Min Ye (Tell Me Who You Are)

Time Out New York Project: Issue #732, October 8-14, 2009

[Author’s Note: This was an online-only capsule for Time Out’s 2009 New York Film Festival coverage.]

African auteur Souleymane Cissé’s first feature in over a decade is an astonishing Scenes From a Marriage-esque parable anchored by Sokona Gakou’s force-of-nature performance. She’s Mimi—one of two wives to filmmaker Issam (Assane Kouyaté)—whose liaison with a fishmonger (Alou Sissoko) sets in motion an exhaustive series of arguments, legal wranglings and power plays. The film is deeply rooted in the characters’ middle-class Malian milieu, something the digital video aesthetic makes more vivid and intimate, especially during some gorgeous chiaroscuro nighttime scenes. There’s no nose thumbing at Mimi and Issam’s conflicts, which ebb and flow according to the dictates of the society they inhabit (the law, inevitably, favors the man even as it’s clear that Cissé, the artist, favors the woman).  Whereas Ingmar Bergman brought his Scenes couple, Johan and Marianne, to a moment of transcendent respite, Cissé sees Mimi and Issam’s conflict as a thorny, near-unnavigable tangle. His beautifully bleak conclusion—visualized as a slow procession through a knotty, lush-green forest toward a vast, foreboding desert—suggests that only emotional desolation and spiritual barrenness await.—KU