The Town

Shot on digital video, Yousry Nasrallah's film belongs to the heightened melodramatic tradition of Egyptian cinema epitomized by Nasrallah's mentor, the great Youssef Chahine. A fable of immigration and identity, it's based on a poem by Constantine Cavafy, yet seems equally in debt to the RKO story department of the late 40s and early 50s. Roschdy Zem, in a performance that suggests the young Jack Palance, is a would-be actor who lives and works in Cairo's market district; following his dream, he moves to Paris but finds the only acting he's allowed to do is in the boxing ring, where he's expected to perform in fixed fights. A beating by gangsters leaves him without money or memory in a Paris hospital, and upon his release he wanders the streets like a film noir figure, unaware of where or who he is. Nasrallah handles the outsized emotions and grand themes with ease and aplomb; Claire Denis (Nenette and Boni) contributed to the script.

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