cultured looking family room. Nadege tells them that yes, it involves Robert and that he has been taken hostage by the workers.
Laurent leaves to settle the dispute in a humane manner, but comes back disheveled and with torn clothes as his father attacked him along with giving his son some words of choice. The family is unsure of what to do next, but Suzanne decides to go to the city's mayor, who happens to be her old lover and ask him to intervene in order to quell the worker's rage so her husband may be released. Maurice Babin, otherwise known as Monsieur Deputy Mayor is a man of the people and is in complete contrast to the Pujol's and their lifestyle. Suzanne is also the one who blew him off after their affair and she was married to Robert at the time, but she plays her cards right, Maurice forgives all of this and agrees to intervene.
The next morning Robert is at home in bed, with a doctor giving him orders to come to the hospital for tests as he is run down from daily work. Nadege is also still there having breakfast with Joelle and Laurent. She suggests she make a bullion for Robert and Joelle just looks stunned as Laurent politely and awkwardly says, pourquoi pas?; then Nadege dashes about to make her healing broth as if she has been waiting to do so her whole life.
Suzanne also, at her husband's request takes over the factory. Robert is too ill and high strung to continue with the work, especially considering the dour climate of the working landscape. She does an excellent job and the employees really like her. Both her son and daughter also serve at the factory under their mother's leadership and it becomes a successful family operation. Though, when Robert comes back from a refreshing cruise in better color and overall health, he wants to take the factory back from Suzanne. He lets her know this at the Pujol-Michonneau home office, after he gives her a lovely gold bracelet in the presence of Nadege. He gives the secretary a present too, of Turkish candies that can be bought at any given international airport. The same as giving one's lover the gift of a wrapped Toblerone in front of one's spouse.
Suzanne puts up a fight for control over the factory. She tells her husband he can now be like a lion on a plain, doing nothing all day, but golf and fish. Suzanne does not win her battle for the factory, due to internal family politics, but she does even better for herself in the end, as all the politics Suzanne has up her sleeve come into full force.
With Potiche the main perspective of satire is based on how unpure yet sociable humanity really is. Perhaps it is best not to generalize but it seems that in American films, affairs are heartbreaking and treated as scandalous. In French cinema, the affair itself, is not of consideration as much as how far the film may go in originality to mock such a cliche. It is odd that Joelle, should resemble Maurice Babin in looks. And as the story progresses it becomes increasingly apparent that Suzanne is not so meek and naive as she would seem but is simply a more mature version of Robert. The two understand each other in a way no one else could ever know either of them. They remain together based on this bond alone it seems.
By Sarah C. Bahl
“Liberia, a West African country of 3 million people, was founded in 1847 by freed American slaves. Their descendants formed an elite class, which dominated indigenous ethnic groups for more than a century. Rising tensions finally erupted into civil war in 1989. From then on, Liberians suffered a prolonged period of violence. At times, fighting was congregated to the countryside. Other times, conflict raged through the capital, Monrovia. By 2002, over 200,000 people had died. One out of three people had been displaced. There was no end in sight. Then, ordinary women did the unimaginable.”
The Liberian Civil War began on Christmas Eve 1989. Charles Taylor began in full earnestness, his bloody ascent to absolute political and financial power over Liberia. Taylor utilized whatever means necessary to formulate his path to a most vile form of power imaginable. Taylor had The Small Boys Unit, consisting of youths from the ages of nine to fifteen, commissioned as child soldiers. They were fed drugs and given weapons. The war to, “Reconstruct the minds of the people,” went on for years. Leymah Gbowee, a Social Worker, states, “Liberia had been at war so long that my children had been hungry and afraid their entire lives.”
The war was blamed on many factors including ethnic tensions, resources and wealth. But Gbowee states, “There is nothing in my mind that should make people do what they did to the children of Liberia.” Gbowee, had at one moment, to tell her three year old son that she had no food, no donut, to give him. Her son replied, that he hoped for a piece of donut all the same. This was after Gbowee, while five months pregnant, traveled with her three-year-old son and two-year-old daughter under a rain of bullets to her parents’ house.
