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This is a reply to a couple of rather rash and inconsiderate comments
above, done by people who apparently not only live in a world of hatred
and mistrust but cannot even assess the obvious messages in an
easy-going, unambiguous and outspoken story.
This movie has nothing to do with RELIGIOUS PROPAGANDA! Mr Ibrahim does NOT at any point try to proselytize Moise. Moise does NOT change his name, does NOT change religion and does NOT deny his roots. He was adopted for personal, and not confessional reasons.
The author of the novel upon which the movie is based is a French Jew by the same name as the main character. This quite easily explains why the boy had to be Jewish and not, let's say, Christian, for that matter. To see propaganda here is a proof of bad taste.
Momo was poor and an obviously bad student - he had no bright future which to sacrifice, that is why he settled himself with the grocery store, not because he was proselytized to adopt Arab ways.
Mr Ibrahim made it quite clear that his wisdom does not come from the Koran, but from life, he was a half-literate man, he led a secluded life, he attended no prayers, he did not speak of the Prophet or whoever. He quoted the Koran only on matters of love because this is what interested him. What Mr Ibrahim knew "was in his Koran", which apparently escaped the attention of the paranoic Muslim-haters above, were the two flowers (hey, they are part of the title of the movie!), a remembrance of his long-dead wife and love of his life.
This was a movie about how religious messages may be perceived in a spirit of love and harmony with the world and not in terms of self-seclusion, mutual suspicion and hatred. Yes, the visits to the churches and mosques were a little too naively funny to be convincing, but the message was easy to grasp - there is A LEVEL OF PERSONAL RECEPTION of religious messages, the "inner religion" about which young Moise was wondering what it meant, which is equally easy to approach by all adepts to all confessions.
I actually did not like the movie that much - the plot was partly lame and too fairy-tale-like for such a "show-life-as-it-is" kind of movie. But I felt obliged to write this comment in order to defend it against undeserved xenophobic slanders.
Monsieur Ibrahim (the American distributors have left out the "flowers of
the Koran") is from a novel that was made into a play by a popular writer
named Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. The French editor's blurb goes like this:
"Paris in the 1960s. Momo, a twelve-year- old Jewish boy, befriends the
Arab grocer living on Blue Street. But appearances can be deceptive:
Ibrahim is not an Arab, Blue Street is not blue, and maybe the lad is not
Jewish..." This is the coming of age tale of a boy who, when his depressed
father runs away and throws himself under a train, is adopted by an old
"Arab" shopkeeper (actually Turkish) who has become his adoring mentor and
Moïse, nicknamed Momo (Pierre Boulanger), gets laid on his birthday with one of the cutest of the prostitutes who line the street where he lives. He goes back and forth to school and at home fixes dinner for his sad, stingy dad and gets the food from Ibrahim's épicerie down below. Momo's a sweet boy who's full of the joy of life and finds his father's grimness annoying. He gets little revenges like hogging the toilet when dad's laxative is kicking in. The movie is intimate and lovingly textured. Everything happens in the crowded Parisian street. It's summer. Momo puts on a thin white shirt over his undershirt and rehearses his opening to the whore: "Quelle chaleur! C'est combien?" ("What a scorcher! How much do you charge?") The light is beautiful. Pedestrians flow on the narrow sidewalk. The camerawork hugs the scenes, intimate but unobtrusive. Momo has to make his own birthday celebration: he's sixteen in the movie, so it's legal for him to go with one of the ladies. His sexual initiation is sweet too, simple, not saccharine. His father is always comparing him unfavorably with a missing older brother Popol ("Paulie") who was bookish. But Popol didn't have to do the shopping and fix dinner as Momo has to because his mother has left them. Momo doesn't remember Popol. Monsieur Ibrahim says he likes Momo 100 times better than Popol. Later it seems Popol never really existed. . .
It's hard to describe this film - which the 71-year-old Omar Sharif came out of retirement to star in and persuaded François Dupeyron to direct. It's a delicate thing, gossamer light, yet unforgettable. To tell its story is to break a butterfly upon a wheel. As in Manuel Pradal's 1997 Marie Baie des Anges, which also has a classic, mythic quality, its evocation of period is effortless. Both films exist in a Fifties or Sixties time that's all the more pungent because never broadcast -- except through irresistible period music. The little lessons M. Ibrahim teaches Moïse ("I know what is in my Koran") may seem clichéd. The stark and exotic direction the story takes later on in its 85 minutes may seem incongruous after the classic Frenchness of the opening scenes. But the movie conveys its mood and period with a deft simplicity no American director would be capable of. When a New Wave movie scene is shot in the street with Brigitte Bardot (reincarnated a bit incongruously, but vividly, by neo-diva Isabelle Adjani), it's a blissful moment of déja vu.
This film achieves its perfection by not seeming to try, with tossed off gestures: Ibrahim giving Momo cat food to pass off as a terrine de compagne for his dad with stale bread and cheap wine to dilute his Beaujolais so he won't complain about the cost; Momo smashing his piggy bank for the 35 francs to pay the prostitute; a group of men suddenly appearing around Ibrahim at a cafe table in Turkey.
