Québécois writer and director Ruba Nadda favors stories that deal with love between Muslim and non-Muslim and her latest film CAIRO TIME follows that path - to an extent. According to Nadda she views this film as a 'luscious, serene, languid romance', a story that crosses two unlikely and emotionally unavailable people who approach momentary bliss in the beauty of Cairo. It is a slow film, the type of movie that encourages the viewer to sit back and enjoy an adult romance.
Juliette Grant (Patricia Clarkson) arrives in Cairo for a vacation with her UN employee husband Mark (Tom McCamus) only to discover that Mark is in Gaza on 'business': she discovers the information from a retired ex-assistant to Mark, Tareq Khalifa (Alexander Siddig), who offers her honest companionship until Mark returns. Tareq now owns a coffee house and spends his days playing chess. Juliette meets Kathryn (Elena Anaya), another associate of Mark, who offers her company, but Juliette prefers to be alone. The magic of Cairo - the smells, the muezzin calls to worship, the street shops, the sunsets - all begin to work on Juliette's lonely mood and she wanders into the city, fends off young men's attentions, and encounters Tareq in his coffee house (a men only club). Tareq offers to show her Cairo, especially the pyramids, but Juliette says she promised Mark to share those with him. A trip down the Nile and walks in the fascinating city draw Juliette and Tareq together, and when the two encounter Yasmeen (Amina Annabi), a friend and ex-lover of Tareq, the two are invited to Yasmeen's daughter's wedding in Alexandria. Telephone calls from and to Mark reveal that Mark will be delayed in Gaza, and after Juliette makes an attempt to travel to Gaza to see Mark and is prevented by the military she returns to Cairo, determined to make the best of her extended stay there. She goes to Alexandria with Tareq, they enjoy the wedding, and when they return to Cairo they mutually decide to visit the pyramids. The magic is there and the longing between them is palpable, but as soon as they return, Mark appears at the hotel. The Cairo time is over and the viewer is left guessing how the emotions generated by the time and place will play out.
Among the many lovely details of this film are views about the gender barriers in the Middle East and the customs of a city that, while modern, is still a culture of men. As Juliette and Tareq wander the streets of Cairo we recognize subtleties that exist, subtleties that director Nadda never forces. The gorgeous cinematography is by Luc Montpellier and the musical score is by Niall Byrne. This film is more a poem than a story, a welcome change from the usual youngster-oriented love stories and more of a mature episode of ageless flirtation. Grady Harp, August 10
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Grady Harp (gradyharp)
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Patricia Clarkson, who brightens just about any movie she's in, is positively luminous inCairo Time. The plot of the movie barely exists: Juliette Grant (Clarkson,The Station Agent,Pieces of April) goes to Cairo to meet with her husband, a U.N. diplomat held up in Israel. At loose ends, she wanders the city and spends time with a friend of her husband's, Tareq (Alexander Siddig,Syriana,Deep Space Nine), with whom an understated but undeniable attraction forms. ButCairo Timeisn't about plot--it's a wonderfully delicate examination of cultural differences and human connection across them. Both Clarkson and Siddig are superb; both are thoroughly grounded actors, and their firm grasp of their characters allows them to capture very quiet emotions that have a surprising impact. Director Ruba Nadda, who is a Canadian of Arab descent, has a skillful sense of rhythm and a keen eye for both human detail and magnificent landscapes.Cairo Timeis a beautiful movie, romantic and melancholy, gentle and tart, subtle but deeply satisfying.--Bret Fetzer