The next series of scenes are of a boy, holding a skeleton in his hands and dancing with a group of other boys. The skeleton is of a human skull. A boy with his arm cut off looks ahead, his eyes accepting and full of fear. Another boy holds a gun to his head, the gun sounds, while a group of adolescents stand around. One of them smiles.
Charles Taylor, in a filmed interview says, “We had an opportunity, starting from 0 to reconstruct the minds of our people.” None of the soldiers seem to be over 17. Incredibly disturbing that their faces are those of frightened lost children, and at the same time, they brandish huge weapons. According to headlines, Taylor terrorized Liberia into electing him, in 1997. “We lived in fear,” Gbowee states. She prays for the killings, the shootings, and the hunger to stop. Gbowee says, “I had a dream and it was like a crazy dream, that someone was actually telling me,” to gather the women of the village in order to pray for peace.
The following scene occurs at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Monrovia, June 2002. Gbowee is a speaker for a congregation. She states, “We are tired…” and from the fear and exhaustion is born the Christian Women Peace Initiative; out of mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts. From the ordinary women of the village was born a great organization.
Asatu Bah Kenneth, Assistant Director of Liberian National Police attended the service as the only Muslim in the Church. “We’re all serving the same God,” Kenneth states. She promises to move the movement forward with the Muslim women. “I wanted it to be an initiative that was going to continue,” Kenneth adds. The message the co-joined womens’ forces took on was, truly a question with an obvious answer: “Can the bullet pick and choose? Does the bullet know Christian from Muslim?”
In opposition to Taylor is the mens’ movement, LURD, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. “Taylor does not listen to any peace, any negotiations. That is why we are in the bush,” says National Chairman Conneh. The Warlords of the opposing council commission male child soldiers. “The Warlords would just give these boys guns and send them off. They just told them to take whatever they wanted along the way,” Gbowee states. The countryside is terrorized.
Janet Bryant Johnson, Journalist, says, “These boys would go to your home and they would rape you in front of your children, in front of your husband, and they just do anything because, they had guns.” The Warlords are said to come for absolute power in opposition to Taylor and by March 2003, LURD controls most of the countryside. Taylor is Christian and LURD is Muslim. Refugees pour into Monrovia, in overwhelming flocks with their possessions piled on their heads. People in the camps live in absolute poverty. Complete, entire and abysmal poverty.
The womens’ group came to the camp to overview the conditions. There were tears, as there seemed no hope in terms of positive outlet for the Liberians. Tales of rape and horror by soldiers abound among the camp’s occupants. (United Nations Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000, notes that, ‘civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict, including as refugees and internally displaced persons, and increasingly are targeted by combatants and armed elements’…In 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1820, characterizing sexual violence as a tool of war and demanding its immediate cessation.) Discussion Guide, Teachers College, Columbia University.
One woman was told by soldiers; to sing, to dance, and to clap, while her husband’s head was slowly sawed off and her 12-year-old daughter was raped. The woman survived but she kept singing and clapping the same tune she sang and clapped for the soldiers that day. Her daughter became pregnant from the rape.
Many women showed unusual resiliency despite the atrocities. “These woman had seen the worst of the wars, but they still had that vibrance for life.” Hope baptized the women into their movement for peace. Taylor gives a sermon regarding his mission in life and God’s protection. But his statements do not click together, and ultimately his speech makes no sense. Gbowee: “Taylor could pray the devil out of hell, and we said if this man is so religious, we need to get to that thing, that he holds firmly to.”
The women pressurized the pastors to place influence on the bishops, so it would travel to the leaders. The women of the mosques were to place insistence for peace on their imams, who would pressurize the Warlords, in turn. Both womens’ groups spoke for an end to the violence with their religious leaders.
Still, the war was closing in and only ever increasing in violent velocity. “We needed to do something more forceful, more dramatic. We decided to have a protest,” Gbowee states. The women utilized Christian radio to get their message for peace across. The Christian women seek inspiration from The Bible, particularly Ester, who wore ashes and a sackcloth. Ester says, “I mean it.” The Liberian women then put on plain white clothes and tied their hair, to symbolize the goal for peace. Thousands of women congregated to the fish market to pray for peace. For the first time in Liberian history, Muslim and Christian women joined forces. They held a banner with the slogan, “The Women of Liberia Want Peace Now.”
