The Silences of the Palace | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Silences of the Palace

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An understated feminist parable set in Tunisia during the 50s, this film chronicles, through a series of flashbacks, the adolescence of a singer named Alia, who serves as filmmaker Moufida Tlatli's surrogate in this semiautobiography. What distinguishes this directorial feature debut by the veteran editor of French and Tunisian films is her assured, Proustian evocation of the oppressively insular everyday life on the estate of a nobleman, Prince Sidi Ali. As seen by Alia, who may be the prince's illegitimate daughter, the patriarchs of the household have their every whim, gastronomical and sexual, catered to by a harem. Among those who persevere in silence--hence the film's title--is Alia's mother, who's determined to shield her daughter from a similar fate and stubbornly withholds the identity of her father. The unspoken love and quiet antagonism between mother and daughter give the film dramatic tension, but at times Tlatli's direction becomes self-consciously artful and overly political. Her message is ultimately pessimistic--the grown Alia, reminiscing from the vantage of the mid-1960s, is freed from the silences of her past, but she's still on an uncertain quest for her own voice. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, January 12, 6:30 and 8:45; Saturday and Sunday, January 13 and 14, 3:15, 5:30, and 7:45; and Monday through Thursday, January 15 through 18, 6:30 and 8:45; 281-4114.

-- Ted Shen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Film still.

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