Dernier Maquis

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Cannes, Directors' Fortnight

CANNES -- This Mao doesn't have a little red book but, similar to the megalomaniac former chairman of China, he has grandiose designs. And, like his namesake, he exploits his workers to accomplish his glories.

Set amid a grim industrial Parisien netherworld, this Directors' Fortnight entry illuminates the vanity of a businessman who seeks to win the acceptance of Allah by erecting a mosque in his honor. In part,it's a noble design in that it will give his Muslim workers a place to pray and worship, but it's done at their personal expense: Mao pays them only subsistence wages, using the riches he gains from their labor for his religious grandstanding.

Filmmaker Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche has invigorated this insight into false religiosity with warmth and raw humor. "Dernier Maquis" is particularly powerful in its eruptive textures: blasts of industrial sounds, hideous landscapes and images of degradation incite our indignation over Mao's cruel megalomania. Unfortunately,the film's human impact is sometimes diminished by the over-arched tedium of the storytelling -- conversations stop as planes fly over -- which, unfortunately, dilute the film's impact.

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