Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Heading South

Movies set in the Caribbean are rather far and few between (leaving aside Pirates of the Caribbean) but one that's garnered good reviews should really be better known - Heading South by the French director, Laurent Cantet, stars Charlotte Rampling and explores the topic of female sexual tourism.  In the late 1970's three white women travel to an idyllic beach hotel in Haiti and find love or, at least, lust with the young Haitian men they meet there.  They find one young man, the interestingly-named, lithe and handsome, Legba (Menothy Caesar), particularly attractive.  In the Haitian vodun pantheon, Legba is the guardian of the crossroads and the intermediary between the loa and humanity and is often depicted as an old man leaning on a crutch.  By naming his young character after Papa Legba, Dany LaFerierre, the author of the short stories on which the film is based may have wanted to signal his character's position as bridging the gap between the artificial, paradisiacal world carefully contrived for visitors by the hotel where they're staying and Haiti's grimmer realities.  In West Africa, however, Legba is usually portrayed as young and virile so LaFerierre may have wanted to reference both his youth and virility as well as his role as an intermediary.


At first,  the 55 year-old Ellen (Charlotte Rampling) is willing to share Legba with the recently-arrived Brenda (Karen Young) who had sex with the then 15 year-old Legba three years ago and experienced the first orgasm of her life.  She's been unable to get him out of her mind since and has returned, impelled by motives she, herself, is not clear about.  But Legba can escape the realities of life under the Duvalier family only for so long. 

This is a clever and nuanced movie definitely worth watching.  (As an aside, I tried to find out what has become of Cesar since the movie but my Google search yielded few clues except that he now lives in Europe and appears to have had a bit part in Pierre Scholler's 2011 political drama, The Minister.)

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