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In a street called Blue in a very poor neighborhood in Paris, Monsieur Ibrahim is an old Muslim Turkish owner of a small market. He becomes friend of the teenager Jewish Moises, tenderly nicknamed Momo, who lives with his father in a small apartment on the other side of the street. Monsieur Ibrahim gives paternal love and teaches the knowledge of the Qur'an to the boy, receiving in return love and respect. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
[reading Ibrahim's will]
This is my will and testament. I, Ibrahim Demirdji, hereby leave all my goods to Moses Schmitt, my son Momo because he chose me as his father and because I've given him everything I've learned in this life. Now you too will know what's in my Koran, Momo. It's all there is to know.
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Charming and subtle; a fabric woven from childhood memories.
I'd read some user comments and external reviews; the view of some that it's anti-Semitic almost made me skip it. However, unless you'd see the sympathetic portrayal of a Muslim man (Ibrahim/Sharif) as being anti-Semitic, it's unlikely you'll be bothered.
I don't know what the thrust of the book is, but movies rarely literally translate books; the book may suggest but the film moves in its own direction -- even, at times, contrarily.
This film reminded me a great deal of "Le mari de la coiffeuse/The Hair Dresser's Husband") directed and co-written by Patrice Leconte. That film also has a coming of age boy; getting haircuts, he's enthralled at having his head pressed against the bosom of his female barber. When his father questions his son about what he wishes to do when he's grown up and is displeased with the answer, he sends him to bed without his supper. The rest of the film (without any clear transition) deals with the boy's fantasy about someday marrying a lady barber and what their life would be like. It's a realistic portrayal of an adolescent boy's fantasy.
On the surface this film recounts the development of a mutually satisfying father-son type relationship that develops between a Turkish shopkeeper and a coming of age boy (MoMO/Boulanger) who is Jewish, by the way.
I say "on the surface" because most films try to tell a story in a way that we experience, see and live the story from a fly on the wall perspective.
Ahh-h, but not THIS film.
While you COULD view it that way, it's really far better understood if viewed from a different perspective.
Let's say you wandered in to the shop on this Parisian street one afternoon and heard the owner called "the Arab." You wonder why and also how he got into this particular trade. You start asking and he starts telling you the story of his life.
And that's what this movie tells us -- HIS version of HIS story as experienced through HIS eyes and ears growing up. So it's a realistic portrayal of that collection of childhood memories, assumptions, distortions, and causes.
As a child, do we see things the way we'd see them as an adult? Never, and so it is with this version. Everything is somewhat overdrawn, not quite a caricature but somewhat that way. All the streetwalkers are attractive, 21-31 years old, well dressed, and kind. None middle-aged, trashy, disturbed, or predatory. As we recount the story of our lives, we frequently expand the highs and lows and are liberal in delegating blame to those who disappoint us as well as credit to those who serve as heroes. And that's what this movie does.
Seen from this frame of reference, not all events make logical sense. So we never know for sure what happened to his father, or mother, or brother. We have his sometimes conflicting memories and versions, his suppositions that substitute for reality and which leave us wondering, "Golly, I wonder what really happened?"
Some things, of course, we'll never know. But it was fun finding out what we did. We had an interesting afternoon with the guy and he had a remarkable story to tell.
One of the best pictures of all time? No. But a thoroughly entertaining one most especially for those of us interested in family dynamics.
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