Over 2,500 women lined up with the placards for peace. President Taylor’s convert slows, as it goes by on the road, but does not stop and the women are left unharmed. The woman sang for peace. And danced for peace. Still, neither Taylor nor the rebels would come to the peace table. The women then presented a position statement to the government of Liberia. The women demanded peace. They were not appealing. They continue to protest wearing white.
Finally Taylor agreed to the peace talks. The talks are strained, as with Taylor it is known he could be smiling at you and the next moment order the recipient of his gaze to be killed. Peace talks occur in Ghana while Monrovia is engulfed in war. Everyone is trapped inside, away from the gunfire, without proper food supplies. Still, the women continue to sing, “Liberia is my home.” Though, the peace talks turned into discussions of how to divvy out the power, rather than how to employ peace. The missiles rain down as the women still sing and pray.
Some of the women went to Ghana and held the men inside with their protests. One of the warlords came to the door to exit and was pushed back by the women. The women wanted peace. Finally, it is agreed at the discussions for Taylor to be exiled to Liberia and for a UN peacekeeping force to enter Monrovia. A transitional government is established. On August 4, 2003, International Peacekeeping forces enter Liberia. Taylor leaves for exile, saying; “God willing, I will be back.”
The women come back from Ghana celebrating. One woman was asked how she managed and dressed in white, she replied: “With this T-shirt, I am powerful.” The violence is hard to forgive. Liberia becomes the first country in Africa with an elected female president. After 2 ½ years the womens’ peace campaign comes to a successful end.
By Sarah Bahl.
Empress Catherine II of Russia, utilized fashion and style as she did everything else, for politics. Her memoirs have been decided by some historians as flagrant use of primal justification for the death of her husband, Peter III, who she is rumored to have assassinated. Though, she really isn’t justifying anything. She is telling.
Catherine the Great, monarch and ruler of Russia for a golden age, was born a German princess: Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst in Stettin on April 21, 1729. Princess Sophie was culled at the age of 15, to be the Grand Duke Peter's bride by Empress Elizabeth of Russia. The Grand Duke, was Princess Sophie's second cousin. Princess Sophie, renamed as Duchess Ekaterina Alekseevna upon entering Russian court life, was everything her husband was not; athletic, intelligent, patient, and a creature of calm and consistent political voracity. She was a fair and strong woman, though not distractingly beautiful, with a fine mind, conversational nature, a physical endurance, and ability to withstand pain.
Catherine describes the pulling of a tooth; “I have never felt anything but pain of that moment. It was so violent tears streamed down my nose as though water had been poured from a teapot…I then learnt by experience that pain one suffers often gives rise to a grudge against whoever caused it. Boerhave, who obviously realized this, began to laugh and begged me to allow him to examine the spot. He then discovered that one of the roots had remained, while together with the tooth, a piece the size of a shilling had been wrenched from the jawbone. I was put to bed and suffered for about 4 weeks…I did not leave the seclusion of my room until January 1750, because at the bottom of my cheek I had Gyon’s five fingers imprinted in blue and yellow bruises.” The daily physical pains of life at the time are not comparable to many peoples’ today.
Russian court life could also be emotionally brutal and Catherine’s marriage to her husband is a depressing one, as she refers to him in her memoirs, as “The Grand Duke.” Neither party remained remotely faithful to the other and Catherine wept over The Grand Duke's affairs (at least initially) while keeping discreet about her own. The Grand Duke is depicted within the memoirs as an emotional maladjusted man-child of limited intelligence and questionable sanity.
Catherine, overcomes the environment by utilizing an awareness of her own powers and makes clear her self regard in her memoirs. Catherine considered herself better than her mother in maintaining a proper hold over the intricacies of court life and international domination, (her mother lacked the sophistication to keep multiple powers astride in relation to each other, with oneself as an individual ahead. And beside, since Empress Elizabeth was in want of sole control over Catherine, there was no room within the Russian courts for Catherine’s mother anyway) as well as better than her husband as a person entirely.
