Noted dancer-choreographer Lahcen Zinoun makes an attractive helming debut with “The Lost Beauty,” a period piece with a “1,001 nights” feel. Set in the early 20th century, pic tells of a proud slave girl whose musical talents allow her to climb the household hierarchy, but aren’t enough to win her freedom. Lovingly shot though at times airless tale nicely folds music into the overall mix and should find supporters among fests looking for Maghrebi fare. Lead actresses Sanaa Alaoui and Hanane Zouhdi picked up prizes at Morocco’s national film festival.
Striking opening images, of blue sky against endless sand dunes, lead to a slave caravan, from which Oud l’Ward (Alaoui) and Dow Sbah (Zouhdi) are sold to their master (Mohamed Miftah). An accomplished musician himself, he soon discovers Oud l’Ward’s talents with the lute, but appreciation is tempered with jealousy as the student surpasses the teacher. A well-handled rape sequence leads to pregnancy, but when wicked housekeeper Fdila (Touria Jabrane, Morocco’s new culture minister) forces an abortion, Oud l’Ward becomes catatonic. Lovely closing — with Oud l’Ward presented as a female Orpheus — reinforces fairy-tale feel, nurtured by richly colored lensing.