The ambiguities of male relationships common in the work of Paul Bowles are represented in "Beach Café". Co-written by Andre Techine, this second feature from Benoit Graffin serves up flavorsome hors d'oeuvres without delivering much of a main course. Fest dates preceded limited French release, but pic's small stature and muted dramatics will prevent much international play.

The insidious ambiguities of male relationships common in the work of Paul Bowles are accurately represented in “Beach Cafe,” an agreeably sulky mood piece set in and near contempo Tangier. Co-written by Andre Techine, this second feature from Benoit Graffin after the 1998 “Le New Yorker” serves up reasonably flavorsome hors d’oeuvres without delivering much in the way of a main course. Scattered fest dates preceded limited French release earlier this year, but pic’s small stature and muted dramatics will prevent much international play, except where the Bowles and Techine names assure cult interest.

Ramshackle joint of the title is presided over by old Fouad (Jacques Nolot), who does nothing to attract business and scorns his fellow Moroccans for their indolent ways. He befriends Driss (Ouassini Embarek), a hustling young taxi driver with two girlfriends — a liberated bleach blonde and a conservative Muslim — who encourages Fouad to transform his dive into a real restaurant. Relationship sours, however, as unarticulated tensions and a deeply submerged erotic charge between the men manifest themselves in an identifiably Bowlesian antagonism. Sun-baked seaside locations and lulling score contribute significantly to the slightly dazed atmosphere.

Beach Café

France

Production

An Elia Films-Lers Films du Requin-Cinetelema production. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Cyriac Auriol, Pauline Duhault. Directed by Benoit Graffin. Screenplay, Andre Techine, Graffin, based on a work by Paul Bowles.

Crew

Camera (color), Yorick LeSaux; editor, Camille Cotte; music, Philippe Miller; production designer, Yan Arlaud. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Discovery), Sept. 13, 2001. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Jacques Nolot, Ouassini Embarek, Leila Belarbi, Dalia Amrani, Meriem Serbah.

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