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Some may call the movie a cheap paperback romance, but I find it emotional, true, beautiful - with real young people (not bored actors), real life and not some artificial Hollywood scene, with excellent soundtrack, and, even more, deep and meaningful. It's just like remembering my teenager years... While watching this movie I realized that it's so hard to be free, that you won't understand and find freedom unless there are boundaries to fight against. That most people grown up in welfare states even do not realize that they are held captive by their own laziness and will never understand freedom. Marock also expresses to me that innocence is the only real value in life, so - sooner or later - every good thing has to be paid only with it. It would be interesting to find out that the Director also had this idea in her mind when shooting 'Marock' or it's just my interpretation ... anyway, I feel free to see it in my way. Finally: only a few movie makers are able to express the great true but no common sense, and Laïla Marrakchi perfectly does it.
I saw this movie in Casablanca (actually in Ain Diab where the movie was set) and found myself some what disappointed. Perhaps I had expected the film to focus a bit more on the religious/romantic conflict itself but it just seemed more determined to show how wealthy and privileged the characters lives are than the emotions they had to deal with regarding their parents disapproval. The Dad had about 5 minutes of screen time to yell at his daughter and seemed to forget about the whole thing right away. Oh well. As far as conflicts go, it doesn't make sense to portray a Muslim parent's concern about his daughter's relationship with a Jew as backwards and old-fashioned. Many liberal American parents would have the same kind of concerns. Other than that the movie was well filmed and had a good soundtrack. I actually had the opportunity to meet some people like the characters in the film and yes, cruising in ultra expensive cars is a popular activity when the clubs are cold.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After 300 reviews written for IMDb, I feel like I owe at least one for
my country, Morocco, Maroc in French, "Marock" in Leila Marrakchi's
'controversial' film. Released in 2005, the film still divides opinions
: realistic and brave for some, voyeuristic and manipulative for
others. For my part, I can't think of a more dishonestly marketed film
sold as good just because it's true.
Let's analyze the tag-line first: "a Muslim girl and a Jewish boy fall in love", simply read like this, it sounds like the movie would tackle a sort of 'Romeo and Juliet' story with religion and cultural background as the necessary obstacle, which sounds good. But it's ironic how the very purpose of the film, that is to depict the slice of life of Casablanca's bourgeoisie, undermines the very important aspect of the romance: the conflict. The heroine, Rita, played by Morjana Alaoui, is one of these typical girls from Casablanca's upper-class, she speaks French more (by both frequency and fluency) than Arabic and is modern through her approach to music, fashions and boys, we got the point, she's free spirited.
Now, is she Muslim as the tag-line applies? From her background yes, she's as Muslim as she's Arab or Moroccan, but nothing in her attitude shows an interest in religion, she doesn't fast during the Ramadan, she takes sunbaths with her friends (although Ramadan in 1997 was in February, a mistake I can hardly overlook in a serious film) and discusses about boys, and in the 'shocking' scene of the film, she mocks her brother while he's praying, walking around him with a very short skirt. Well, this scene summarizes my problem with the film, and the reason I used the word 'dishonestly'. "Marock" tries to build its success on the fallacious idea that it shows the true face of a certain population that doesn't care about religion, yet in the same time, it tries to convince us that the friendship between this girl and a Jewish boy is difficult.
So there are Rita and Youri, Matthieu Boujenah. Both belong to the same demographic category, rich and liberal, in the last year of high school, not the most likely to embarrass themselves with people's reactions, what's more he's very handsome and she's not ugly either. What is supposed to be so impossible in this love? Whatever it is, the movie failed to point it out and took for granted the difference of background as roots for an artificial conflict, while something needed to happen to show that their love was dangerous. Had she been a religious girl, wearing a scarf, and falling in love with a Jewish boy, that would have been interesting, but from what we see, it's only a romance about two people from the same world. Rita is closer to Youri than to any Arabic and Muslim boy. Laila Marrakchi, with a sincere desire to make an impact on audience, made a portrayal of the upper Morocco that contradicted the very idea of an impossible love.
And the unfortunate consequence is that despite a good ensemble cast and a solid acting, the film is victim of two contradictory trajectories therefore lacks a certain direction and can only rely on obvious cinematic tricks, to have more audience, like creating artificial controversies. That's typical of Morocan current cinema, many movies now shock for the sake of shocking, just because we see a nude girl or two people passionately kissing, the film is supposed to be good, just because it has a sort of documentary value, it doesn't even need a plot, people would love it again because of the whole 'good and true' equation. "Marock" has the same emptiness of these 'shockers', nothing made the story evolve, no pivotal point, Rita's parents never knew about anything, and it never seemed that this relationship bothered anyone, not even Mao, the brother who went for an Islamic lifestyle. Then, why insisting on Youri's background in the tag-line as if it would play a significant part?
"Marock" is just an excuse to show how people supposedly behave and talk, Rita is supposed to be free-spirited and to appeal to a young female audience when she was just a spoiled little brat, the praying scene shows how intolerant toward religious lifestyle she was and was probably marketed to be the taboo-breaking one but how about making Rita evolving from this brat to a more mature girl? While "Marock" could have been an interesting character study, I guess Laila Marrakchi was too obsessed by the idea of making a Moroccan 'chick flick' with the typical feminist undertones but there's nothing really feminist in Rita's attitude: her rebellion is too centered on her little world to be taken seriously, and she's just a typical girl waiting for the Charming Prince. "Marock" is only controversial on the surface, but quite flat in its core. Maybe it should have focused more on the brother, Mao, played by Assad Bouab, the most interesting character who goes though a believable evolution, especially thanks to his beginning romance with Rita's friend.
While the film seemed to go somewhere, it ended in the most anticlimactic way when Youri dies a la James Dean. As usual, everything is constructed like convenient plot devices, Youri's death is a good excuse to show the climactic reconciliation between Rita and her brother - before she would leave for studying in France, saying goodbye to her friends, of course, her parents, totally absent during the film, had no reason to be present at such an event. What did Rita learn from her romance, did she change? Is she the same spoiled high school girl?
Apparently, it didn't matter since the film was just marketed to shock, to show a certain 'reality', good because true, well, not only it's not good, but the way it tries to tell, I mean to sell the story, is not even true. A sadly wasted potential.
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