La Vie Est Belle Review

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Chasing stardom, a wannabe singer, Kouru (Wemba), makes his way to Zaire's capital and washes dishes to pay his way. He and his married boss (Kasongo) fall for the same woman (Krubra) and a cat's-cradle of love worthy of Eastenders plays out.


Kouru (Wemba), an aspiring singer, hitches a lift from the country into Kinshasa with ambitions of becoming a star. Instead he gets a job washing up for Nvouandou (Kasongo), the owner of a music club. They both fail in love with the same young lady, Kabibi (Krubra), and the romantic tangle is further complicated when Nvouandou's wife Mamou (Nzunzimbu) embarks on her extra-marital affair.

A slight romantic comedy built around the musical talents of Papa Wemba, this is handicapped by a script which takes for granted the audience's affection for him. It's a dangerous mistake since his very passive Kouru is hardly a properly defined character, has very little dialogue and comes across more in terms of coyness than of country innocence. His relationship with Kabibi is presented as love, but that we have to take on trust as a simple function of the plot.

The film is largely redeemed by the music and Nzunzimbu's formidable Mamou who stays comically one jump ahead of her foolish husband at every stage. There are some interesting insights into marriage and feminism Zaire-style too, but the various elements don't add up to anything substantial and the "opportunity knocks" finale was grey-haired 50 years ago.

Lightweight - in terms of social comment and characterisation - look at love and hardship in Africa, which is lifted by muscial expertise and Nzunzimbu's performance