Amidst this stirring portrait of spiritual introspection runs a current of political malaise. It is most starkly felt though the stories shared by each of these houseless folk, laying bare the moral deficiencies at the rotten core of our social safety net, in a consumerist society obsessed with profit over public welfare.
There is something more than a little perverse about the release of this film at this particular moment. One need not lean too hard on its resonances in a year of sheltering in place, alone or in small numbers, accompanied only by a networked set of machines promising connection to a vast collection of media.
Its gender dynamics disorient the era Garrel is trying to convey. Is this a retro love letter to a bygone era when it was still possible for a bus stop meet-cute to blossom into a full courtship; when long-distance lovers unironically corresponded through postcards?
If one anticipates the declassification of the FBI reports on MLK, are we then complicit in the invasion of his privacy and the attempt to racially stereotype him? This film insists that what the FBI did to King is emblematic of what this country does when it fears those who might undermine its entrenched hierarchies.
Night of the Kings is a testament to a more inclusive future: actors are sourced not only from Abidjan but also from France and Burkina Faso, and the director pointedly serves us up a medley of western art touchstones and West-African traditions.
It comes as a relief that Francis Lee is not a punishing filmmaker. We are not made to observe Mary living out these well-documented instances of discovery and loss onscreen. Nor are we inclined to reduce her life to a quest for notoriety, foiled by Victorian paternalism.
Fire Will Come, with its single location and small cast, is a more focused work than Mimosas, but maintains a similar sense of possibility as the earlier film, of things unknowable to the viewer. What’s really important may be happening somewhere outside of the frame.
In adapting London’s novel, Marcello and his screenwriting partner Maurizio Braucci have transposed Eden’s story from turn-of-the-century Oakland to the coast of Naples, but they’ve also left the question of when intentionally unresolved, indeterminate.