Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story

The star of Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story is Hebba Younis, a very fashionable, petite, young daytime-TV host with a pageboy haircut. She lives with her good-looking, newspaper reporter husband in a luxury apartment high above Cairo. Their lives are far removed from ordinary Cairo both literally and figuratively. He is on the short list for promotion to the politically sensitive job of editor in chief, an appointment that needs government approval. But her political stories are annoying the government and his colleagues tell him to shut her up. Under pressure she switches interviewing non-political women. The interviews morph into long flashbacks as the interviewees tell their stories.

In the first interview a middle-aged psychiatric patient from an upper class family is interviewed about her choice to remain a virgin. Unfortunately for Hebba's husband it centers on a date the woman's mother set up for her many years earlier with a man who came armed with a list of demands including that she give up driving in return for marriage. It turns out the the man is now a cabinet minister.

In the second interview an ex-inmate who is looking after a retired prison guard is interviewed about her crime (murder). This flashback teases the viewer with a who-done-it to who mystery story as three sisters made orphan by their father's death struggle to run a hardware shop with the help of their father's apprentice and the meddling of a drug addict uncle.

In the third interview a young dentist describes how she was wooed by an older American-educated economist, who seduces her and then blackmails her. The blackmailer is also appointed to a cabinet post.

Though easy on the eye Hebba is too selfish and touchy to be a likable character, which probably helps in drawing our sympathies to the three interviewees. The three stories have themes of women talking openly about love and sex and betrayal or oppression by men but also have or are seen to have political consequences (it also gives the impression that Egyptian cabinet ministers are particularly bad in this regard... and thin-skinned about it to boot). Overall it feels contrived and melodramatic, but the middle story in particular is well told and acted (and could probably expanded into a film by itself). While women talking openly on screen about sex and love might be common place in Western films like Sex and the City, I suspect it is not the case in Egyptian films.

Ian's rating 3/5
Anne's rating 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment