Friday, September 03, 2010

Cairo Time

Tonight I saw Cairo Time, starring Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig.

Juliette (Clarkson) travels to Cairo to meet her husband who works for the UN as a refugee camp organizer in Gaza. He is (not surprisingly) detained, so he sends a friend to entertain her in his absence.

Tareq (Siddig) is a handsome, never-married Egyptian who runs a café, yet appears wherever Juliette needs him, whenever she needs him.

With additional husband delays, the waiting gets to be too much and restless Juliette begins to explore the city on her own. She finds this to be unsafe and solicits the company of Tareq as her informal tour guide. They cruise along the Nile, taste the "best coffee in the world" and get to know one another in a sweet, innocent way. She teases him about the girl who got away; he flatters her with jokes about her foreign pronunciation. They fall in love.

As we witness their chemistry develop, the director puts us in the places they are visiting in an almost visceral way. When the noise of Cairo is too intrusive for Juliette speak with her husband on the phone or to sleep, we're annoyed right along with her; when she takes constant sips of her bottled water on a dusty bus to the desert, we become thirsty with dryness.

The two main actors are perfect in their roles and the few supporting characters who show up are like seasoning on a pleasantly spicy dish.

The pace of the film is unimaginably slow, yet never dull. Watching a friendship grow into something unexpected is both exciting and frightening. Contemplating what one would do in a similar situation and wondering which man deserves Juliette's love keeps our minds going as the landscape quietly draws us into its mystery.

Also to be appreciated is the way the pyramids are savored in minimal, powerful scenes. There are no obligatory helicopter perspectives of the landmarks, nor do they steal the show (though they are breathtaking as seen from the characters' perspectives).

I'd recommend seeing Cairo Time on your own time, when you have the luxury of lingering right along with it.


1 comment:

healy said...

The film itself is perhaps a bit too cautious, preferring diffidence and indirection to overt emotion. The temperamental reticence that Tareq and Juliette share accounts for this to some extent, but there is also, in Ms. Nadda’s screenplay, an impulse toward the kind of quasi-literary vagueness that is often mistaken for nuance.