Three Dancing Slaves

A triptych of stories about three brothers is the subject of Three Dancing Slaves. Writer/director Gael Morel (Under Another Sky, Full Speed) shows how three very different brothers deal with the death of their mother. They are 'slaves' in that they are bound to her memory and their domineering father, and they are 'dancing' in that they may be moving, but sadly, do not appear to be going anywhere. It sounds a lot deeper than it actually is. In actuality, Three Dancing Slaves meanders a lot, and favors ambiguity over definition. And there are lots of shots of shirtless men.

The random feeling that Morel and co-writer Christophe Honore (Ma Mere, Novo) is purposeful; here are three guys with not much going on in their lives. They do what most bored guys do; kill pets, join gangs, have sex with transsexual prostitutes, and get jobs in meat factories. Okay, maybe not, but Morel and Honore do establish a sense of chaotic rhythm. When young men have nothing to do, their lives will probably take a turn for the worse, and that comes across clearly.

The rest of the film is not as fortunate. It is a bit too sparse with its plot. At its worst, it feels like softcore gay porn because of the emphasis on the male body (often in various stages of undress). The strongest performance goes to Nicholas Cazale (Under Another Sky, Bella Ciao), partially because he is the actor with the most emotional ups and downs, and partially because he gets close to being electrifying on screen. Marc expresses his emotions through anger. He owes a large sum of money to a drug dealer, a conflict which ends pretty gruesomely. Christophe (Stephane Rideau, Come Undone, Far Away) is the oldest and most levelheaded. He is fresh out of prison, and gets a job at a meat factory in order to bring order back into his life. He is the only family member who seems to want this; everybody else rebuffs his efforts.

The youngest son, Olivier (Thomas Dumerchez), retreats within himself and pictures of his mother. Eventually, he meets and falls in love with Hicham (Salim Kechioche, Criminal Lovers, Full Speed). The Olivier segment is the last and shortest, and the only place in which Three Dancing Slaves seems to coalesce into something meaningful. Olivier is the only person who is successful in his attempts to move forward, mainly due to his relationship with Hicham. Aside from sections of Cazale's performance, the Olivier segment is the only time that the viewer feels any real emotion in the film. If more of Three Dancing Slaves were like this, then Morel would have a stronger film.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 30 minutes, French with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains nudity, sexual situations, language, and violence, probably a hard R.

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