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The Crack Magazine

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Pacification

Director: Albert Serra

Stars: Benoît Magimel, Pahoa Mahagafanau, Marc Susini, Matahi Pambrun

Despite its thriller elements, this slow-burning drama from Spanish director-cowriter Serra plays like an oblique mood piece. Mangel is De Roller, the High Commissioner of an island in French Polynesia. His lofty title belies his true demeanour. De Roller, as his name suggests, is more like a nightclub manager than high-ranking civil servant, replete with white suit and flowery shirt, constantly charming and glad-handing everyone in his orbit, from the natives to high-ranking colonial politicians. A tacky nightclub is his unofficial headquarters and Shannah, a beautiful Trans dancer and club employee (a very impressive debut from Mahagafanau), is his most trusted confidante. Rumours of renewed nuclear testing by the military abound when an admiral (Susini) visits the island, and young women are spied boarding a rowboat, seemingly to visit the crew of a nearby submarine. Magimel is compellingly charismatic as De Roller, a character with whom it’s impossible to gauge where the front ends and real person lies – De Roller probably doesn’t know either. The languid pacing over a hefty two-and-a-quarter-hour running time will prove a challenge for some, but Serra maintains an unsettling tone throughout as it becomes apparent that De Roller may be out of his depth, with local resentment beginning to simmer beneath those welcoming smiles. Artur Tort’s vivid impressionistic photography bathes evening exterior shots in a beautiful, infernal red glow, and club scenes in an unnatural chilly blue.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm 

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