Love in the Medina: Film Review
The Moroccan-Italian coproduction Love in the Medina, a.k.a. The Wings of Love (France) and Loves of an Apprentice Butcher (Italy), combines steamy eroticism with picturesque Orientalism in a heady blend, enthusiastically concocted by Moroccan veteran Abdelhai Laraki. The subject is sexual obsession, a perennial favorite, and the attractive young leads should give this slick-looking drama a leg up as it wends its way through the festival circuit and into selected theaters.
The voice-over of young Thami, wistfully played by emerging actor Omar Lotfi, gives a literary feel to the story, which is adapted from a novel by Moroccan writer Mohamed Nedali. Problematically edited and told in flashback, the film has far more story threads than it can follow, leaving a lot of characters underdeveloped and their stories incomplete.
Thami’s detestable father (Abdou El Mesnaoui) is a stuffy Koranic lawyer who plans a great future for his son, until the boy inflames him by announcing his heart’s desire is to become a butcher. Eventually the father gives in and sets him up in the souk of Casablanca. Thami is overjoyed and doesn’t flinch when the old man orders him to turn over the profits every night when he comes home.
Frankly, there’s one thing Thami likes even more than handling goat meat and liver: it’s handling some of the ladies who visit his shop. He’s so good-looking they fall at his feet, from the golden-hearted pro Halima (Amal Ayouch) who relieves him of his virginity to the breathtaking Zinab (Ouidad Elma), the unsatisfied young wife of an old soldier. Falling lustfully in love, Thami and Zinab tryst in unlikely places with all the abandon of youth, until the situation turns too hot for comfort.
Their break-up gives Thami some time to shop around and sample other delicacies, including an uninhibited French tourist and a teenage wife his father brings home for him, in hopes of straightening him out. But his passion for Zinab rages on, all the way to the unexpected ending.
Laraki and cinematographer Roberta Allegrini film sensual atmosphere wherever they can create it, from perfumed souks to rain-soaked streets to draped bedrooms. As elegant as an Italian TV commercial, the sex scenes are hot and visually imaginative without showing much flesh, even in the obligatory Turkish bath scene.
Character actors are top drawer, most notably Zahira Sadik as the old gossip Rehma and Driss Roukhe as an outrageously lurid, lascivious cop. Creating many moods are American composer Richard Horowitz’s deliciously varied takes on local music and instruments.
Bottom line: the sexual obsession of a young Moroccan butcher is whipped into a watchable exotic-erotic package
Venue: Dubai Film Festival (Muhr Arab Feature competition), Dec. 9, 2011.
Cast: Omar Lotfi, Ouidad Elma, Driss Roukhe, Abdou El Mesnaoui, Nisrin Erradi, Amal Ayouch, Zahira Sadik.
Production companies: A2L Production Films, Warner Chappell Music
Director: Abdelhai Laraki
Screenwriters: Abdelhai Laraki, Violaine Bellet, based on a novel by Mohamed Nedali
Producer: Caroline Locardi
Director of photography: Roberta Allegrini
Art director: Mustapha Tabit
Costumes: Nadia Dahar
Music: Richard Horowitz
Editor: Marie Castro
Sales Agent: Zen Zero
No rating, 113 minutes.