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1 item from 2002

Satin Rouge

16 July 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

IFP/West Los Angeles Film Festival

One of the more intoxicating movies of recent memory, for its classy sensuality in an Arabic-world setting, "Satin Rouge" is written and directed by Raja Amari, a Tunisian making her feature debut. An upcoming Zeitgeist Films release, the French-Tunisan co-production is a showcase for lead actress Hiam Abbass, transforming from a shy widow into a free-spirited, still strikingly attractive woman who becomes a professional belly dancer.

In Arabic with English subtitles, the uncluttered scenario unfolds at the pace of real life as we're introduced to Lilia (Abbass) going through her routines with little enthusiasm. Part of the problem is she is stuck alone in the house, while her teenage daughter Salma Hend El Fahem) is in school.

Indeed, it's when Lilia suspects that Salma has a boyfriend and follows him that her stagnant life changes spectacularly.

Chokri (Maher Kamoun) is a musician in both the class Salma attends and the cabaret where Lilia follows him to. He's somewhere in age between the mother and the daughter, and he falls unwittingly in love with both. Although it is not altogether clearly her intention, when Lilia becomes more serious and passionate about dancing, she and Chokri have intensely intimate moments in the process of performing, moments that lead to you-know-what.

The way Lilia loosens up and learns to dance enticingly for men in a timeless ritual that is empowering and not demeaning is "Satin" at its most engaging, with veteran dancer Folla (Monia Hichri) playing the kind of instant friend and tutor who helps propel the movie into truly wondrous territory. Of course, if one doesn't enjoy watching exotic dancing that is in no way pornographic, with fantastic music, then the story of Lilia's rite of passage to a happier life may seem dull as it's devoid of major complications and obstacles.

There is the thorny situation of Chokri, but in a worldly turn of events, the covert relationships are not so destructive that tragedy ensues. Many wordless sequences admirably convey such details as the social restrictions Lilia must deal with as a single woman. Conservative neighbors insist she be accompanied in one scene, when she clearly doesn't need or want the intrusion into her new nightly adventures.

Both a fine actress and one heck of a belly dancer, Abbass ("Tar Angel") is a revelation playing a treasure of a character. Hichri and Kamoun are also outstanding contributors to a woman's story that a lot of men won't mind sitting through.


Zeitgeist Films

ADR Prods., Nomadis Images


Director-screenwriter: Raja Amari

Producers: Alain Rozanes, Pascal Verroust, Dora Bouchoucha Fourati

Director of photography: Diane Baratier

Production designer: Kais Rostom

Editor: Pauline Dairou

Costume designer: Magdalena Garcia Caniz

Music: Nawfel El Manaa


Lilia: Hiam Abbass

Salma: Hend El Fahem

Chokri: Maher Kamoun

Folla: Monia Hichri

The Neighbor: Faouzia Badr

Hela: Nadra Lamloum

The Boss: Abou Moez El Fazaa

Running time -- 100 minutes

No MPAA rating


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