Review: ‘Bab el Web’

Writer-helmer Merzak Allouache follows his local comic hit "Chouchou" with the sweetly inconsequential "Bab el Web," a melancholy comedy set in a disadvantaged district of Algiers that nearly makes up in heart what it lacks in narrative glue. Scattered, well-meaning pic incorporates sorrowful undercurrents: Young Algerians have limited prospects and sometimes drown their sorrow in drink or drugs.

Writer-helmer Merzak Allouache follows his local comic hit “Chouchou” with the sweetly inconsequential “Bab el Web,” a melancholy comedy set in a disadvantaged district of Algiers that nearly makes up in heart what it lacks in narrative glue. Scattered, well-meaning pic incorporates sorrowful undercurrents: Young Algerians have limited prospects and sometimes drown their sorrow in drink or drugs. Opening week’s business for the mid-March release was decent.

Clever title designates a cybercafe in the poor Bab el Oued quarter, where Bouzid (Faudel, a gifted singer and occasional thesp) lives with his mother, sister and older brother Kamel (Samy Naceri). When Laurence (Julie Gayet), Bouzid’s cyber-pal in Paris, accepts his casual invitation to come for a visit, the broke but enterprising brothers move heaven and earth to show her a good time. But Laurence has a secret, unguessable connection with Algeria. Relationship between the two brothers rings true in the leisurely, nicely played tale. Widescreen location lensing shows off the natural beauty of Algiers, slums and all.

Bab el Web

France - Algeria

Production

A Pyramide Distribution release of a Maia Films, France 3 Cinema, Les Prods. JMH, Pyramide Prods., ENTV (France)/Baya Films (Algeria) production. (International sales: Pyramide, Paris.) Produced by Pierre Benque. Executive producer, Yacine Djadi. Directed, written by Merzak Allouache.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Antoine Roch; editor, Sylvie Gadmer; music, Valmont, DJ Abdel; production designer, Sylvie Deldon; costume designer, Laurence Struz. Reviewed at UGC Les Halles, Paris, March 23, 2005. French, Arabic dialogue. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Julie Gayet, Faudel, Samy Naceri, Hacene Benzerari, Boualem Benani, Bakhta Benouis.

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