Magazine article Screen International

'A Violent Life': Cannes Review

Magazine article Screen International

'A Violent Life': Cannes Review

Article excerpt

Ambitious drama tracks the modern Corsican nationalist movement

Dir: Thierry de Peretti. Fr. 2017. 111mins

If you've ever wondered how a nice student from a good family ends up in a Marxist revolutionary cell bent on asserting Nationalist goals against encroaching Mafia-style powers-that-be, A Violent Life (Une Vie Violent), set in Corsican nationalist circles in the late 1990s, is an unsettling and convincing portrayal of the slippery slope of personal conviction.

The Corsican-born director imparts a powerful sense of place

The tight-lipped ancient codes of Corsica as filtered through the last few decades have been little explored on the big screen until now. An ambitious time-hopping tale cast with distinctive-looking but mostly little-known performers, Thierry de Peretti's second feature -- which premieres as a special screening in Cannes Critics Week -- will inspire think pieces in French media outlets and should find additional festival berths and maybe more thanks to a relentless accumulation of convincingly tense situations.

Opening words on screen explain that the citizens of Corsica have rankled against covetous and disrespectful outside influence since the island was sold to France by Genoa in 1768. In the 1990s political resistance faced lethal opposition from criminal elements as the tentacles of organised crime -- presumably abetted by respectable people in high places -- built up increasingly objectionable ways of putting pressure on local residents and resources.

And so, intent on preventing their beautiful island from going the way of Sicily or the French Riviera, certain people decided to fight back. Suffice it to say, their model wasn't Gandhi.

As the film opens in Paris in 2001, Stephane (Jean Michelangeli) seems to have a comfortable bourgeois life. But he's on the mainland for a reason and, against his mother's wishes, resolves to return to Bastia for a funeral.

The film flashes back to when Stephane was just a typical apolitical young man attending university. His path toward armed resistance began by being born Corsican, but intensified when he agreed to transport a duffel bag full of weapons for friends. Unfortunately the weapons in question were used in terrorist attacks and traced to him. …

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