Félicité (2017)

Director: Alain Gomis
Writer: Alain Gomis, Olivier Loustau, Delphine Zingg
Cast: Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu, Gaetan Claudia, Papi Mpaka, Nadine Ndebo, Elbas Manuana, Diplome Amekindra
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 23.10.2017

Félicité (Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu) earns her living as a bar singer. It’s there that she meets Tabu (Papi Mpaka), a flirt who drinks too much but also has a sweet side. When Félicité’s 14-year-old son has a motorcycle accident, she desperately needs to find a way to get some money to pay for his hospital bills. The search for money also makes her confront her past.

Félicité has a fascinating relationship with music and I did enjoy revisiting Kinshasa, but after the set-up the story veers off into a direction that left me a little cold.

It’s been almost 15 years that I was in Kinshasa, so it was nice to see the city again (even though most of what I recognized was vague and more atmospheric rather than very concrete) and the way the narrative unfolds is perfect for exploring Kinshasa and seeing how the people live there. If you’ve never been there, you’ll probably get a nice idea of the city through the film.

Mputu gives a magnetic performance and it’s easy to feel along with Félicité and her struggles. It was less easy for me to empathize with any of the other characters, making the film feeling a little thin and far from as engaging as it could have been. Though that might also stem from the fact that I just didn’t care for the whole plot surrounding Tabu which took way too much time from what I was actually interested in.

But hands down the best thing about the film was the music and the way it was used. They have a mix between modern Congolese music and modern and rather unusual classical music on the soundtrack and emphasize both by putting the musicians on-screen. In the case of Félicité who works as a singer, that’s pretty normal. But they also show the orchestra playing the classical score, without embedding them in the narrative in any way.

The result is a rather fascinating effect that probably won’t appeal to everybody but was the movie’s biggest strength in my book. Whether it was interesting enough to make the entire film worth it, I’m not sure though.

Summarizing: Can be worth a try but didn’t convince me entirely.

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