- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : The Insult

| January 26, 2018

Do you ever want to feel artistically superior to all of your friends? Maybe you are tired of your friends talking about how great the latest action film is and want to sound better. Maybe you want to impress your date with obscure film trivia. Maybe you think that knowing a lot about film history and art will somehow validate your meaningless existence and will replace that ever-growing pit in your heart that tells you that you don’t matter and no one cares about you. Well, don’t worry! Because I watch a bunch of art house films and can give you recommendations on what to watch and what to feel superior about! So without any delay, let’s get pretentious!

When the trailer for this film was released, I was pretty much constantly rolling my eyes at it. It was promoting the director and a film he has made, which I haven’t heard of but that doesn’t knock its quality. Other than that it just listed a bunch of films nominated for Best Foreign Film in the past couple of years and boasted about this film having the same distributor. And that typically isn’t a good sign. But for a company that takes pride in its distributor, the sure did a botched up job with the subtitles. There was no outline or drop shadow on the subtitles and the film is very bright. This leads to the subtitles being difficult to read due to them blending into the picture. So if you by chance are distributing a film in another country anytime soon, please keep it in mind to back your subtitles legible.

So The Insult is the new film from Lebanon by director Ziad Doueiri, known for The Attack according to the trailer. The film follows two men in Lebanon, one a member of the Christian Party played by Adel Karam and one a Palestinian Refugee played by Kamel El Basha. The two get into an altercation, starting with Basha cursing at Karam, Basha then goes to apologize, Karem insults Basha’s heritage, then Basha assaults Karem, then the rest of the film is the court case between the two. I won’t say what the actual insult is, as that is clearly what the trailer is hiding. But given the fact that one is a member of the Christian Party and one is a Palestinian, you could probably put two and two together and get the picture.

The film can really shift what the audience’s opinion on the film depending on where the audience already lies in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. This is a very political film. And although it does attempt to give two sides, you can clearly see the filmmakers opinion on the matter. And if your opinion lines up or is different from the directors, you can easily either love or hate this film. My opinion on the matter is pretty in line with the directors, but I still had quite a few problems with the film.

The first problem is that the film lacks any real subtlety. I know how the court was going to rule and how the two would react within the first thirty minutes. And I knew this because they specifically make one side out to be almost villain like. And once the courtroom drama starts, it really follows all of those cliches. Which is also irrelevant because all of the arguments that are presented throughout are meaningless by the time they present the final piece. Because the courts’ decision is just in the one piece. It kind of makes the rest of the film just meaningless. And the film still ends as expected, making the film insufferably pointless. It’s just frustrating, given the fact that the film is asking a somewhat interesting question. That combined with the multiple scenes screaming, “Look! They aren’t so different!”, makes the film pretty eye rolling.

One of the positives is that the two actors who play the main characters are very good. Looking at their history, Adel Karam is very new to film acting as well as Kamel El Basha who is an established theater actor but is also fairly new to film acting. The two do a great job although they play annoyingly stubborn characters without much depth. There is depth to the characters but the film doesn’t give them nearly enough time for the performers to show talent with that depth. And what is worse is that around halfway through the main characters essentially shift from those two to their lawyers, who are far less interesting and far worse actors.

The film does get a bit interesting when the court case becomes known nationwide and the two are painted into being and having opinions they don’t have. Again, unfortunately, this is not explored nearly enough. But it was a bit interesting.

Overall, I’m a little surprised that this ended up being nominated for the Oscar, as it is one of the worst foreign films I’ve seen from this year. And it has many problems beyond its hard-hitting political message. There are a few positives for the film, but not enough to out warrant its major shortcomings. Maybe I’ll watch the filmmakers other film, The Attack, maybe that will be something worth checking out. But I’d say that this film is pretty forgettable and not worth your time.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.

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