Dad disappears after getting fired, leaving his savings on the table. Momo is undaunted. He plays soccer in the street with his schoolmates, learns to dance outside with the Jewish girl across the way, and continues his life lessons from Monsieur Ibrahim, who senses something wrong.
Ibrahim is grizzled, with bad teeth, but his outlook on life is beautiful. Momo has a singular grace; he seems to float across the screen, a delicate presence. He's pretty, he's cocky but vulnerable; he's light on his feet. When Ibrahim buys him a new pair of shoes, he twirls and flies through the air. The film itself skips along at first, then takes on a real-time slowness.
Ibrahim adopts Momo, buys a red sports car for cash, and drives through Greece and Albania to Turkey and his ancient home, where he leaves Momo by the road to go ahead, crashes the car, and dies in a house stacked full of kilims. These events turn the film toward the feel of a fable, something, perhaps, by some Moroccan novelist writing in singing, biblical French.
Earlier (but at this point in the book) Momo's mother comes looking for him, but he poses as a boy housepainter named Mohammed. He is already playing at being the "Arab" on the street, which is what he becomes, inheriting Ibrahim's store and all his wealth, choosing to live the rest of his life with a gentle irony by Ibrahim's motto, "Slowness [la lenteur] is the key to life."
There may be a little too much "lenteur," but many things make this movie sing: its lightness, the flow of the editing, the beauty of the photography, the charm of Sharif and Boulanger. There's a scene of whirling dervishes toward the end of the two guys' odyssey that's not like anything else you've seen in the movies. The camerawork is simple, handheld, timeless yet evocative of the period; the tones are fresh and saturated. There's an early shot of Momo in a red shirt standing in the window with a flowered curtain that's unforgettable. The color!
Thanks to Omar Sharif for getting this project made. There are moments in Monsieur Ibrahim, especially during the first half hour, that have that blessed rightness shared only by cinematic classics.
Likely to be one of the year's best.
'Monsieur Ibrahim' is a fine coming-of-age tale set in 1960's Paris.
Young Pierre Boulanger gives a remarkably assured performance as Moses,
a Jewish teen living with his cold, skinflint of a dad in a
less-than-savory part of town. Abandoned by his mother and living in
the shadow of a brother who has himself fled the scene, Moses leads an
embittered existence, seeking surcease in the beds of the local
prostitutes who ply their trade on the street where he lives. Moses is
finally befriended by an aged shopkeeper named Ibrahim Demirdji, a Safi
Muslim who, after Moses' father commits suicide, adopts the boy and
instills in him valuable life lessons, gleaned from his religious
training and his long years of experience.
In terms of its storyline, 'Monsieur Ibrahim' offers little that is new here (the idea of an older mentor figure raising an orphan child of a different religion goes at least as far back as 'The Two of Us' in 1968 and probably much further) . Where it excels is in its tenderhearted view of daily life and in its subtle plea for understanding between Arab and Jew. Moses is an almost heartbreakingly ordinary kid, a fact which makes his story all the more compelling (he has much of the rough-and-tumble poignancy of the boy in 'The 400 Blows'). We can identify with every emotion he is going through on his painful journey to adulthood: his fears, his insecurities, his need for acceptance, his appreciation of simple kindnesses. Moses lives in a world where life can sometimes be cruel, but where fellow human beings reach out to help one another in their moments of greatest need.
This is a beautiful, heartfelt film that doesn't stand on its head to try and impress us. It seeps into our hearts one scene at a time, until, by the end, we realize what a profound emotional impact it has had on us. Veteran actor Omar Sharif is wonderful as the solid and wise Monsieur Ibrahim, but it is Boulanger who is the real revelation here. This amazing young actor is the true heart and soul of the film, an absolute natural. He is very rarely off screen, and he rivets our attention on his character in a way that most highly paid movie actors can merely dream about doing. I hope he makes many more films in the future.
Paris, France. Late 50's/early 60's. Momo is a teenager who lives alone
with his father in some poor and decadent neighborhood, full of
prostitutes and where people of any race and religion live together.
He's a jew but he doesn't care that much about religion and what it
means. In fact, he can only think about girls and sex; but he girls of
his same age wouldn't have sex with him; so he hires a prostitute (and
he gets keen of that -so much that he'll become close friends of some
of the hookers of his street-). However, his life ain't easy at all:
her mother went away years ago, his father doesn't love him ... and
it's getting harder everyday; but he finds comfort and friendship in
Ibrahim, a Turkish shopkeeper that will become the most relevant figure
in Momo's life.
"Monsieur Ibrahim" is a movie about tolerance, about friendship, about real commitment. Every sentence that Ibrahim says to Momo is full of wisdom and simplicity; they're just like darts to be stick in the eye of every single fanatic, racist, and intolerant person in this world. It's a movie about kicking out prejudices. A Jew and a Muslim who love each other, who respect each other, who listen each other. Too wonderful to be true.
The story is constructed in two parts: the inner/initiative trip of Momo, his discovering of sex and love, his discovering of the huge wisdom that Ibrahim and wants to share with the young boy; and the car trip to Turkey together with Monsieur Ibrahim in which he'll learn about different cultures, and religions, and the different ways of life here and there, all along Europe till they get to Ibrahim's birthplace: some little village in the mountains of Turkey.
