Saturday, September 24, 2005

paradise now (abu-assad, 2005)

At first glance a film slickly designed to gather up ecumenical-jury prizes at film festivals, and maybe that's exactly what it is, but it's commendable for the lengths it goes to read the political through the personal, i.e. it tells the story of These Two Guys, it's a buddy movie primarily concerned with separation and its attendant anxieties, and a road movie in which the trip suffers innumerable delays, complications, and setbacks. The movie is hardly understated but it's also far from blustery, and its 'Scope images are supple and composed.

In the end the movie hedges its bets, morally, campaigning for (or presumes) audience sympathy for both killers, and then allows one to change his mind while the other stays on course. What's interesting is that each of the two men adopts the attitude originally held by the other. Said is the doubtful one at first, but he undergoes a moral transformation that calls to mind Sergeant York in the 1941 Howard Hawks film. His friend Khaled is zealous and immature whose doubts eventually get the better of him - why that happens is unclear, maybe it's because there are no long, slow scenes of him Thinking Things Over.

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