Masquerades (Mascarades) (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner09/12/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 92 mins

Likeable, gently funny French-Algerian comedy with a sharp script and strong performances, though the plot tails off a bit in the middle section.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Lyes Salem, Masquerades is set in a small Algerian village where everyone knows each other's business. Salem (who bears a disturbingly strong resemblance to an angry-looking Borat) plays Mounir Mekbek, a moustachioed, track-suited wheeler-dealer who's obsessed with finding a rich suitor for his narcoleptic sister, Rym (Sarah Reguieg), oblivious to the fact that she's madly in love with his video-shop-owning best friend Khliffa (Mohamed Bouchaib), while also declaring that none of his friends are good enough for Rym.

After overhearing some disparaging comments about her at a friend's wedding, Mounir drunkenly announces Rym's engagement to a rich European and suddenly finds that everyone in the village wants to do business with him or become his friend. As events spiral rapidly out of control, Rym backs up Mounir's announcement, hoping to spur Khliffa into standing up to her brother and declaring his love for her.

The Good
The acting is excellent; Salem's bristly, hot-tempered performance seemingly owes a debt to both Borat and Basil Fawlty, whilst Bouchaib brings a dopey, sweet-natured quality to Khliffa and Reguieg is adorable as Rym. There's also strong support from Mourad Khen as Mounir's slightly shady neighbour who suddenly becomes his new best friend.

Salem paints a convincing portrait of a gossip-driven community and the pleasingly satirical script takes a few well-aimed potshots at today's celebrity-obsessed culture that won't be lost on western audiences. In addition, the central relationship is nicely handled, particularly in the way that the seemingly meek and mild Rym subtly takes control of her situation.

The Bad
The main problem is that the film runs out of ideas in the middle section and doesn't really have anywhere to go. In particular, the script doesn't do enough to sell Mounir's gradual (and inevitable) softening towards Khliffa, so the resolution seems forced and lacks the emotional punch it should have had.

Worth seeing?
In short, despite its flaws, Masquerades is a sweet-natured, gently amusing comedy with a sharp script and likeable performances. Worth seeking out (which you'll have to do, as it's on exclusive release at the Cine Lumiere).

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 00:02

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