Directed by Ziad Doueiri
Samuel Goldwyn, opens June 24
A misguided tale of sentimental education, Ziad Doueiri's sophomore effort (after 1998's pleasant coming-of-ager West Beirut) makes . . . And God Created Woman look like far-out feminism by comparison. Based on a 1996 book, Doueiri's film transports the Paris banlieue setting to a predominantly Arab neighborhood in Marseilles, adding a few throwaway post-9-11 references. Blonde 16-year-old nymphet Lila (Vahina Giocante) offers to show 19-year-old Chimo (Mohammed Khouas) her delta of Venus (celebrated by her loony obese aunt as "Jesus's lantern"), the first in a torrent of ridiculous sexual provocations. Although actual carnal contact is limited to a hand job on a moped, the shy Muslim teen finds his muse ("A dam burst inside me," he says in voice-over), filling several Clairefontaine notebooks with Lila's XXX chat. And the young lady's reward for her erotic yarns? Getting raped by the thuggish Mouloud (Karim Ben Haddou), a pal of Chimo's.
In one of Lila's smutty tales, she boasts of orally servicing Satan; in the confused sexual politics of Doueiri's movie, it's clear the devil is a woman. Rather than a heroic libertine, Lila is an inscrutable temptress. Her dirty talk rings not as an expression of her own desire but as an almost autistic recitation of passages from stroke magsa vagina monologue scripted by a ventriloquist. MELISSA ANDERSON
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