16mm. Beautiful crystalline images of an ideological text that does not replace or overlap them but integrates it with an organic discursiveness. A great lesson from Jean Rouch, which is followed here with an autonomous non-imitative look, that at the same time constituted an initiatory stage in Black African cinema.
Powerful but fell flat on some aspect, particularly Diouna's character. It's good that her treatment under her employers wasn't done melodramatically, yet it was all too passive. She was passive, and that decision she made in the end felt too abrupt. Sadly, something like this still happens to domestic workers.
Visceral in its minimalist portrayal of an African woman's plight as a domestic servant for a bourgeois French family, early Sembène's gem captures a contemporary form of slavery without recourse to dramatic pyrotechnics, but, instead, far more effectively with careful denotations like the black mask on the white apartment wall. The diminution of an entire contintent to instinctual Being is delivered with conviction.
Seemingly blunt in its' message, La Noire De conveys the feeling of being 'noire' in France through the mask: the mask Diouana willingly yet unknowingly gives away. The mask that becomes the embodiment of her slavery in the house in France and the moments where, before the end, she claims it back to herself. As she says "it's hers" and "she was lied to". Frantz Fanon obviously at work here.
3.5 stars. Searing Brechtian cinema misrecognised as cinéma vérité. A compassionate and politically serious investigation into the difference between freedom in name and freedom in practice. I realised that I had been mispronouncing Sembène's name to my class - the kind of casual acting out of privilege embodied by the French couple. A film that teaches you to be on your toes against complacency.
BLACK GIRL seems at first like a fairly blunt embodiment of standard discourse around colonial appropriation of bodies and spirits, but does a tremendous about-face and becomes a stirring fable about spiritual resistance and reclamation. The final section of the film - in theory little more than an epilogue - turns the movie away from the standard prosody toward a deeply impactful poetry of overcoming. Sublime.
Those moments of glory, moments of beauty, moments of transcendence. I’ve called it pure cinema before. Moments of clarity, of honesty, of truth. I’ve had a difficult time deciding how to grade this, teetering between B+ and A-. It has a couple of those perfect moments. Is it enough? There are things that don’t quite work, but when it does work, it becomes profound.