Review: The Base
- Vadim Dumesh’s debut feature film is an unfiltered deep dive into the day-to-day lives of Parisian taxi drivers waiting on the rear base of Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport
"The whole of the planet comes to visit Paris, the most beautiful city in the world. And the first contact they have is with a Paris taxi driver." When it comes to airports, we’re only really familiar with the runways and terminals; all we think about, when it comes to taxis, are the queues and the more or less chatty journeys. But there’s a whole other world hiding behind this world, and it’s this highly surprising location - the rear taxi base at Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, an immense, incredibly lively non-place – which is explored in The Base, the first feature film by the director of Latvian origin living in France Vadim Dumesh. It’s a highly original and crudely authentic (filmed on a smartphone, often by non-professionals) deep dive, thanks to the director’s keen eye for detail, characters and meaningful atmospheres, which was unveiled in competition in a world premiere at the 45th Cinéma du Réel Festival.
"Paris is too hard, you can’t last the whole day… The only thing you can do to save yourself is come to the airport to rest." On the base, close to 900 taxis wait to be dispatched to one terminal or another. In the sky, planes take off and land without respite, while an entire micro-society kills time on this vast, open-air car park. They eat, clean their taxis, listen to music, play petanque, football, ping-pong, the trumpet or the guitar; they lift weights, read (The Stranger by Albert Camus), they share videos, they do a bit of gardening in the few spaces not covered in concrete, they talk about everything and nothing: about life, of course, but also work (the competition posed by private drivers, car credit, mobile phones which have changed everything, automation, adverts about vehicles, driverless cars in the future, etc.) and the passing of time ("this car park used to be unmade, no tarmac, no lights; we saw Roissy being built; we’ve grown old while Roissy has gotten younger, with its hotels, its blocks of flats"). The rear base is a world teeming with stories, linked, no doubt, by the fact they’re woven within the wires of immigration, because every single community is represented within this Tower of Babel of taxis, which is strangely reflective of the many destinations the aeroplanes travel towards in the blue or night-time sky.
Operating the camera himself, incognito, or using footage captured by Ahmed ("the gardener"), by the colourful Jean-Jacques and by Laotian Kham Yong, the director paints an incredibly rich, humanist and highly evocative composite portrait (despite its seemingly disconnected appearance) of a world which is wholly out of the ordinary and whose inhabitants are trapped between surviving the merciless spread of modernity and their somewhat melancholic resilience (some move house, some plant trees, some return to their roots). It’s a film which bears witness ("they’ll live on as memories – that’s how film stays forever, it’s an archive") and which sheds light on the past, listens to the present and ponders the future: "maybe driverless cars will end up telling the story. There won’t be any need for human beings anymore."
The Base was produced by Les Films de l’œil sauvage, in co-production with Vià 93, Le Fresnoy and Pictanovo.
(Translated from French)
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