Lila Says (2004) from Tuna

Original French title: Lila dit ša

Lila Says is a second directorial effort from Ziad Doueiri (West Beyrouth), a coming of age story set in a Muslim ghetto in Marseilles. It focuses on Chimo (Mohammed Khouas), a 19 year old male. He feels trapped in his life, as do his three best friends. Unlike them, has a talent -- he can write. One of his teachers is prepared to get him a scholarship to a Paris school for promising writers, if he can write a book to submit. This movie is the story in that book as well as the story of writing it. It is, in fact, based on an anonymous and presumably autobiographical novel from someone who only identifies himself as "Chimo."

A local girl named Lila provides a subject for his book. She is 16, white, very blonde, and had been seen as aloof by Chimo's peers because she wouldn't give them the time of day. It turns out that she isn't aloof at all. Quite to the contrary. She approaches Chimo in a park one day, and offers to show him her pussy, and as they become acquainted, her talk remains mainly sexual in nature. For his part, Chimo is terribly smitten with this nymphet (Vahina Giocante) as was I, but he is not sure why she has chosen him for her flirtations, and is uncertain how to respond.

Chimo's peers are very jealous of the thought that Lila might actually like him, so they try to break up whatever might be going on, because they believe she is taking Chimo away from them, and because they would all like to bed Lila themselves. They go as far as accusing Lila of being a prostitute, or accusing her of only toying with Chimo because "he seems exotic" to her. At one point, they even hire a hooker (Barbara Chossis) to distract Chimo from his nymphet.

Meanwhile, Chimo's single mother also disapproves of the inter-racial relationship, although the closest the Lila and Chimo ever come to sexual contact is when Lila gives him a hand job while riding on her motor bike. Lila's family consists of a very strange aunt, who loves staring at her pussy, but is also deeply religious. At one point, Lila even tells her aunt that the devil appeared to her and made her give him head.

Eventually things go very wrong, and we learn the truth about Lila.

The film is so full of messages, it is hard to cover them all, but themes include the idea that you can rise above your position in life, that popular opinions are not always correct, and that sometimes your best friends can be the worst thing in your life. It is truly a coming-of-age story, in that Chimo ends up writing the story, escaping the ghetto, and gaining self-reliance. It is beautifully shot, and superbly acted, and I, like Chimo, was totally captivated by Giocante's Lila, and didn't even notice that I had spent two hours reading English subtitles.




From the plot summary, you would think it was full of nudity, but this was not the case.

Barbara Chossis shows breasts in the prostitute scene

The most we get from Giocante is pokies. We do see her character's crotch, and later buns, as she flashes Chimo, but both shots were brief, and pretty clearly a body double.

DVD (Region 1) Book (in English)

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $121,000 in the USA, never reaching more than six screens.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C+. Excellent offering for fans of foreign films.

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