Robin Campillo fables in ‘The Red Island’ the wound of French colonialism with tenderness, melancholy and some pain (****)

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In a moment of ‘The red island‘, the father (in addition to being an alpha male) whom he plays Quim Gutierrez He shows up at the family home with an aragonite table. It is a stone with a patchwork appearance (or ‘patchwork‘, as the magazines say) that could be said to have been designed to get lost in its chaos of veins, petrified rivers and secret sparkles. As if it were designed to free your gaze on too long afternoons. Let’s say that the protagonist’s new possession is equivalent to the director’s offer. If memory is usually represented and described as a flow, as a current or even as a hidden stream, Robin Campillo proposes a paradigm shift. His childhood memories on the island of Madagascar were crystallized among childish laziness in a time of lame colonialism. Now it’s about polishing them, shining them and giving the viewer an aragonite table turned into a shining film in which to get lost.

‘The red island’ It is exactly that, a declaration of love not so much for memory as for the passage of time itself; a time dyed red, the exact same color as the unctuous clay that moistens the camera lens like mist. Brilliant photography work by Jeanne Lapoirie. We are in the 70s, Madagascar has been independent for a decade, but the French army still remains on the island with the permission of the government. At the air bases, French families live secluded in their own way and from their privileged place they observe the world, it would seem, with reluctance, condescension and a touch of cruelty.

A 10-year-old boy (we imagine that he is a personification of the director himself) looks at everything around him as children usually do: from under the table. There appear the characters played by the aforementioned Quim Guitiérrez, Nadia Tereszkiewicz and the boy Charlie Vauselle. And what the latter sees is mixed with his own poisoned imagination with the adventures of a superheroine called Fantomette. From his particular vantage point he observes an adorable world in which adults get drunk with grace, or with violence; They love each other affectionately, or desperately, and imagine themselves completely free in paradise, or locked forever in a golden cage. There is no way to clarify. And so, little by little, ‘The red island’ It is filled with anecdotes (memorable that of the baby crocodiles that grow up), nights of fear and afternoons of parties in the sun.

It is difficult to capture in a single description a film that navigates the viewer’s gaze like evocative stories from other times do, like eternal myths or like memories without an owner. Campillo’s proposal is fueled by chaos and nostalgia. But also evident racism, ribald machismo and the realization that even in the best of worlds (childhood in Eden) there are villains determined to make Fantomette’s life impossible.

If in your previous job, ‘120 beats per minutethe former screenwriter of Laurent Cantet portrayed the euphoria and rage of a turbulent time crossed by AIDS and did so with the urgent grammar of denunciation and life, now he moderates the gesture to do exactly the opposite. The time of his previous film was provided by the fever of the bodies, now it is the warm heat of memory. The result is an aragonite film, we said, an amazed crucible of the wonders of the arbitrary, the labyrinthine, the eternal. But, and this is what is relevant, a film that is wounded and aware of the terribly unfair unreality of a world that is falling apart.

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