Review: ‘A Minute of Sun Less’

An original but overly ambitious detective yarn set in Tangiers, "A Minute of Sun Less" marks an odd career turn for Nabil Ayouch. Although the mystery takes interesting turns, Ayouch seems mostly keen on experimenting with camerawork, freeze frames, complex editing and offbeat characters. Unfortunately, none of this congeals into a strong film.

An original but overly ambitious detective yarn set in Tangiers, “A Minute of Sun Less” marks an odd career turn for Nabil Ayouch, director of the critically acclaimed “Mektoub” and “Ali Zaoua, Prince of the Street.” Although the mystery takes interesting turns, Ayouch seems mostly keen on experimenting with camerawork, freeze frames, complex editing, offbeat characters and scripting that push local filmmaking limits. Unfortunately, none of this congeals into a strong film. Most notable element is thefrank approach to sexuality; two very explicit sex scenes have made it unscreenable in Morocco. Offshore, its very untypical, fish-nor-fowl look makes it a hard sell.

While investigating the murder of a lecherous drug lord, rugged young police inspector Kamel (Noureddin Orahhou) falls for the dead man’s beautiful g.f. Touria (Lubna Azabal, protag in Andre Techine’s “Loin”). She knows more than she’s telling, mainly to protect her lively but sick young brother Pipo (Hicham Moussoune). The pair end up living in Kamel’s apartment, despite being prime witnesses in the case.

Kamel soon exchanges his usual bedmate, a masculine-looking, kind-hearted belly dancer who’s had a sex change operation, for the willing Touria. Their love-making, which takes place while Pipo sleeps in the same room, intercuts full frontals with flash images representing Kamel’s memories and desires.

The film’s originality lies in presenting the female side of male sexuality without mincing images. The problem is integrating this into a deconstructed thriller. There is some nice location work as the trio heads south, but the mystifying ending seems to depend on Kamel having ESP.

Intense thesps Orahhou and Azabal generate a lot of chemistry, separately and together. Also well used is the strange, magnetic screen presence of young Moussoune, who was one of the boys in “Ali Zaoua.” Apart from Joel David’s flashy camerawork and the expensive-looking lab work, Djilali Aichoune and Amelie de Chassey ’60s-style thriller soundtrack is notable.

A Minute of Sun Less

Morocco-France

Production

An Arte France presentation of an Ali 'n Prods.(Morocco)/BC Films/GMT (France) co-production. Produced by Beatrice Caufman. Directed by Nabil Ayouch. Screenplay, Ayouch, Malika Al Houbach.

Crew

Camera (color, Cinemascope), Joel David; editor, Vanessa Zambernard; music, Djilali Aichoune, Amelie de Chassey; production designer, Itaf Benjellouane; costume designer, Aida Diouri; sound (Dolby SR), Ferdinand Bouchara. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Friends and Neighbors), Sept. 21, 2003. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Kamel Raoui - Noureddin Orahhou Touria - Lubna Azabal Pipo - Hicham Moussoune
With: Noor, Mohamed Majd.
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