DISCO BOY Review: Decidedly Human, Nuanced and Stunning
Disco Boy, directed by Giacomo Abbruzzese, is about the search for independence and its subsequent consequences.
Aleksei/Alex (Franz Rogowski) is an illegal Belarusian immigrant in Paris, who enlists in the French Foreign Legion to legalize his stay. This trade has him cross paths with Jomo (Morr Ndiaye) in Nigeria, a man defending his delta from exploitation.
The last main character who yearns for freedom is his sister, Udoka (Laetitia Ky), who wants to leave the village for city life. It's a bit of a ghost story, too. Alex takes center stage, is plagued by his actions, his decisions, his debts.
Alex is the first one we meet as the audience, watching him cross a river into France. Disco Boy could absolutely not work with a French citizen as its main character. Consider the scene with an army of immigrants marching to the tune of 'je ne regrette rien.' It's an indoctrination of sorts.
Meanwhile, Jomo ponders what he would be if he had been born white "on the other side." His conclusion is the name of the film.
It is instead Alex and Udoka who get to dance at a Paris nightclub, and it's not what you expect. Dancing is key to the film, and somewhat eerie. The sound and lighting are superb.
Some scenes that stand out: the use of military thermographic cameras a la Zero Dark Thirty, the return to a river, the industrial smoke of the city mirroring the ruins of the burning village, Alex's nape. Disco Boy, in its narrative and in its visuals, is founded upon parallels: an immigrant and a man defending his home, choreography, siblings, heterochromia.
The movie comes to its ideological conclusion. To make another soldierly film reference, Disco Boy is not American Sniper. Alex has learned to play the game and realized it is a bad one. His journey does not come across as didactic. The nuance of him not stomaching the cost of his new status is appreciated, if the consolation with Udoka somewhat under-baked.
In short, a stunning piece with much to say, and decidedly human.
The film is now playing at Quad Cinema in New York City; it opens in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities on Friday, Februuary 9. Visit the official site for locations and other information.
- Giacomo Abbruzzese
- Giacomo Abbruzzese
- Cristèle Alves Meira
- Licia Eminenti
- Franz Rogowski
- Morr Ndiaye
- Laetitia Ky