Asya, an artist in Manhattan, is in the bathroom at a benefit event when she learns that her childhood sweetheart, Faisal, has disappeared. Faisal’s fiancée, East European model Tatiana, informs her that Faisal’s family believes the CIA abducted him. That same night Asya meets Javier, a sexy Mexican PhD student studying law, and a romance blossoms out of a one-night stand.
In an exclusive nightclub, Faisal’s cousin Karim tells Asya to be careful as they might all be under government surveillance. Asya visits Faisal’s family to get legal advice and is offered some delicious petit fours. Then she goes to see an experimental dance piece with Javier.
One morning, whilst buying supplies in a Chinese grocers, Asya gets a phone call from her Paris-based mother who’s concerned that Beirut, where Asya’s brother lives, has just been bombed. Asya and Javier go to her cleaning ladies son’s police academy graduation party.
Out at a Harlem jazz club after her gallery group show, Asya goes to buy cigarettes with Karim where she learns that the situation in Lebanon has worsened and her brother must wait to be evacuated. Dancing in the jazz club, Asya tries to clear her head and Javier tries to help her. That night they argue.
Karim picks Asya up in his Lamborghini and they go get falafel in Queens. Asya deals with Jamal, an Egyptian cab driver, who pursues her for lack of hot Arab ladies. Tatiana loses the plot. Javier and Asya reunite. Everyone comes over to Asya’s studio for tea and a chat.
The seemingly unspoken (and underexplored) tension of the film lies in the disparity between how well-off and upwardly mobile the main characters are, in comparison to their besieged counterparts (friends, family) living in places like Beirut. Élodie Bouchez's low-key performance helps keep things moving. (And, surprisingly, its hipster quotient didn't bother me ... though maybe it would if I ever watched it again.)
With a title straight from Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise, The Imperialists! wears its cinéphile heart on its sleeve. Its characters inhabit a world of indie/alt art and underground fashion movida which could have been concocted by the love-child of Fassbinder and Almodovar, shot by first-time director Zeina Durra on 16mm handheld camera – a retro nod to John Cassavates (see full review http://bit.ly/dH5V2r)
"The finest Western you'll see this year is set in aristocratic 16th-century France, in the heat of Counter-Reformation," declares Nick Pinkerton