With gangster cartels, a film set and violent politicians, Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya’s Very Big Shot has a strangely watchable identity crisis.
In The Lentil Soupby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
From François Truffaut’s Day For Night to Nanni Moretti’s recent Mia Madre, filmmaking has always proved a fertile source for film-buff directors. And with a filmed interview with Georges Nasr, Lebanon’s first director to screen at Cannes, there’s a cineliteracy to Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya’s Very Big Shot, as it charts the progression of small-time crook Ziad (Alain Saadeh) from murderer and drug-dealing gangster to film producer and finally politician. He’s aided and abetted by his two brothers Joe (Tarek Yaacoub) and Had (Wissam Fares), along with film director Charnel (Fouad Yammine), but it’s also a trajectory that takes place almost entirely in Zad’s attire, as tracksuit and vest give way to suits and shades and even by the end even shirt and tie. Unfortunately, the dramatic journey isn’t quite as smooth, as a tense first act of false confessions, a smooth underground drugs operation and a failed smuggling job give way to a satire on filmmaking and end abruptly with Ziad’s decision to enter politics. It’s a sideswipe at politicians no doubt, but coming out of nowhere, it’s a twist that feels underbaked. Even the second half with its gentle ribbing of the vanities and absurdities of cinema is strangely at odds with its previous gripping storyline. Filled with narrative threads and yet also strangely empty, Very Big Shot is disappointingly bipolar. Most coherent – as Ziad organises bombings for publicity – as a film on violence as a necessary means to achieve one’s goals. And as gangster turns politician, it’s a sad indictment of Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya’s homeland. Where cinema is just a means to an end.
Very Big Shot is now showing at the London Film Festival