Friday, August 11, 2006
Movie Review: AL-QATILAH!
aka THIRSTY FOR RED BLOOD
Directed by Inas Al Degheidy
Cast: Fifi Abdu, Hassan Hosny
How many Egyptian giallo/rape-revenge/social dramas do you know of? Well, now you now of at least one. One might hope for something really, really weird and alien from such a concoction but you'd only be partially correct. While it does have some (very) surprising sleaze as well as some odd hypnotic passages for the most part RED BLOOD kind of just plods along, dealing with it's own conservative Arab society concerns, uniterested in whatever the outside world might think.
The movie begins promisingly and disturbingly enough, with one of the most sickening child rape scenes ever committed to celluloid. In fact it may be one of the only child rape scenes. While it's not exactly explicit there is a very palpable sense of violation here as a dirty old man takes a young girl who wanders away from a picnic to his filthy shed and has his filthy way with her. The girl is understandbly upset as the solemn opening credits begin to roll. Whoa. Heavy. That "I'm gonna need to take a shower after this one" feeling starts to take over just as the credits break for a glitzy, garish Arabic language commercial for kitchen products! What the ... ? The credits return. Somber chamber music intones gravely. Then it breaks again as another commercial with 80s fashion casualties singing horrible Mediterranean pop rips its way across my unbelieving screen. This continues for a good ten minutes until the film starts proper. I don't know if my copy was taken from Egyptian TV or if they're video release have commercials too, but it has a totally disconcerting and unitentionally hilarious effect, totally negating whatever serious tone was achieved in the opening moments of the film. It never really recovers, but adds to the mysterious foreign aura of this unique viewing experience.
The movie then veers into quasi-giallo territory as the police investigate a series of murders involving wealthy older men. The culprit is of course, the girl from the start of the movie grown up now and alternating from mousy flower shop girl by day to vengeful harlot by night, seducing and destroying all she comes across. The highlight of this part of the film involves a sexy (non-explicit of course) striptease to wretched and hilarious 80s cock-rock culimnating in the film's most gory murder scene. Certain scenes do have a sort of wobbly poetry to them, perhaps accidentally, as well as a few hints of true cinematic talent. However after the cunning detective in charge of the investigation captures our avenging angel the film becomes a sort of socially conscious court-room drama as the detective tries to convince the courts and the public to be merciful on this obviously mentally disturbed girl. But it's all too late, as she faces down a firing squad in the film's final weepy moments. What a waste. But we do get one more astonishingly sadistic scene towards the end as a flashback reveals a severe whipping session our poor heroine was forced to suffer through at the hands of her father (?). It's pretty sleazy and weird in the context of everything else going on. But ultimately this is no sleaze classick, but only a somewhat interesting and intimate cinematic look at a culture we don't really have much of a grasp on here in the west, and for that reason is worth seeking out. That, and the crazy commercials that interrupt murder and rape scenes. Wacky!
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