Director Faouzi Bensaidi’s A Thousand Months is a stark but lovely evocation of the many melodramas that simultaneously haunt and enliven a Moroccan village in the Atlas Mountains during the month of Ramadan in 1981. The story’s intertwining, fleeting threads recall Altman’s Short Cuts, but the sly playfulness of the film’s tone more accurately reflects Elia Suleiman’s more overtly political Divine Intervention and Otar Iosseliani’s Tati homage Monday Morning. The film ostensibly concerns the coming of age of young Mehdi (Fouad Labied), who carries around the chair his love-struck professor sits on during class. But the narrative soon opens up, cataloging the various deceptions and romantic entanglements of other characters: a local television programmer who plays God by cutting off the town’s entertainment for the girl who goes on to marry the town’s lascivious “kaid”; Mehdi’s mother, Amina (Nezha Rahil), who keeps her activist husband’s imprisonment a secret from her son and attempts to move on with a new man; and the boy’s grandfather, the practical Ahmed (Mohammed Majd), who struggles to keep everyone’s faith despite the family’s blistering poverty. Bensaidi’s incredible use of widescreen is rigorous but never suffocating. Because there’s only a handful of close-ups in the entire film (a zoom into the static of a television program and a shot of Amina’s face as seen through a pair of binoculars), A Thousand Months has the texture of a photo album. And in isolating the filmic action to one side of the frame, or separating multiple actions by creating distinct planes within the same frame, Bensaidi often parallels human movement to that of the stars above. The film begins on the first day of Ramadan with a shot of a crescent moon nestled in the sky near a twinkling star and ends on Id ul Fitr with a disastrous wedding ceremony. Because the film’s simple themes of entitlement, shame, and responsibility are so wondrously cushioned by and implied in Bensaidi’s comical set pieces and cosmological flights of fancy, it makes Mehdi’s symbolic struggle with his teacher’s chair a little less cloying.
- 124 min
- Faouzi Bensaidi
- Faouzi Bensaidi, Emmanuelle Sardou
- Fouad Labied, Nezha Rahil, Mohammed Majd, Mohammed Afifi, Abdelati Lambarki, Mohamed Bastaoui, Meryem Massaia
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