RuN-TiMe - 99 minutes
Genre - Intelligent comedy
Cert - 12a
Blame in on Fidel probably contains the best comic performance by a female child actress I have seen, Nina Kervel-Bey sensationally smart and aware yet innocent comic turn something to behold in this enjoyable and intelligent comedy from France. She is adorable as she is feisty and the film well worth renting just for her. I know foreign films are not everyone's taste, French ones tending to be very conversational and serious and spent waving away high tar cigarette smoke and endless subtitles, but this one is something you should take a look at as it is different.
Nina Kervel-Bey ... Anna de la Mesa
Julie Depardieu ... Marie de la Mesa
Stefano Accorsi ... Fernando de la Mesa
Benjamin Feuillet ... François de la Mesa
Martine Chevallier ... Bonne Maman
Olivier Perrier ... Bon Papa
Marie Kremer ... Isabelle
Raphaël Personnaz ... Mathieu, le marié
Mar Sodupe ... Marga
Gabrielle Vallières ... Cécile
Raphaëlle Molinier ... Pilar
It's the early 1970s and 9-year-old Anna de la Mesa (Nina Kervel-Bey) lives a spoilt life in Paris, a proper little princess, aspiring to her mum's ideals, Marie de la Mesa (Julie Depardieu), a fashion journalist for Marie Claire. Dad Fernando (Stefano Accorsi), a Spanish born lawyer, doesn't really embrace the bourgeois lifestyle and is soon inspired by his family back in Spain who are politically active against the fascist Franco regime. When Allende grabs victory in Chile, Fernando decides to throw in his job and become a liaison in France for Chilean activist, the whole family up-sticking and moving to more frugal lefty digs in another part of the city to save money, his wife, rather surprisingly, agreeing to the life changing move and the shift to the left.
Little Anna is less than impressed, the house soon full of beatniks and feminist, mum deciding to do an article on women's rights and abortion now she is converted to the revolution. Anna is confused with the dizzying array of philosophy and ideology being preached to her, in school and at home by her various ethic flavoured nannies and dads new friends, now that her family have completely abandoned their capitalist lifestyle. Everything from communism to Catholicism, Greek to Asian mythology is discussed in smoky rooms, which Anna must reconstruct to her own set of confused beliefs, exposing her parents hypocrisy, stereotyping, misinformation and false idealisms in the process being fully exposed. Anna looks at it logically - why would her parents want to help people with little going for them to be able to live the lifestyle her family have just turned their backs on whilst her family go the other way and live the peasant life?
In the summer holidays Anna is shipped out to live with her grandma Bonne Maman (Martine Chevallier), grandma less than impressed with her daughter's socialist transformation. Anna is happy there and can be the girl she wants to be, the countryside the freedom. But home is home and when she returns she is determined to understand why her parents are doing what they are doing and maybe some interaction with the revolutionaries is the solution to her many questions on what her role is supposed to be in all this...
Not surprisingly a film with Fidel in the name didn't go down well in America, making just $9000 on opening weekend. But Americans are insular soles and so don't watch films that are smarter than them and so don't let that box-office put you off watching what is a refreshingly clever and sophisticated European comedy.
It exposes that middle-class hypocrisy of being all socialist and radical at college and wanting to live a guilt free life and then doing the exact opposite when the graduate into the real world, a wasted rebellion that was really about sexual freedom and the right to smoke pot without feeling working-class. Going about that in a comedy is the best way as movies on this type of lifestyle can get rather heavy and boring pretty quickly, Motorcycle Diaries an example of.
The support cast are excellent to support the smart and clever script and the film never sags as little Ann comes of age, a compact 99 minutes short enough for the story to tell to keep you interested throughout. The soundtrack is also good and the films final message that capitalism always wins not exactly a revelation. All I can say is that if you rent or tape foreign films then this is perfect for you.
The Independent - "A smart, amusing take on some serious issues that's fortunate in its excellent young leading lady and its ability to laugh at its own political excesses".
Time Out Magazine - " What makes this film a real gem is Kervel's brilliant performance, personifying this stage of growing up with a perfect balance of bratishness, bright intellect, humour and innocence. She's a revelation"
The LA Times - "The director Gavras does not impose a political viewpoint upon her material, but respects the convictions of her various characters"
The Boston Globe - "It's all too easy to read Blame It On Fidel as a simple morality tale, an allegory comparing conservatism to childishness, and political awakening to emotional maturity".
Imdb.com - 7.6 out of 10.0 (1,546 votes)
Rottentomatos.com - 74% approval rating by critics
Metacritic.com - 93% approval rating by critics
The film centres around Anna, a feisty young French girl forced to make substantial changes in her day to day life and her perception of the world, as a result of her parents devoting themselves to radical activism. Anna's father is fighting to redistribute wealth in Chile, while her mother researches a book about the experiences of women choosing abortion. Anna must adjust to moving to a small flat, relinquishing her divinity classes at school, having a number of changing nannies and living amongst the comings and goings of her father's revolutionary friends. Anna tries to quantify her world, and the ideologies presented by people in it (from communism to Greek mythology, Vietnamese folktales and Catholicism).
Blame it on Fidel is a charming film about a young girl's stuggle to grow up amidst a confusing adult world of ideological contrast. Anna is played beautifully and the character cleverly explores the typical worries of a school-child with quesions about the meaning of life. The adult roles are less well defined and it can be confusing at times as to the beliefs and ambitions of the adult characters. Overall however, this was an enjoyable film with an original story told well through the eyes of a child.