"Malian filmmaker Souleymane Cissé is most renowned for Yeelen, an African epic that's as entertaining as Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings trilogy while engaging intellectually with its mythological sources," writes Kevin B Lee in Slant. "In only his second feature since, Cissé brings his critical acumen to bear on what amounts to another kind of genre picture: a marital melodrama between a wealthy couple entangled in a polygamous web."
"As the story sprawls and lurches like a soap opera through the expansive arc of its melodramatic plot points," writes the New Yorker's Richard Brody, "Cissé maintains patience, and even tenderness, for his self-deluding characters while depicting a wide array of underlying ills, including polygamous marriage, political corruption and cronyism, inflexible class hierarchies, and religious hypocrisy."
"During the Q&A for the film, Souleymane Cissé and lead actress Sokona Gakou remarked that with only one remaining movie theater in the country, just being able to make a film in Mali is something of a small miracle," notes Acquarello. "It is a responsibility to Malian and African culture that is not lost in Min Yè, a vivid panorama of contemporary middle-class life in Mali that eschews all too familiar images of stagnation, illiteracy, and poverty that often serve as scapegoats for enabling archaic customs."
"Not wry enough to make us laugh ourselves into a state of shocked awareness or straight-faced enough to deliver its message emphatically, Min Yè does not pack as much punch as its subject matter and running time would demand," finds Stephen Snart at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.
"Originally planned as a ten-hour miniseries, Min Yè seems to take some of its form and idiom from Malian television serials, with their lurid, twisting plotlines, expressive soap-operatics from their performers, and functionality as a popular platform for social debate." Leo Goldsmith in Reverse Shot: "Cissé packs in plot information in a manner that betrays the project's origins as a work five times longer.... But this comparative roughness is not the work of a sloppy, amateurish filmmaker - much less a primitive sensibility, as some contemporary Western reviews of Yeelen ventured when puzzled about the film's non-Western narrative structure.... With financing for feature films becoming increasingly unattainable for West African filmmakers (unless they have Danny Glover's help, as Abderrahmane Sissako did for Bamako), the more affordable forms of television and video provide new avenues for filmmakers to engage audiences, tell stories, and address issues on their own terms. Min Yè is not a perfect specimen of this, but it offers the rare chance to watch a master working in an idiom to which we are seldom exposed.
NYFF 09: Index; full coverage.