movie review: Not your Bogart's Casablanca
Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets
"Life" yells the gang spokesman, and the rest of the young urchins shout, "Is a pile of shit!" And indeed so it seems to be for the four kids who are the focus of this movie. Ali, the title character is killed by a stone in the first couple scenes of the movie, by members of the gang they were escaping. The three remaining kids are left somewhat shiftless, not knowing if they should try to join back with the gang, or stay out on their own.
The gang is no happy home. It's lead by Dib, an older deaf and dumb kid who seems somewhat psychotic -- too many knife fights and too much glue sniffed -- and his little charges are terrorized in to submission.
Ali had just been telling one of his little gang Kwita that he was off for the sea, and Kwita decides that just because his life was shit doesn't mean that he has to be buried like shit. Omar and Boubker his two companions are dubious about the goal, and it is no easy road to hold to as the days progress. The gang leader wants them back, they are constantly being chased out of their makeshift home on the docks, and they fight amongst themselves alot.
It is not always an easy movie to watch, there are several violent scenes that are pretty minimal when compared to your average shoot em up movie, but much harder to stomach. I can't imagine having to grow up under those conditions. But it is a beautifully shot movie, some amazingly lit scenes, and then interspersed with the occassional imaginings of Kwita done in chalk animation.
The kids too, are amazing to watch, at turns sad, laughing happy, taciturn, and downright mean and ugly. I wonder how much of it was acting, whether that was how they lived.