Catherine was recruited at an early age, as an unknown princess, by Empress Elizabeth, a calculating political machine. Whereas Catherine was a political woman, the Empress was pure machinery. The memoirs imply Elizabeth knew her nephew as useless, early on, and trained Catherine, from the start, to rule in her husband’s stead. The Empress repeatedly took from Catherine those she loved, her servants, Catherine’s own children, and raised Catherine to be one thing: Empress.
Court life and gearing toward empire control also came with great financial costs. Catherine was often in considerable debt to keep up with court life. It was not a capitalist economy, and as rulers they were not kicked out if they had to pay back debts at such and such a time and could not. Catherine wrote, “…and the next day I requested my accounts. They showed that I owed seventeen thousand rubles; before leaving Moscow for Kiev, the Empress had sent me fifteen thousand rubles and a larger coffer of simpler cloths, but I had to be richly dressed. In sum, then, I owed two thousand rubles; this did not seem to me an excessive amount. A variety of causes had forced these expenditures upon me. Primo, I had arrived in Russia very poorly outfitted, I was at the end of the world, and at a court where one changed outfits three times a day…” Catherine spends politically, for gifts and for clothing.
Catherine, though she spent well on fashion and gifts made sure of one thing - never to outdo The Empress. Catherine writes in her memoirs, "At that time, I loved to dance. At public balls I usually changed costume three times. My jewelry was always very fine, and if the costume I wore attracted everyone's praise, I was sure never to wear it again, because I had a rule that if it had made a big impression once, it could only make a smaller one the next time. On the other hand, at court balls that the public did not attend, I dressed as simply as I could, and so I paid my respects to The Empress, who did not much like anyone to appear overdressed," as well as to remain true to her own calling, "I did not make beauty or finery the source of my merit, for when one was gone, the other became ridiculous, and only character endured."
Notes: All quotes are taken from The Memoirs of Catherine the Great, 2005 Modern Library Edition. The Memoirs are written to depict life before Catherine became empress. Images are found online.
By Sarah Bahl
Viva Laldjérie is a film about three very different women trying to survive on a daily basis in a man’s world, when there is no man. The year is 2003, and Algeria is dealing with a rise in internal terrorist activities, due to rallying from 9/11. Goucem is the lead protagonist, living in a world, of conflicted emotions.
She works in a camera shop during the day, for a Mr. Mouffok. She is bi-lingual and able to speak English, though; she never speaks about her educational background. Goucem is 27, gorgeous, and having an affair with a married surgeon, named Aniss. Goucem and Aniss argue over having dinner in public together. Goucem is angry at Aniss for not spending the weekend with her. And when he drops her off at what appears to be an Algerian version of a piazza, a stranger sees her get out of Aniss’s car and realizes she has money. Though, the money Goucem has, is her own. Mr. Mouffok had paid her that day.
Her payment is stolen out of her purse, and the scene skips to Goucem, with a couple boxes of pizza, sitting with the restaurant owners after closing. Goucem is in shock and asks to use the phone. She does not have a cell phone. She either cannot afford one or else does not want one in order to protect herself from potential terrorist operations toward her. Or both.
She calls Aniss, who does not pick up. She leaves a message. Then Goucem is at home, in her small apartment, with her mother, Papicha, who is rather masculine seeming, an ugly woman to be honest – the mother, does not seem to have much to do. She eats the pizza Goucem brought home and comments on what Goucem is doing, getting dressed, clubbing up to go out.
When Goucem leaves the apartment she puts on a body cover, an elegant type of long poncho and a hijab, over her club dress. At the club she plays pool by herself. She meets a man there and they hook up in some sort of weird empty warehouse by the sea. The man asks to see her again. She rebuffs him.
Also pursuing Goucem is the sweet and understanding Samir, who stops by her work fairly often only to ask her banal questions about passports and photos. Samir admires Goucem’s spirit, though of course she treats him terribly because of how the surgeon lover, is treating her. Goucem is also earnestly afraid to lose Aniss because he seems like a protector in an insecure world.
