Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Knife in Moolaadé

Ousmane Sembene was a trickster. He knew how to lull you into believing you knew where he was headed or what he was after. Then he'd flip the film sideways, or take a turn you weren't expecting -- in regards not only to narrative (or, really, "storytelling" -- if anybody deserves to have that word applied to their plots, it's him -- him and maybe James Lee), but to editing, too. Like a man who slips a careful word into the middle of what sounds like a casual conversation, he'll slip a careful image into a film, and that image would brand itself into your memory.

Sembene was mostly a director of faces, of people talking or doing. His images are almost always of human activity. John Ford, I think, is the most apt comparison. But, out of all of his films, the image that sticks with me the most is a brief shot of a hand holding a knife from the last few minutes of Moolaadé. The knife is framed more or less in the middle of the screen, and the camera turns to follow. The gathered people are out of focus. The shot comes in the middle of a speech. The knife is used for female circumcision.

What sticks with me isn't the knife's menace, but its ordinariness -- too ordinary to even be considered banal. It looks like something you would peel potatoes with. The blade's got a little rust on it. The handle is worn.

1 comment:

sherine joy said...

its great..