You’ll remember him if, like this scribbler, you’re of a certain vintage and back last century you had any form of relationship with the cinema. And he’s still lookin’ good – most dapper in all white Arab garb. He still has that sparkle, a certain glint in the eye. He’s now a venerable octogenarian, but back in the day he was something special – Alexandria’s great gift to the world. He shone in such movies as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Funny Girl’ and more recently, ‘Monsieur Ibrahim’. But for this film tragic he remains the centrepiece of a triangle of love as two luscious beauties of the time, Geraldine Chaplin – who I felt was far decidedly more luminous than her rival – and Julie Christie vied for his character’s affections. I remember the iconic scenes – the train in the snow, the battle charge and the sheer desperation of being in Russia on the losing side during its revolution. ‘Dr Zhivago’, hitting our screens way back in 1965, was and still is a classic. The same could be said for Omar Sharif. He is wonderful as the ghost in ‘Rock the Casbah’.
And again, in this movie, he is surrounded by a bevy of stunning women as a family comes together for a funeral. Sofia (Morjana Alaoui), a reasonably successful actress based in LA, flies in to join her sisters Miriam (Nadine Labaki) and Kenza (Lubna Azabal). Also present are the bereaved mother/wife (Hiam Abbass) and a feisty grandmother. It is illuminating watching the Islamic way of burying their loved ones as the Hassan cohort grieve for patriarch Moulay. This French/Moroccan effort is pure Hollywood as kin, friends and servants gather to point score and settle old insults – prior, during and after the internment. But within the family there is a secret that threatens to turn relationships awry. As well, an old, explosive affair is rekindled and there’s also the proverbial black sheep to be thwarted.
It is all run of the mill stuff in narrative terms – there are no surprises here. It’s the gorgeousness and charisma of these women that will engage the audience. They certainly charmed me in the way Ms Chaplin did all those decades ago. Despite an exotic locale on show and practises foreign to us Westerners, this movie demonstrates that some features of the human condition are universal. These are strong, resilient ladies – all of them. In secular Muslim communities such indomitable creatures still run the show. As in our society, the menfolk are no match. Director Laila Marrakchi infuses the proceedings with a rich glow; his lenswork assisting in giving his offering immense warmth. Who knows how many more times Sharif will grace the world’s screens? ‘Rock the Casbah’ is worth a view for this alone – the added excellence is a bonus.
Trailer for ‘Rock the Casbah’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zud2_-im5aM