New Yorker Films // 2003 // 110 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // September 9th, 2005
"It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." -- Matthew 19:24
Frederica (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Tickets) should be a happy woman. She is in her early thirties, attractive, has a boyfriend she loves, and an apartment in Paris. She also has somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 million Euros, an inheritance from her wealthy industrialist parents who fled kidnappers in Italy to live in France when Frederica was a child.
But under the surface, all is not well for Frederica. Her proletariat boyfriend balks at her wealth, her siblings and mother are distant, and her father is dying in a hospital. Worse, the inheritance is beginning to gnaw away at Frederica, making her feel increasingly guilty. As a result, Frederica reverts more and more into her own fantasy world, creating elaborate dreams of a happy future that appears to be eluding her.
It is in this fantasy world that Frederica is most comfortable. She mixes her dreams for a simple future with elaborate memories of her childhood in Italy with her siblings. In this place of fantasy, Frederica finds a refuge from a life that is becoming increasingly paralyzed in the face of her new wealth and her relationships.
And these relationships are not good. Frederica's boyfriend, Pierre (Jean-Hugues Anglade, Taking Lives), is sweet and caring, but from a working-class background that has trained him to distrust the wealthy and their money. Her sister Bianca (Chiara Mastroianni, Hotel) has no compunctions about getting her share of the family fortune, and is constantly on edge around Frederica because of her behavior towards the money. Her mother (Marysa Borini, La Petite Chartreuse) cannot understand why Frederica won't simply accept the fact that she is rich. And finally her brother, Aurelio (Lambert Wilson, The Matrix Reloaded), is almost non-existent in her life, spending his time as an international traveler and playboy.
To complicate matters even further, Frederica has a chance encounter with an old lover, who was present in her life when times were simpler. As an antidote to the pressures around her in the present, Frederica begins a new affair with her ex-lover, Philippe (Denis Podalydès, Palais Royal!), who himself is now married with a child. Life away from her family and boyfriend is appealing, and this rekindled relationship begins to take on the same purpose of escapism as Frederica's fantasy life.
It's Easier for a Camel... is a film that is unlikely to satisfy anyone. The tone is so uneven that watching the film, the viewer is never sure what emotions it is trying to evoke. On one hand, the packaging of the film seems to indicate that this is an Amélie-like fantasy picture, rife with delightful dream sequences. At the same time, the film deals with guilt, broken and dysfunctional relationships, and the slow death of a parent. The viewer finds himself (or herself) unsure of how to react to the events being portrayed. There is little humor to be found, and much of the film is spent watching unhappy people in unpleasant situations.
Perhaps the greatest flaw with It's Easier for a Camel is the protagonist. There is little indication as to why Frederica would feel guilty about her inheritance, considering prior to this she has lived a family-funded bohemian lifestyle, spending her time ballet dancing and writing plays. Frederica seems to set herself up as a victim to her family's actions, but makes no effort to reconcile any of the relationships, and never seems to bother reconnecting with her father, even while on his death-bed.
It's Easier for a Camel is a film without clear direction or purpose. The viewer never learns is Frederica's fantasies are a reaction to her situation, or in some way contributing to her unhappiness. Her relationships are left without conclusion, and we never actually learn what becomes of her guilt. Some could claim that such neat conclusions are unlikely in real life, but a film that creates these questions should have the ability to answer them.
I will credit the director (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, doing double-duty here) for avoiding a Paris love-in that so accompanies French films following the success of Amélie. We only get glimpses of the tourist-oriented Paris, and what we do see of the Eiffel Tower or the Opera House is fleeting. Most of the film takes place in anonymous neighborhoods or cafes, which helps to eliminate distractions from a city as famous and recognizable as Paris.
For a recent effort, the video presentation of It's Easier for a Camel is a little disappointing. Although widescreen, the image is dark and not as clear as one would hope. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is French and Italian, presented with English or French subtitles. This is a movie that isn't going to challenge your audio set-up, but it does a decent job.
Extra features include a trailer and three deleted scenes. The scenes are in rough form and were obviously cut early in the production. Nothing much would be gained from them, so their exclusion only benefits the film.
Ultimately, It's Easier for a Camel... is not what it claims to be. Rather than a light-hearted fantasy piece, we are left with a confused and jumbled mix of depressed situations and unhappy people. It's Easier for a Camel would have benefited from a clear direction and a more-sympathetic heroine to root for. As it stands, this film is found "guilty" of all charges.
Review content copyright © 2005 Ian Visser; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Yorker Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French, with Italian)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Theatrical trailer
* Three Deleted Scenes