Mimosas

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Oliver Laxe

Starring

Ahmed Hammoud Said Aagli Shakib Ben Omar

Anticipation.

Oliver Laxe’s follow-up to 2010’s You Are All Captains, which was pretty good.

Enjoyment.

Certainly unique, but perhaps a little too obscure to really hit home.

In Retrospect.

Packed with breathtaking moments, but will likely be lost on all but the most observant viewers.

A perilous religious crusade through the Moroccan countryside is the story which powers this challenging existential drama.

In 2015 the British artist and filmmaker Ben Rivers released the (excellent) feature, The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers, loosely based on a novel by Paul Bowles. In it, he began by filming the making of another movie being shot in and around Morocco’s Atlas mountain range, and his impressionistic doodle later mutates into a surreal fiction as it narrows its focuses to a single character, played by director Oliver Laxe.

The film that Rivers subsumed into his own was Laxe’s Mimosas which finally lands on the streaming platform MUBI after having premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Men pass car keys out to eager workers as they each jostle for a paid gig as a taxi driver. Out in the desert, where fares are likely few and far between. When the name Shakib Ben Omar is called, no-one steps forward, but the men say it’s okay as he can’t drive. But Shakib is given a special job, and as he begins to monologue about a clash between God and the Devil, the film segues into an extended reverie (or is it?) he is tasked with travelling a treacherous route with a nomadic religious sect.

When the sheik passes away, he and two other men must then transport his wrapped corpse to a Saharan trading outpost. Along the way they men bicker about the true nature of their quest, and Laxe captures these minuscule figures transposed against the vertiginous grandeur of the dusty mountain landscape.

There’s a touch of the Herzogs to this gorgeous and opaque film if you’re willing to read it as a parable about the literal transporting of religious fervour to far flung communities. There’s also an existential element to this journey, as the characters battle against ruthless elements which remain utterly blind to their spiritual cause. This becomes a test of faith for the men as events take a turn for the awkward, and it also becomes a test of faith for the viewer as the film seems to float freely into a more poetically obscure terrain.

Mimosas is a languid, lightly experimental affair whose central conceit remains rooted in myth and folklore. Visually, it’s often breathtaking, and Laxe has clearly plunged much time and effort into making sure the cultural details are spot on – the shawls, the pipes, the dialogue, the matted facial hair. Yet, it’s sometimes a little tough to comprehend what’s going on, and to what end this exciting, idiosyncratic filmmaker is driving towards.

Published 25 Aug 2017

Tags: Ben Rivers Oliver Laxe

Anticipation.

Oliver Laxe’s follow-up to 2010’s You Are All Captains, which was pretty good.

Enjoyment.

Certainly unique, but perhaps a little too obscure to really hit home.

In Retrospect.

Packed with breathtaking moments, but will likely be lost on all but the most observant viewers.

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