Its June in Cannes and Naima has just turned 16. Her cousin Sofia has just turned up out of the blue from That Paris.
Sofia says at one point that she’s 22, but most of the time she’s cagey about her age. She has a permatan and pink collogen lips, and has “Carpe Diem” tattooed on her lower back (which Naima will emulate later in the film). When going out of an evening, she doesn’t take any money, because she can always find some man to pick up the tab.
Sofia is particularly fond of topless sunbathing, topless swimming, and most other things you can do with your top off. It is a bit of a surprize that its a female director who takes so many lingering shots of Sofia’s breasts. Maybe its saying something profound, but if it is, it passed me by.
Sofia soon finds some rich art dealers who take her aboard their luxury yacht. Sometimes she goes alone, sometimes she takes Naima, who spends most of the time wandering around playing gooseberry. Nonetheless, Naima is somehow drawn into the playboy lifestyle and away from her best friend Dodo.
There is one scene in which we see that Sofia isn’t as dumb as you might think. On a quick excursion to Italy she’s pressed to say what her favourite Marguerite Dumas’s book is. After initially stumbling, she suddenly comes up with an eloquent appraisal of several contenders.
What does this mean? A generous interpretation would say that it shows how Sofia is just a trophy to these rich men, who definitely do not want her to express any ideas of her own. Yet the film does seem to be wanting to have it both ways and is in thrall to the luxury lifestyle.
What it does well it develop a sense of anticipation that we’re leading up to something important – a resolution of the various tensions, or a cataclysmic fight. And yet it then just finishes just as quickly as it starts. Suddenly Sofia is no longer there. She later sends a letter from London, and Naima goes on with her life.
It is often compelling and there are some luxurious shots of Cannes, but it really doesn’t seem to be about anything at all. Sofia’s dalliance with the rich men – none of whom really seems to have any character of his own – is neither feted nor ridiculed, and it just carries on happening, until it doesn’t.
Its a shame as there are so many potential points of interest here, and not just the chance to eviscerate the super-rich. Naima and Dodo (and presumably Sofia) are obviously of North African background, and Dodo is also gay, yet none of this seems to be of any importance, even though this is the city that banned Muslim women from wearing what they want to on its beaches.
On top of that it contains a scenario which is fraught with danger, as a young girl joins a yacht owned by men who show utter contempt for the people who work for them. I spent half the film anticipating some horrific denouement, but it shies away from portraying the playboys as anything more than being a little bit up themselves.
Now, its not fair to criticise a film for not being something it never set out to be, but if it neglects to have much real content, it is reasonable to point out what’s there within its grasp. Naima’s mother cleans up after the rich, and her and Dodo’s ambition to become actors is a sense of a real alternative. But this is dropped half way through, and Naima is left to choose between Sofia’s life of precarious materialism and training to be a cook. Which is a laudable profession but it means that she will be following her mother in doing things that the rich can’t be bothered to do for themselves.
I did like bits of the film, but it felt to fall too far short in too many areas to ever be really satisfactory.