Saturday, November 2, 2013
Along with being one of the first films selected for Martin Scorsese's World Cinema project, Trances is a major positive step for Criterion for one big reason: it is one of two films in this boxset made in Africa. After nearly 700 spine numbers, Criterion has totally neglected what was formerly referred to in the West as the dark continent. Considering the rich history of cinema in places like Senegal and Morocco, where this film was made, this is one of the great holes in Criterion's catalog. Movies like Black Girl and The Iron Gate are great candidates worthy of full standalone releases, but there are most likely hundreds of other films worthy of spine numbers that I've never heard of and would love to see presented.
Anyway, Trances itself is an interesting and somewhat unconventional portrait of an excellent Moroccan band called Nass El Giwhane - if you enjoy the music here, I highly recommend their record Disque D'Or. The movie spends a lot of time watching them perform and rehearse, but there is also a lot about the culture and city surrounding them, especially the politics of the group. Based on the title, I was misguidedly expecting a psychedelic experience, like a North African Head. But what the movie turned out to be was less engaging cinematically but more fascinating in terms of who the band is. It's always interesting to see what pop is defined by in other parts of the world because there are so many differences while still retaining much of what is at the core of the musical experience.