Young French officer Augustin Robert escorts artist Jean-Michel Venture de Paradis to Egypt during Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. Napoleon sent de Paradis to record Egypt's great monuments ... See full summary »
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Richard E. Grant,
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Young French officer Augustin Robert escorts artist Jean-Michel Venture de Paradis to Egypt during Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. Napoleon sent de Paradis to record Egypt's great monuments and temples that are destroyed by French soldiers in acts of barbarism. During combat, Augustin and Jean-Michel are separated from their regiment, and they start wandering through the desert fighting for their life. In one of the canyons Augustin meets a leopard he names Simoom and a strange bond between them appears. Written by
The phrase uttered by Venture after he and Augustin realize they are lost (and says "We seemed to have misplaced the French army") is "mesh ma'ool" which is "unbelievable" in Arabic said in fairly good Egyptian dialect. See more »
The French soldiers fire a cannon at the sphinx. An explosion is shown with a shower of stone and dust from the face of the sphinx. 2 minutes later, Venture is shown drawing with the sphinx behind him visible and intact. See more »
Those who distill "Passion in the Desert" down to "a guy falls in love with a leopard" actually miss the point. The interesting thing about this movie is not its unique and stark setting, or the strange match of its two protagonists, but the way the film manages to paint a metaphorical portrait of love and all the slings and arrows that go with it -- and it does so almost wordlessly. The resulting film is curiously pure, strange, and unforgettable.
Even the first act, which is more or less a conventional portrait of two men lost in the desert in Napoleonic times -- has a richness and poignancy (one man, an artist, drinks his paints in thirsty desperation, and the image of his paint-stained lips is haunting).
But ultimately this is a movie about love, a sensitively told fable, gorgeously photographed, about a man who is first mysteriously protected by -- and then drawn to -- a wild she-leopard, and of the way the leopard begins to draw him into her world. The movie isn't so much about men vs. leopards (or "men with leopards!" tabloid-style -- the movie stops short of portraying the affection between the two in the biblical sense, although there is some ambiguity there) as it is about the nature of love itself. The film paints some fresh, unsettling, and sometimes amusing portraits of the things people do when they're in love -- all the way down to the spitefulness and jealousy that come into play when that love is threatened.
By the end of the film, the story has become almost Shakespearean in its depth and richness as the plot plays out to its haunting end. At this point, the roles have almost reversed -- the man has become wild and catlike, and the she-leopard seems strikingly human and thoughtful in her expressions and her actions. The film is the first I've ever seen which actually raises some uncomfortable and ultimately fascinating questions about the possibility of a human falling in love with an animal -- and it explores these questions gracefully and without sensationalism.
All in all, "Passion in the Desert" was an exquisite film that really moved me -- the performances, both human and animal, are breathtaking and frankly amazed me, and the cinematography and music are glorious. (Too bad there aren't animal Oscars -- the she-leopard in this film really gives an incredible performance.) Bottom Line: If you're looking for something off the beaten path (no pun intended), this film's a keeper.
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