“Isabelle Huppert laughs!”, Could carry the poster of ‘Mama Maria’, like the mythical “La Garbo laughs!” with which Lubitsch’s ‘Ninotchka’ was advertised. In fact, the French actress had already laughed at her icy image in Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Elle’, which earned her a (dramatic) Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. In the film by Jean-Paul Salomé, he rehearses a familiar and close register in a deeply amoral character, as is everyone around him. The title in Spanish, a translation of ‘La daronne’ (the mother, the old woman), shows off a non-existent tone of funny comedy in a film that has more of intrigue than farce.
A widow with two daughters and a mother on the verge of dementia in a residence, Patience Portafeux (Patience Firebreaker, quite a name) works as an Arabic interpreter for the Parisian police. He spends the day among camels and maintains a loving relationship with the commissioner without taking the step of living together. The opportunity to get hold of a drug stash and put an end to her financial problems will make her Mama Maria, a drug dealer disguised as a Muslim woman who will flood the multiracial Belleville neighborhood with marijuana.
Salomé is not able to decide on the tone of the film, which never plays the card of the despendolada comedy nor does it catch as a thriller. The most wild and fun thing is the portrait of the Chinese community, obsessed by money and oblivious to the laws.
Interview Isabelle Huppert:
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