More of a love story than a political drama, the “Anarchists” opened Cannes’ Critics Week in a low key fashion, with a hot leading couple but without any political or cinematic tensions.
With a title like that, one would expect that “The Anarchists” would deliver at least a blow to the establishment, or even sustain a political viewpoint as its context, if not its main theme. Elie Wajeman’s new film, following upon “Aliyah”, however, could easily be called “The Gold Rush”, “The Nail Factory” or “Parisian Love”, since the heroes happen only incidentally to be anarchists, in a film that is neither intended to narrate the evolution of the French political community at the turn of the century, nor to inspire (or reject) the anarchist ideals of denying the structure of power and established politics. Although “vive l’ anarchie” is an oft-repeated slogan throughout, the film is more involved with a star-crossed love and the beautiful close-ups of its protagonists.
In 1899, Jean Albertini, a young police officer, orphaned and ambitious, without any human ties that could hold him back, undertakes the mission of infiltrating a Parisian anarchist cell in order to expose its members to the police and be rewarded. Jean is smart, well-read and very charming. This is why his encounter with the equally sensual and fiery Judith, the girlfriend of the cell’s leader, leads to a secret and fatal passion, which however will not thwart his plan. The film’s characters and script are all based on real persons and their stories. However, their political views and frequent violent forays are described in a superficial and lukewarm manner while the people who are part of the movement never acquire any entity, depth or substance. As a result, their story does not attract any interest or sympathy.
Adèle Exarchopoulos, on the other hand, proves again that the “Blue is the Warmest Colour” was not just a firework. With a natural worldly charm and courageously facing the camera that focuses on her face, Exarchopoulos gives a wonderful performance, which is enriched simply by her being there. Cast opposite her is Tahar Rahim who, sensitive and dynamic, releases waves of energy that find a cozy harbour. In other words, the leading pair’s chemistry gives an interesting core to an otherwise indifferent film. To put it differently, “vive le sex appeal”!