Despite the teaser title, this is not a racist porn film. Haw to Make Love is based on an acclaimed semi-autobiographical novel by Dany Laferrière, a Haitian journalist who immigrated to Montreal in 1978. Laferrière — like the book’s protagonist, Man — writes to explode black sexual myths and to escape a life of poverty. Laferrière’s satirical treatment of a serious subject (racial stereotypes) helped make the novel a bestseller.
Even though Laferrière collaborated on the screenplay, the movie lacks the book’s punch. The casual approach of first-time director Jacques W. Benoit comes off as amateurish; there’s no irony or tension. Occasionally, however, Laferrière’s wicked wit cuts through. Isaach de Bankolé (Chocolat) invests Man with mischief and purpose. Man is amazed at how easily white women assume that mysticism, cannibalism and a big penis are part of the black man’s genetic code. But he’s not above exploiting their ignorance and curiosity to get them into bed.
Man and his African philosopher pal Bouba (Maka Kotta) use mocking names for women, like Miz Suicide and Miz Literature — no personal offense intended. The nicknames are just another example of the willingness of people to turn others — and themselves — into types. For all its faults, How to Make Love is a scrappy, socially alert film. Laferrière’s urgent message, however diluted on the journey from page to screen, deserves to be heard.