Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Vahina Giocante, Mohammed Khouas, Karim Ben Haddou, Edmonde Franchi
Written by: Ziad Doueiri, Mark F. Lawrence, from a book by Chimo
Directed by: Ziad Doueiri
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 89
Date: 11/01/2004
IMDB

Lila Says (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Sex Talk

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

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Ziad Doueiri's Lila Says opens with a girl's face. It's a shockingly beautiful face, and she coyly describes all her own best features. She dares you to look at the blue eyes, the soft, pale skin and the perfect blond hair. It's a bold opening, and it's only because of Vahina Giocante's performance that it works. Yes, she's gorgeous (she looks a little like the young Jennifer Connelly) but she has a force in her that allows her to pull this off, some kind of buried innocence under the playful naughtiness. Lila moves in with her aunt near a Marseilles ghetto, where an Arab community daily tries to make ends meet. She speaks only with Chimo (Mohammed Khouas), a sensitive boy with a talent for writing. The two get to know one another, and Lila flirts and shares stories of sexual conquest with him, while he can only listen, both shocked and mesmerized. Chimo's more abrasive friends don't understand this relationship, and things become more and more strained around the neighborhood. Doueiri, who worked as an assistant cameraman on several Quentin Tarantino films before making his remarkable 1998 debut, West Beirut, has an unerring sense of place as well as an ear for talk and silence. He cleverly narrates from Chimo's journal, using its perceptive and slightly distanced writing style to give the film its heart and add to Lila's mystery (the film is based upon an actual book by someone called Chimo). The story unfolds in an organic way, doling out information only as it's needed, and it finishes off as a well-constructed, satisfyingly sexy experience.

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