Sunday, January 30, 2011
Movie Review: Cairo Time (2009)
Cairo Time is a tender, old-fashioned romance, presented at a leisurely pace and finding the right balance between two journeys of exploration, one emotional and the other cultural.
Juliette and Mark had promised that they would only visit the pyramids together; but with the simmering attraction between Juliette and Tareq threatening to erupt into a full romance, Tareq escorts Juliette to the pyramids at sunrise, in what seems like a prelude to consummating their romance.
Cairo is the catalyst for the tale of unexpectedly emerging attachment, Juliette gradually falling in love with the City just as gently as she finds sparks building in her relationship with Tareq. Patricia Clarkson is steady at the core of the film, but almost too cold. Director Ruba Nadda's script rarely requires Juliette to do much more than nervously smile as she awkwardly navigates the next cultural hurdle. Alexander Siddiq is a more magnetic screen presence, and has a more interesting role as the host who needs to maintain the politeness of a generous tour guide, introducing Juliette to a foreign but welcoming culture while confronting the undeniable attraction growing between them.
Cairo Time has vague echoes of Romeo and Juliet, with its two unlikely lovers from different tribes battling against cultural barriers. The film also works as an interesting metaphor for political relationships between East and West: the unexpectedly deep involvement of the West in the affairs of the Middle East typically ending with aching hearts. When Juliette, based on the most meager of information and with little knowledge of their history, encourages Tareq to pursue a new relationship with Yasmeen, who is of a different ethnicity, it is difficult not to notice the parallels with the often ill-fated US meddling in the region, undermined by limited comprehension of local customs and intricacies.
Overtones aside, Cairo Time is a welcome throwback to old-school film-making, where characters and locations are the main focus, and romance is given the necessary time to blossom in the most unlikely places.
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