Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cairo Time (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Cairo Time
Canadian-Arab director Ruba Nadda helms the delicate romance "Cairo Time" with a subtle touch that is not without suspense. The film zeroes in on Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) who is supposed to be on vacation with her U.N. worker husband Mark (Tom Mcmanus). When the film opens Mark is delayed in Gaza. Juliette is a lonely echo adrift and floating in colorful robes: a curiously blonde shadow in an exotic setting.

Like a female character in an Albert Camus novel, Juliette watches with a curious mix of detachment and delight as life moves past her. Men sun themselves on shaded decks. Elegant sails drift by. A prayer call drifts through an open window like a riddle of sound. Juliette again waits for word on her absent husband and she is continuously informed with enigmatic secondhand information and Kafkaesque hearsay. When she goes to the hotel desk, the Internet is shut down without specific reason. Communication is lost. The camera moves with a slow meandering, in contrast to the ultra- sharp detail in showing the environs of Cairo.

Juliette wanders the streets as packs of Arab men attack her with carnal eyes. Suddenly she finds herself softly drawn to the kind and mild mannered chaperone played by Alexander Siddig. Siddig is sensitive and laconic and the romance is carried with soft implications, rather than lustful intent in keeping with official business.

Patricia Clarkson's character is a study in delicate, pained lament. When Juliette's face is secretly crestfallen as her rugged husband arrives, we feel the vacuum. The paintings of George Tooker possess the same visual power of isolation and regret among crowded cities and solitary hotel rooms. To see "Cairo Time" is to observe an existential romance with the voyeuristic gaze of a panoramic tourist; suddenly you are deep within Cairo's covert whispers not wanting to pull away from a door that is, ever so slightly, ajar.

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