Satin Rouge

"Very Good"

Satin Rouge Review


Midlife crisis, or transformation, need not be portrayed with so much energetic gusto that you're as exhausted as a lead character that has most likely gone through innumerable, outlandish loops to learn something really important about his or her relationship to the outside world. The standard plotline involves the average Joe or Jane excitedly exploring a new avenue they were once too afraid, or ashamed, to travel. Having, of course, lived selflessly (especially if it's a female character), said protagonist ventures down the new path amidst the cries of surprise from loved ones, only to see their companion sow their wild oats and return to their first condition, happier for having at least tried. Sometimes this works, like in Shirley Valentine, but far too often we end up with more forgettable Julia Roberts schlock.

Raja Amari's Satin Rouge thankfully shies away from these clichéd moments of an adult's changing self-perception, especially since the main character is a woman and this is not a story often told. Possibly too self-consciously paced to evoke the well-balanced miniature progressions, the Tunisian film allows Lilia (Hiyam Abbas) to become slowly enraptured with the appeal of dancing through the guidance of veteran Salma (Hend El Fahem). While maintaining a laissez-faire single motherhood, each dimension of this subtly woven renewal story has a pleasantly simple purpose, instead of being a grocery list of the redundant when watching a character grow.

Particularly intelligent for the first time writing and directing a project (and at only her second feature film), Amari keeps a delicate eye to simplicity throughout the course of Lilia's emerging lifestyle. Her wavering, little rebellions and internal struggles appreciably coincide with her responsibilities as a widowed mother and seamstress. She's not exploring this supposed vice because she's lacking attention, or in need of a drastic change to steal herself from depression. Because the opportunity to learn the talent of dancing comes through accidentally following her daughter's whereabouts, you also don't get the impression that she's attempting to escape some burdensome load. Trying something out of character for the sake of just that is so seldom portrayed on screen, without some reactionary motivation that someone gets punished for, that Satin is a welcome blessing.

Perhaps the best pacing evolves through Lilia's small changes. Everyday details like shoes or a new dress, become just the slightest touch more attractive, but the bigger picture remains the same. Her living environs and the rest of the city maintain a clean, almost anesthetic, feeling, which assist in blocking out the possibility of judgment from Amari, or the audience, as to Lilia's actions. Lilia isn't going from prostitute to New Woman of the 1990s a la Pretty Woman, she's basically restructuring her life in natural waves that are interesting to watch.

Satin Rouge is not a new, or inventive, journey, but it's encouraging to see a three-dimensional, average, middle-aged woman's experience of self-discovery handled with such sensitivity.

Shake it, baby!



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: ADR Productions, Nomadis Image

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Hiam Abbass as Lilia, as Salma, as Chokri, as Folla, Faouzia Badr as Lilia's Neighbor, Nadra Lamloum as Hela, Abou Moez El Fazaa as Cabaret Owner, Salah Miled as Uncle Béchir

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