Review: ‘Algiers-Beirut: A Souvenir’

Fabienne Babe and Georges Corraface stroll around Beirut, take in the Roman sights at Baalbek and discuss a bit of politics between sack time in "Algiers-Beirut: A Souvenir," a typical shoehorning of love, memory and angst in an exotic locale, so beloved of Gallic cinema.

Fabienne Babe and Georges Corraface stroll around Beirut, take in the Roman sights at Baalbek and discuss a bit of politics between sack time in “Algiers-Beirut: A Souvenir,” a typical shoehorning of love, memory and angst in an exotic locale, so beloved of Gallic cinema. Further undercut by a dismal perf from Babe, this is feeble fare from Algerian-born helmer Merzouk Allouache, known for the far more trenchant “Bab el-Oued City” (1994) and “Salut cousin!” ( 1996).

Laurence (Babe), a Franco-Lebanese journalist, returns to a Beirut she hardly recognizes after quitting the country at the start of the civil war in 1975. She soon bumps into Rachid (Corraface), a colleague she once knew in Algiers who fled his homeland and now works as a laborer at a printing press. By-the-numbers script follows their romance, the revelation of why Rachid is living in self-exile, and Laurence’s plans to cart him back to Paris.

The actors have everything but labels on their chests to signify what they stand for, and a subplot about one of Rachid’s friends (H. Choutri) who gets fresh with a hotel maid is typical of the film’s insistence on constructs rather than rounded characters. Corraface gives the cliched dialogue the old college try; Babe, prancing round in various eye-catching get-ups, is embarrassing. Tech credits are OK.

Algiers-Beirut: A Souvenir

French-Lebanese

Production

A CineTeve (France)/Djinn House Prods. (Lebanon) production, for La Sept/Arte. (International sales: France Television Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Fabienne Fab, Servain Schreiber. Executive producer, Joey Fare. Directed, written by Merzouk Allouache.

Crew

Camera (color), Laurent Machiel; editor, Claude Frechede; music, Rene-Marc Bini; sound, Adrien Nataf; assistant director, Laurent Laubier. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Cineastes du Present), Aug. 9, 1998. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Fabienne Babe, Georges Corraface, H. Choutri. (French and Arabic dialogue)
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