Around here in these parts, we just love social commentary. And when social commentary is somehow embedded in a movie, so much the better. So, when we came across the trailer for the Jean-Claude Fayolle movie Pataswèl (best translation we could think of for the movie’s title: Pimp slapped), we were so excited.
The movie’s trailer was enticing enough: a 60ish (or perhaps even 70ish) man, living in Montreal, Canada gets himself a 40-something wife. If you’ve read Michel S. Laguerre’s book American Odyssey, which is a social study of Haitians living in New York in the 1970s-1980s era, you probably have had a preview of this sort of social dynamic. Haitians living abroad, especially Haitian men, see a photo of a particularly attractive relative of a neighbor, or a friend, then they get hit by the Caribbean love cupid, and have to go to Haiti to marry. Usually the swept-over-her-feet bride is usually a stunning woman, who, if it had not been for the groom’s overseas-living status, would never have fathomed being with the groom. Money, or the illusion of money, and status, changes everything.
Filémon Marc Antoine—played by the quite capable actor Numa Innocent—is such a groom. A long-time resident of Montreal, he marries Mireille (Maggie Volant). Apparently, Mireille just wanted to move out from the Haiti’s sun and do a quick exchange for life in Montreal. Why else would she marry a man who’s nearly twice her age (or at least looks it), and a man who she feels is her intellectual and social inferior? But her obvious contempt for Filémon makes a turn for the worst, and transforms to abuse.
A long-time female friend of Filémon’s (Yanick Dutelly) tries to mold some sense into Filémon (perhaps she’s silently been burning for his love), but he’s too smitten with Mireille to be reasoned with. Meanwhile, Mireille’s equally pretentious friends are pressuring her from all corners and egging on her deplorable actions. Not surprisingly, Mireille is repulsed by the hefty, hippopotamus-like Filémon, and has a side thing going on with the notorious neighborhood daddy mack/mack daddy Brando (Marlon Charles), but he’s got a surprise of his own for her.
Fayolle is the director of the well-celebrated Ti Lòm a L’etranger (alternative title: Ti Lòm aletranje), a movie that explores the assimilation of an illiterate Haitian immigrant in Montréal, and that is recognized by some as the first known full-length feature film made by a Haitian out of Canada, so he is certainly venturing into familiar territory with this film. The movie leaves a lot to be desired in some areas, especially in terms of cinematography. But the acting is convincing (Fayolle himself has a long history in the theatre in Canada), and the subject matter very well handled. The music by Marco L. Volcy gives the movie a certain atmosphere and the script, which Fayolle co-wrote with Naika Pigniat is very astute, and literate.