FILMSNAP: A film review that is 300 words or less.
Beauty and the Dogs plays out like a Tunisian I Daniel Blake that’s overdosed on the long take stunt of Victoria. It’s a well-intended and uneven flare-up of a film, condemning its country’s horrifying political and federal climate as a university student attempts to negotiate a tumultuous night.
This night is segmented into 9 long takes of varying lengths and degrees of outrageous injustice. The method works best at the film’s build – a group of girls, including Mariam (Al Ferjani, who portrays her character with both convincing initial charm and hysterical energy), get ready for a night of partying. Its mundane, but transfixing, the anticipation slowly but surely reaching a crescendo.
That this technique is used throughout, however, does Beauty and the Dogs a disservice. The fluid camera movements do less to contrast Mariam’s panicked state and more to diminish it, creating a tonal rift that prevents the film’s heavy themes of feminist corruption and police brutality from hitting quite as hard as intended.
If empathy goes amiss, however, that’s only for the sake of political rage. This is an angry film that provides Mariam with a series of horrifying hardships, that, if marred slightly by coincidence, stir enough hostility to accompany what Al Ferjani’s scintillating performance deserves.
It is when Mariam partners up with Youssef (Ghanem Zrelli), a man she flirts with at the party, and who attempts to help her survive the night, that Beauty and the Dogs truly impresses, carving out a complex moral niche. Director Kaouther Ben Hania gradually implies that Youssef’s intended help is an unwanted and extreme form of mansplaining, while a third act revelation muddies the water further. It’s a narrative anomaly affixed to an important film that is treated with less delicacy than required – but an important film all the same.