The film it's been filmed with the same simplicity that Ibrahim shows in his personal philosophy, with a sober and rather neo-realistic style. Young Pierre Boulanger (Momo) gives the perfect reply to Omar Sharif (Ibrahim), an outstanding actor in state of grace. It's a pity that Mr. Sharif had made too many bad films in the last 30 years. His talent has no limits, and this calm serene and tender Ibrahim proves it. I dare to say this is his best performance (and maybe his best film) since Doctor Zhivago.
My rate: 8/10
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.
In a street called Blue in a very poor neighborhood in Paris, Monsieur
Ibrahim (Omar Shariff) is an old Muslin Turkish owner of a small
market. He becomes friend of the teenager Jewish Moises, tenderly
nicknamed Momo (Pierre Boulanger), 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 Koran to the boy,
receiving in return love and respect.
"Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran" is a wonderful and sensitive tale of friendship. Omar Shariff gives one of his best performances in the role of an experienced and very good man that follows the teaching of his sacred book as his principle of life. Pierre Boulanger has also a great acting in the role of a needy teenager that finds the father he has never had in Monsieur Ibrahim. This delicate and sweet movie deserves to be watched many times, especially in those days that the viewer is down and sorrow, to enlighten his or her life. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Uma Amizade Sem Fronteiras" ("A Friendship Without Boundaries")
This film is a wonderful example of how one can choose to be a victim or a hero in life! The abrupt start to the movie lets one see the boy's situation immediately. Using the grocery money given to him by his father, he goes searching for his first sexual experience among the prostitutes he observes from the window of his apartment. He is unsupervised, self-sufficient, curious and in desperate need of guidance. The shopkeeper who has been in this boy's life longer than the boy realizes, steps in to be the uplifting and guiding force for him. Initially, I felt a little troubled by the use of the two religions and putting one in a less-kind light. However, I realized that the viewpoint had nothing to do with the religion, rather with the person and how they chose to deal with their life. I will recommend this movie to many people!
Seldom do I buy the book because I saw the movie. I did this time around and
the book is even better than the movie albeit a bit too short, although
throughout the book, you will always see Omar Sharif as
I went to see this without knowing too much about it and from the very beginning it succeeded in drawing me right into Rue Bleu, it was as if I could almost smell it, feel it, touch it. Why? Because we care for the characters, we feel with them, through them. Omar Sharif is just stellar as Monsieur Ibrahim and carries the story with such an ease that it is a delight to watch.
One of the most powerful scenes for me was when Ibrahim confronts Momo about the stealing. There are more but I do not want to spoil it for you. "Ibrahim" is an emotional journey that you have to be willing to make. If you do you will be well rewarded.
Highly recommendable. 9/10
Every once in a while, a movie comes along that's so simple in nature, so
kind in its intentions that it can't be American. One of those select movies
is Monsieur Ibrahim, a simplistic, realistic story that takes place in a
lower-income area in Paris, where prostitutes roam the street, the streets
are overcrowded so much that it's quicker to walk than drive, and two
unlikely people meet to form an unlikely but lasting friendship.
Moses (Pierre Boulanger) is a sixteen year old boy who uses the previously mentioned prostitutes often, as his father is too busy making ends meet to really have an impact in Moses's life. When he's caught shoplifting in Ibrahim's (Omar Sharif) store, they soon bond and become friends. Ibrahim teaches Moses many things about life, the universe, and everything. Soon, Moses is basically forced to flee from his home, so the two of them go off on a road trip.
The one thing that sold me about Monsieur Ibrahim was the genuine relationship that seemed to be shared between the two characters. It wasn't anything that seems to be prevalent in cinema now, such as pedophilia or loneliness or the young person teaching life lessons to the older person. It's just like the relationship that many people have with their friends. There were a few times where I felt that it was a little too close for comfort, but other than that, it's just a simple friendship, nothing more.
Ibrahim always had something to say about one thing or another. I especially agreed with his views on money, although some of the dance sequences (and his mediations on dance) seemed a little too heavy (and untrue) for a movie like this. A movie like this switches successfully between comedy and drama (I especially love the piggy-bank analogy), and works. At the end, though, it was predictable, but the final turn worked well. Overall, Monsieur Ibrahim works very well overall, and is one of the most surprising movies I've seen so far this year.
My rating: 8/10
Rated R for some sexual content.
I went to see the movie after reading very good reviews during last Venice Film Festival. It was generally described as a fairytale about tolerance and friendship - ant that's what it is. A fairytale Paris quarter, with fairytale 'putaines', a wise middle aged shopkeeper, a smart teenager - everyday life goes on with a little happiness, a little tragedy, nice period music, simple happy philosophy. The second half of the movie goes on-the-road - in a fairytale Turkey, though definitely more realistic than Paris. Omar Sharif is good, and Pierre Boulanger is even better. This film is perfect to spend a cheerful evening and it is a little joyful lesson on religious tolerance and friendship.
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