French actor-turned-director Gael Morel (AT FULL SPEED) uses the combative but balletic Brazilian martial art of capoeira — the "slave dance" of the title — as a metaphor for the uneasy relationships among three handsome brothers who live with their widower father in the picturesque Rhone-Alpes district of France. Divided into three chapters, each devoted...read more
French actor-turned-director Gael Morel (AT FULL SPEED) uses the combative but balletic Brazilian martial art of capoeira — the "slave dance" of the title — as a metaphor for the uneasy relationships among three handsome brothers who live with their widower father in the picturesque Rhone-Alpes district of France. Divided into three chapters, each devoted to a different sibling at a pivotal point in his life, the film begins with Marc (Nicolas Cazalé), a troubled young man whose volatile temperament is exacerbated by heavy drug use. With his head and body shaved smooth, Marc spends his afternoons at the gym or hanging out with his friend, Hicham (Salim Kachiouche), a capoeira enthusiast who also serves as a liaison between Marc and his drug dealer, Montana (Nicholas Paz). Hicham warns Marc that Montana isn't going to wait much longer for the money Marc owes him, but Marc refuses to pay up, insisting that Montana's been ripping him off. Montana and his thugs, however, soon catch up with Marc and punish him by forcing him to kill his own beloved dog. In the second section, Marc's older brother, Christophe (Stephane Rideau), returns from prison, determined to get his life back on track. He begins by refusing to help Marc avenge his dog's death, which drives his unstable brother deeper into drug use and isolation, then applies for a job at a local meat factory. Christophe's attempts to restore order at home, however, are only met with the derisive anger of his father (Bruno Lochet); as frustrated as he may be with Marc, his father can't forgive Christophe for getting into trouble while his mother was dying. In the final and strongest segment, Marc and Christophe's sensitive, 17-year-old brother, Olivier (Thomas Dumerchez), learns to move past his mother's death and define himself outside the long shadows cast by his siblings. At first alone with nowhere to turn but his dead mother's photographs, Olivier soon finds a friend — and eventually, a lover — in Hicham, who teaches "Olive" capoeira. Through the "slave dance," Olivier finds freedom. Cowritten by Morel and Christophe Honore, who previously adapted Georges Bataille's notorious novel Ma Mere for the screen, this has got to be the most homoerotic film since Claire Denis' torso-adoring BEAU TRAVAIL (1999). No matter that the setting is one of the most picturesque on the planet: Cinematographer Jean-Max Bernard's camera would much rather linger on all the skin and muscle Morel contrives to put on display.
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