Goucem’s father has passed away at the age of 51, and she and her mother never discuss why. They visit the grave of the father- and on the way to the headstone, they pass a man with a beard and Papicha becomes afraid, that he recognizes her. The reason for this fear is due to Goucem and Papicha laying low from terrorists because Papicha used to be a dancer. It is implied they have moved from the suburbs after the death of the father, to a small apartment in the city, to avoid notice and survive.
Goucem confronts the bearded man directly, asking him if he recognizes her mother. He does not. Also, when Goucem and Papicha first leave their apartment complex to visit the deceased father, with flowers, Goucem sees Aniss’s car. She cries, “Aniss!” and begins to chase the vehicle. The car never stops. Then, Goucem gets to deal with the further dignity of being drilled by her mother as to whether that really was Aniss’s car.
The only friend in Goucem’s life is Fifi. The prostitute next door. Fifi’s character takes the whole, whore with a heart of gold cliché to another higher note. Fifi protects Goucem, by listening to Goucem and caring.
Then Goucem is bored, after a fight with her mother over how to handle their lives, and she enters Fifi’s room. She goes through Fifi’s client’s clothes, while Fifi and he are in the bath. Goucem steals the client’s gun and leaves.
Perhaps Goucem is jealous of Fifi. Goucem is sometimes spoken to as a whore by her mother, and treated like one by her lover, while she is trying to make a non sexual related living. These mental undertones might have lead to Goucem taking the gun. The gun gives Goucem a sense of empowerment. When Fifi states her client is missing his gun and he wants it back Goucem says nothing.
Fifi listens to Goucem and she takes Goucem to the local fortune teller. Fifi pays a large sum for this. Fortunes do not come for free. With Fifi there, all the other women are asked to leave for the day so Goucem can have more time with the fortune teller. Goucem asks the fortune teller, an otherworldly woman with a white painted face, if Aniss loves her at least. The fortune teller does not answer, but asks Goucem, if she loves Aniss. Goucem cannot say yes.
Later, Goucem tries to visit with Aniss, but his wife starts screaming about it and she leaves. Aniss; in this series of scenes is not revealed as the strong distant protector Goucem feels he is. He is a man, tired and not sexy, pulling socks off a laundry line and with a screaming wife, now that Aniss is remarrying. Though, not to Goucem.
Aniss’s son tells Goucem as she is leaving Aniss’s apartment complex, not to come there anymore, and to do it at the hospital. Goucem tells the son, she is more than happy to point out to Aniss that his son is homosexual. This stops the son from being more of a jerk than he would be otherwise.
Goucem, then has a sandwich type meal by herself, sitting on some steps outside of the complex. (Aniss’s wife was having pasta alone). Goucem and her mother eat separately. Everyone in the film eats by himself or herself, for the most part. There is one scene where people are eating together, and that is for business.
While Fifi is at the fortune teller her client breaks into her room to look for his gun. Though, the manner he goes about it, implies he is not just looking for the gun. He does not like Fifi hooking up with anyone else (nevermind she is a professional) he also does not like her financial independence. On the way back from the fortune teller’s Fifi sees her client and comes up to him to say hello. He throws her in a car with a driver who is huge and has cold distant, pale eyes. Fifi tells the client, that they have been friends for awhile and if she needed a gun, she would have asked him for it. She asks him if he needs money. He says no, that he wants his gun. The client happens to work for “National Security.” Fifi asks where she is being taken and the client refuses to say.
Meantime in Fifi’s apartment her items are being removed and stolen. She has nice taste and very fine things. Three men come and clean out her apartment in silence, and give away to the residence what they do not take. The landlord steals Fifi’s things before she is even killed. Giving them to his children. His wife tells the children their father bought Fifi’s items at a market. Goucem sees a child wearing a shawl of Fifi’s and freaks. She goes to her room and pulls the gun out from under the bed. Goucem realizes what she has done.
The car Fifi is in, stops because of a wedding party blocking traffic. Fifi gets out and starts to run. She gets in one of the wedding party cars. No one questions her, as she is dressed like a lady. Fifi is discovered when a child in the front seat turns around and says, “Why are you crying?” There are only other women in the car. They take Fifi seriously and try to get through to the anti-terrorist brigade, but cannot because of a poor phone connection and the noise from the wedding party. When they cannot get through to the brigade, they kick Fifi out of the car due to the safety of the group, especially the boy.
