The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Jean-Pierre Dardenne

REVIEWED: 11-29-99

As demonstrated by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's La promesse, Patrice Toye's Rosie, and even Benoît Mariage's comic The Carriers Are Waiting, when it comes to the bleak fate of the post-industrial underclass, Belgians moviemakers don't waffle. An exception might be the Dardennes' latest film, in which a waffle stand serves the same function for the truculent, hard-pressed title heroine (Emilie Dequenne, winner of the Best Actress award at Cannes, who looks like Irene Jacob's stocky sister) that the bicycle does for the unfortunate thief in Vittorio de Sica's masterpiece. The Dardennes also indulge in the hand-held contemporary version of neo-realism, chasing after dogged Rosetta in Dogme 95-like vérité as she scurries from briefly held jobs to her trailer-park home where her alcoholic mom (Anne Yernaux) gives the ogre-ish superintendent blow jobs for booze.

Rosetta, however, refuses to be a victim; ferocious and determined, she believes all she needs to rise above this misery is a friend and a steady job, and fate offers her a choice between the two when she stops at that waffle stand. A controversial winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes and a ruthlessly efficient film, Rosetta is nonetheless pessimism without point. When the forces of dehumanization are so faceless and all-powerful and its victims so debased, tragedy becomes entomology. Rosetta has spirit, but no soul.

--Peter Keough

Other Films by Jean-Pierre Dardenne
La Promesse

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