To male American eyes of a certain age, there is some-
thing strange and wonderfully "foreign" that hangs over THE WEDDING SONG, a new film by Karin Albou (the director who gave us La petite Jérusalem a few years back). This foreignness has to do primarily with the setting of the film -- both its time and place (Tunis, North Africa, in 1942, as WWII raged) -- but
also with the fact that the film is so woman-centric. Without unduly beating the feminist drum, Ms Albou (shown, left) takes us into the realm of women -- their hopes, fears, feelings and thoughts -- as well as any director whose work I've seen of late.
Perhaps the first thing you'll notice, during what looks like competing bachelor and bachelorette parties of their day, is that the guys get a real woman doing a provocative dance to entertain and amuse them. The gals? Well, rather than the real thing, they must make do with another female, in drag, pretending (quite well and with some scathing humor) to be male. It's all here: chauvinism, sexism, tradition and religion combining to keep women underfoot. Yet Albou does not harp; she simply shows -- with irony, humor, understanding and even affection.
|To properly capture the specific time and place, the writer/|
director places her cameras in the home with the family at prayer and play, in the girls' school, with particularly interes-
ting scenes -- some relaxed and char-
ming, others grim -- in the women's bath house (below). To bring her film to life Albou has garnered a splendid cast, beginning with Lizzie Brocheré (above, left), as the young Jewess and Olympe Borval (with Ms Brocheré, at right) as her Muslim friend. Both are on-point throughout, making it difficult for us to not to understand them, even when they're behaving very badly. The Muslim boyriend, full of the shallow wisdom, daring and stupidity of youth is well played by Najib Oudghiri (just above) and, as the wealthy Jewish doctor, Simon Abkarian (shown at right, third photo up, and currently to be seen in Sally Potter's Rage) proves an ideal mixture of decency and desire, able to convey his strong passion and strength, as well as his mixed feelings concerning the fact that this arrangement is his choice, not hers.