Monday, January 21, 2008

Monsieur Ibrahim, a film by Fran├žois Dupeyron (2003)

I missed this movie when it came through Dunedin in the film festival and if it was on general release, I didn't notice. It is an extremely charming movie, one which would have been just too nice if it were not for the way it ended. Momo lives in Blue Street, Paris. His father seems to require a lot of care: Momo does all the cooking and housework; all dad does is eat and retire into his rather fabulous library. They do not seem to get on at all; Momo has the idea that he has failed to be as interesting as his older brother. But he makes other friends: the movie starts with him breaking into his piggy bank to get the necessary funds to pay for a prostitute - they are abundant in his street and all seem to be gorgeous and have a heart of gold.

Momo does his shopping in the "Arab's" shop across the road. The "Arab" turns out to be a Turk, Monsieur Ibrahim (Omar Sharif), but such distinctions do not seem to trouble many shoppers; being Arab simply means the shop is open from 8 till midnight, Sunday's included. There is a scene which reminds me of a childhood incident when I engaged in a little shoplifting, not knowing that I was observed and that the shopkeeper had discussed my theft with my parents. Momo helps himself quite liberally to various treats, not knowing that he is always spotted doing so.

For some reason, M Ibrahim takes a shine to Momo, makes him his protege, forgives him his trespasses, conspires with him to feed his father catfood in the guise of pate and rob him, so that Momo has money for the ladies. He is a Moslem, but one who has no problem with taking the occasional drink: while all the truth he needs is to be found in the Koran, that truth can, it seems, be modified when the circumstances dictate.
This leads to M Ibrahim being a man both of wisdom but also great kindness and warmth - an ideal role for Omar Sharif.

When dad does a runner and then kills himself, things get even nicer in this movie: M Ibrahim adopts Momo. Everything goes swimmingly, and now that he has a son, M Ibrahim decides it is time to go back to Turkey - which leads to one of the few purely comic moments in the movie, as he has never had a driving licence and needs to learn to drive. He gets a pretty cool car to do it in:


I enjoyed it when the movie transformed into a road movie - they drove all the way from Paris to some remote region of Turkey, through landscapes I am never likely to see myself - but have to say that the end came as a bit of a shock. I just don't get how or why it happened, and it jarred with the mood of the movie.

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