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In a poor Arab neighborhood, the nineteen years old Chimo lives alone with his mother and is a talented natural writer. His school teacher offers him the chance to study in Paris, inclusive with a letter of recommendation, but his mother can not afford and Chimo stays. His three best friends are completely losers and scoundrels. When the shy Chimo meets the gorgeous and sexy new-arrival in the ghetto Lila, who lives with a deranged aunt, his gross friend Mouloud falls for her. However, Chimo becomes close to Lila, who seduces him with her sexual games, telling him about her perverted sexual experience. The inexperienced Chimo falls in love for her, but he does not know how to declare his love for the girl. When Mouloud sneaks and listens to a private conversation between Lila and Chimo, he concludes that the girl is a whore, with tragic consequences. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
"Lila Says (Lila dit ça)" is the freshest and most original update of "Romeo and Juliet" since "West Side Story."
The transgressive nature of their relationship is dealt with much more explicitly, both in their differences and their sexual attraction. Parallel to "À Tout de Suite (Right Now)" as a relationship between a Polish blonde, "Lila," and an Arab teen, "Chimo," and both being based on putatively true stories, it has far more passion and gets us right into their heads as these two most unlikely soul mates find each other.
Lila's sudden appearance in the vividly shown immigrant slums of Marseilles stands her out immediately, like "an angel" she claims and she is clearly fascinated by his "olive skin." They each reach out counter to their culture and tantalize taboos -- he eschews macho aggression for transfixed listening, while she is quite literally a C.T., with arousing sexual descriptions pouring out of that potty pouty mouth very much like a modern day Scheherazade in an Arabian Days, particularly on one quite memorable bike ride.
We see more and more how this odd relationship becomes a haven for them, as she is an orphaned victim of sexual abuse who has learned the power of being seen as a Lolita fantasy object and he is surrounded by, as he calls them, "losers", frustrated by unemployment and post-9/11 suspicions. They start having an effect on each other as they learn to trust each other in one of the most tender evocations of first love amidst a way too sexually and politically charged environment.
She has a disturbed relationship with her female guardian, while "Chimo" has an unusually supportive and warm relationship with his mother, who was abandoned by his father's attraction to a Frenchwoman, which may explain why he is so much more sensitive than his rough and resentful friends.
When the pair's tentative pas de deux, however, starts to touch other people as they challenge expectations, he when he is faithful to her despite her challenging language of temptation and she by openly mocking the link between sex and religion, they incite jealousies and hysteria that build up in horrific speed to an unexpected tragedy and revelation that has incredible force and power.
It is somewhat of a cliché in the young immigrant love genre that "Chimo" as the narrator is struggling with being a writer, but his talent and insights fit both sweetly and dramatically into the storytelling.
Vahina Giocante, as "Lila," shifts amazingly from brazen flirt to demure school girl, while Mohammed Khouas, in his debut as "Chimo," is captivating and heart breakingly believable, both in his early naive curiosity and in his later growing maturity.
The editing is terrific at matching their emotions, with tight close-ups when they are together, and encompassing mise en scene shots of their environments when they separate.
The music selections well match their different backgrounds and coming together.
This is an exhausting and exhilarating look at young love and life lessons.
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