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Wednesday, 01 April 2020

Copacabana : the crazy life of Babou

Light and funny with an underlying social criticism, Marc Fitoussi’s French film, Copacabana was screened on 5 December at Nile City cinema

Menna Taher, Monday 6 Dec 2010
Copacabana
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Views: 2363

Isabelle Hubbert stars as Babou, a free-spirited woman, whose daughter is embarrassed by her and even refuses to invite her to her wedding. Esmeralda, Babou’s daughter, who has been dragged along with her mother in her travels around the world, is looking for a stable life and a good education, something she has been denied all her life. The mother and daughter, two contradictory characters, seem in conflict because of their differences. The daughter is uptight and conservative, while Babou is a spontaneous life-loving character, who can sometimes get out of control. She tries hard to get her daughter’s approval but all attempts prove fruitless.

Esmeralda criticises her mother’s taste in clothes, comprised of colourful dresses, stockings and fingerless gloves, as well as her unstable lifestyle. Babou has no sense of commitment and goes from one job to another and from one country to another and even refuses to get involved in a serious relationship. Esmeralda also blames her mother for the education she received, something that  Babou  doesn’t quite understand and takes lightly like everything else. In one scene the daughter says she can’t go out because of her Latin class, to which Babou laughs and asks, “Why are you taking a Latin class when your field of study is modern literature?”

Though Babou takes everything flippantly, she doesn’t in regards to her relationship with her daughter, whose actions are hurtful and cold. In one scene she gives her daughter a colourful scarf to wear that she later finds under a coat on the  hanger. Hubbert plays the part perfectly by displaying disappointment in her daughter’s actions, yet still maintaining the spirit that tries to have fun whenever the moment presents itself.

Babou’s last attempt to prove her daughter wrong involves taking a sales job in Belgium, where she sells time-share apartments to tourists. There, she shares  a flat with her colleague, a grim-looking woman, whom she quarrels with all the time. With both of them in constant conflict, several humorous moments take place.

However, the core of the film’s amusing nature lies in Babou’s temperament. She over-reacts in some situations and is too natural and at ease with the world surrounding her, which makes her endearing. She throws candy on the shelf of a store  when the manager refuses to hire her, which is another source of embarrassment to her daughter as her boyfriend witnessed it. In another job interview she tells the interviewer to call her ‘Babou’, when her real name is Elizabeth which reminds her of the English queen.

Through her life as an employee, the film sheds light on the ruthless nature of the corporate world. Babou succeeds in selling apartments, yet is fired after offering an empty apartment to a homeless couple. This is a depiction of what the corporate world is built on, where acts of kindness are condemned in such a world. Unused lofty apartments are sold to tourists by sales people, who use tempting terminology to sell something that is excessive, while others are left on the cold streets looking for shelter. Babou’s act of kindness is somewhat naïve when contrasted to the corporate world depicted in the film.

As Babou takes life casually and enjoys it, something that looks fun and interesting in a film, can come off as unrealistic sometimes. Babou struggles to survive, yet things seem to always go smoothly for her, sometimes unrealistically so. The ending is a bit cheesy but the light nature of the film makes up for it. The Brazilian music in the film complements Babou’s joie de vivre and the film as a whole is entertaining. 

The  movie is competing in the International competition at the Cairo Film Festival and will be screened on 6 December in Galaxy and 7 December in Stars Cinema at 9:30 pm.

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