Fifi increasingly panics for her life. Her eyes are huge and she starts to hyperventilate and cry and clings to the women, who push her away. She is removed from the car, under orders of the family matriarch. And she begins to run. The driver with the pale eyes, silently follows on foot.
Goucem goes to the police to report her friend as missing. They tell her they do not deal with terrorist kidnappings. Goucem says she does not know. At the police station Goucem runs into Aniss’s son, who got into a fight with another man. They leave the station together and Goucem saves Aniss’s son from an attack by pointing the gun at the assailant. Fifi was a much better person than the son. It is not fair. But it is the happenstance of life under a strange system.
Aniss helps Goucem retrieve Fifi’s body from the morgue. A strange place in the basement of the hospital with a foot of water. Aniss finally becomes good for something. Goucem loved Fifi. For many reasons.She mourns incredibly for her friend, holding Fifi's head and wailing. Aniss tries to comfort Goucem, but she shrugs him off.
Goucem is the only person attending at Fifi's grave. Then, she catches the bus, as there is a highway right next to the grave site. Goucem sees Samir playing a ball game with friends in a court yard. She gets the bus to stop, and joins Samir and his friends. She watches him play while speaking to his friends, who she seems to have things in common with.
Her mother, Papicha, has now found a job as a singer, as she is too old for dancing. Papicha comes across as beautiful onstage, her facial features are interesting this way. And so life goes on in Algeria. Whether fair or no.
By Sarah Bahl
For anyone who loves their grandma as I do, Persepolis, (2007 Animation) is a truly amazing film. Based on the autobiographical book, of the same name, by Marjane Satrapi, the movie tells the story of a young Iranian girl, Marjane, as she grows from a child into an adult, during the 1970s and 80s fall of the Shah, and the bloodbath civil war that ensued, fueled by the West.
Marjane is a precocious child, and made well aware at a very young age of how politics and changes in the tide of human fortune can lead to life and death situations, even among those she loves. Marjane, has two supportive, educated, down to earth liberal parents, and her grandmother provides Marjane the sentimental inspiration that drives Marjane’s faith.
The scenes begin with Marjane at an airport in France, smoking, and looking back over her life so far. I won’t relay all the scenes, so as not to spoil the film, but will skip to where Marjane and her grandmother are at the movies together in Iran, watching a Japanese film where a monster is eating up a city. The grandmother shouts advice to the characters on screen, and covers Marjane’s eyes for the graphic parts, much to the young teenage Marjane’s mortification.
It is snowing as Marjane and her grandmother exit the film. They talk of an uncle who needs a heart transplant, but cannot receive it because he cannot get a passport due to the extreme religious take over of the ruling government body. The aunt who speaks to the hospital’s director to beg for her husband’s life, realizes the hospital director, is her old window washer, and he now has the position he does because of his religious zeal to the Ayatollah.
The hospital director/window washer tells Marjane’s aunt, that everything is meant to happen as God wills. And nothing more is done to help the aunt’s husband who needs heart surgery abroad in order to live. Marjane mentions the uncle smoking as a trigger of his health issues and the grandmother rebuffs her, saying it is that he lost his children (sent abroad) due to a ridiculous war, that caused the uncle’s heart to fail.
Marjane and her grandmother discuss her uncle’s health, while they order a warm snack from a food vendor; alone with his cart in an empty, snow filled threshold. Touched by their conversations, the vendor states, “May God eradicate these barbarians.” The grandmother replies, “May God hear you.” Marjane and her grandmother continue home and the scene broadens to reveal this man, the warm food vendor, calmly and patiently hovered over his cart for heat in a desolate snow filled square.
Persepolis, reveals that people, including families, do not only live with each other, but for each other. The memories of Marjane’s grandmother, how she smelled of jasmine, is shown as a tribute to the woman who taught Marjane to value herself as an individual, to rise above human folly, even horror, so as to have integrity.
By Sarah Bahl