Alternatives to ‘The Bat’ are where it’s at

Huda’s Salon

“Huda’s Salon” takes place in Occupied Palestinian Territory. Huda (Manal Awad) runs a hair salon in Bethlehem. Huda has been blackmailed into working for occupying forces. In turn she drugs select patrons and takes explicit pictures of them thus counter-blackmailing her prey to become informants.

“Huda’s Salon” a profound film from Hany Abu-Assad (himself the director of two Palestinian films previously nominated as best foreign film) explores covert underground organizations operating in secret yet in tandem between Palestine and Israeli society.

Huda is kind of a double agent but it doesn’t matter to the powers that be because she’s a pawn as surely as Reem (Maisa Abd Elhadi), the woman being compromised. Both actors raise “Huda’s Salon” to an exceptional level just as a character study. But the movie has more range.

From a certain angle the sexually provocative manner with which Abu-Assad films the opening sequence, while not out of place in a European or American film, flaunts its superior attitude to the majority of films made in the Middle East.

“Huda’s Salon” mainly unwinds like a thriller as each move the various characters make seem to exist in a world where nobody trusts anyone.

A lengthy interrogation that takes up most of the second half of the film suggests that “Huda’s Salon” could easily be adapted to the stage. In some ways the confrontation between Her and The Interrogator combines an uneasy yet mutually admittance that both sides are complicit in their need to decieve.

“Huda’s Salon” opens March 4 in select theaters and via streaming.

France

Léa Seydoux headlines in a character study of a celebrity news reporter. It’s a glamour role to be sure yet Seydoux doesn’t play coy like in the James Bond or Mission: Impossible films. Sedoux’s character France de Meurs defines a state of mind that adheres to modern culture. As long as France promotes the sameness that she reports she prolongs her popularity.

If “France” was more of a satire France de Meurs could be the Cate Blanchett reporter in “Don’t Look Up,” or even the Charlize Theron character in “Bombshell.” Under Bruno Dumont’s direction the film concentrates on her inner life while she attempts to maintain her swirling public persona.
Several excellent set pieces include a war zone as well as a Swiss sanitarium where France goes to chill.
The first name of a person also being a country may at first sound unusual but there are several examples: for instance actor America Ferrera.

France’s life changes after she accidentally hits an impoverished person with her car. France literally seeks forgiveness with the family and progressively alienates her husband, Her child is a brat so the viewer is not exactly in his court.

People ask France on the street if she’s right or left. It turns out she’s neither. France is looking for greater meaning in the meaningless world she inhabits.

“France” is available for streaming on all major platforms.

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