Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. France/Morocco, 2013. Estrella Productions, Pathé, Agora Films, La Chauve Souris, Canal+, Orange Cinéma Séries, Soficinéma 9, Cofinova 8, Cinémage 7, Coficup, Backup Media, Centre Cinématographique Marocain, MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Procirep. Script consultants Alexandre Aja, Raphaelle Desplechin, Gladys Marciano, Screenplay, adaptation and dialogue by Laila Marrakchi. Cinematography by Pierric Gantelmi d’Ille. Produced by Stephanie Carreras. Music by Robin Coudert. Production Design by Benoit Barouh. Costume Design by Aida Diouri. Toronto International Film Festival 2013.
Omar Sharif has a delightful cameo as the head of a wealthy manor in Tangiers who has just passed away. His spirit sticks around to watch as the women in his life, including his feisty mother, grieving widow, and vastly different daughters, gather for his astoundingly large funeral service. With family members reuniting for the first time in years, there is no surprise in saying that there are tons of stories ready to be unearthed, including a missing daughter who was mistreated in the past and a servant woman who bears a secret of the deceased. In terms of narrative there are not too many surprises to behold here, if you’ve seen Monsoon Wedding you can handle the Desert Funeral, but what sells it is the massively appealing cast, including superstars of Arab cinema Nadine Labaki and a terrific Hiam Abbass, and the light and unpretentious direction by Laila Marrakchi. While her screenplay bites off a little more than it can chew, there are possibly more tangents than the film can handle, Marrakchi never actually lets the film sag under the weight of its many elements. Instead, the gorgeous topography and many moments of genuine good humour make you feel deeply affectionate for all the characters and carry you quite easily through the moments of shameless melodrama. Beyond that, Sharif is still the man after all these years, and the whole thing is just so damned glamorous.