Directed by: #BurriTakaBolalima
After being mysteriously expelled from her parents’ house, 16-year-old Vivian (Catherine Fri) arrives in the city of Bamenda to live with her grandmother, Ma Granni (Rose Fulia), and to register at the local university. Shortly after arriving, she meets a commercial bike rider, Ben (Burri-Taka Bolalima), who soon becomes obsessed with the young woman. And, after her grandmother falls ill, Vivian must find a way to pay for her college tuition. Luckily for her, Ben is both able and willing.
Once again; for the second time in recent days, here’s another film in which I have really disliked almost all of the characters. It’s a shame, because apart from a few weak, what I presume to be, voiceover artists, the performances are pretty good, with Catherine Fri giving an outstanding central performance as Vivian. Unfortunately, it’s so hard to connect with, or feel anything for, any of the characters, as almost none of them have any redeeming qualities, either by design or by accident - a fact not helped by a lacklustre script, poor translation in the subtitles and terrible sound design/quality.
The visuals, on the other hand, fare considerably better, with Burri-Taka Bolalima’s cinematography ably capturing the richness and vibrancy of Cameroon’s cities and landscapes. Only the editing causes problems here: there are a few scenes which seem to cut out a little too suddenly. It’s not a big problem on its own, but Cutlass is a film which can come across as incoherent anyway; a random string of scenes, many of which don’t seem to correlate with either the previous or following scene. And so this sloppiness only adds to the lack of cohesiveness.
Again, it’s more disappointing that it is inherently bad because the story here is pretty good. Things that don’t get immediately explained do get resolved satisfactorily, there are plot twists that you may not see coming, and everything does, eventually, come together quite well. But at almost two hours in length, it’s not concise or articulated well enough. It took an awful lot of picking through an awful lot of filler – including a randomly placed, seemingly inconsequential rape scene – to piece together the parts of the film that actually contribute to the narrative - the moral of which seems to be that all women are interested in is a man’s money.
It’s a shame I couldn’t get more on board with Cutlass, as there’s an abundance of talent involved here, particularly from its core actors. And it’s great to see a director take on other roles and do such an excellent job in most of them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, and the long-winded story failed to engage me fully; after an hour, it all felt rather monotonous.