Preview by: Jack Foley
SCREEN veteran, Omar Sharif, seems to be making a comeback this
year. Not content with appearing alongside Viggo Mortensen in
the upcoming, Hidalgo, the actor
is earning rave reviews for his performance in Monsieur Ibrahim.
The film is set in Paris, during the early 1960's, when the city
represented an explosion of life, as the old gave way to the new.
Against a background of cultural shifts and social change, in
a working class neighbourhood, two unlikely characters - a young
Jew and an elderly Muslim - begin a friendship.
Momo (Pierre Boulanger) is, in effect, an orphan, even though
he lives with his father, a man slowly retreating into a crippling
His only friends are the street whores, who treat him with genuine
affection. And the owner of a neighbourhood shop, the silent and
exotic Mr Ibrahim (Omar Sharif), who sees and knows more than
he lets on.
When Momo is abandoned by his father, Ibrahim becomes the one
grown-up in Momo's life and, together, they begin a journey that
will change their lives forever.
Director/screenwriter, Francois Dupeyron, describes the film
as the kind of book you'd buy your best friends, and says, in
bringing it to the screen, that he wanted audiences to feel the
While Sharif, who had taken a few years off from making films,
said he was intrigued by the mystery surrounding Ibrahim.
In an interview with About.com, he discusses whether he could
be a sort of angel sent to save this boy and to make him
happy, to make him smile - even though it is not a view
shared by the writer or director.
But it was the intrigue surrounding the role which made it all
the more appealing.
Sharif also felt drawn to the project for the way in which it
resisted the temptation to play up the fact that Ibrahim is a
Muslim and Momo is a Jew.
The film is due to open in the UK later this year.
Critics in America, however, were full of praise for the film,
when it opened over the weekend of February 13-15, 2004.
The Hollywood Reporter described it as both an appealing
coming-of-age yarn and, as Monsieur Ibrahim embraces his own mortality,
a heartfelt coming-of- aging saga, while the New York
Post noted that coming-of-age movies are usually pretty
dismal, so it's refreshing to discover Monsieur Ibrahim, one that's
Entertainment Weekly, meanwhile, wrote that you
can't take your eyes off the aged beauty of 71-year-old Omar Sharif,
who plays the title character in the delicate cross-cultural fable
Monsieur Ibrahim with palpable delight.
While the New York Times opined that this modest,
sentimental film looks nostalgically back on Paris in the mid-1960's
and casts a loving, oblique glance at the French movies of that
The Los Angeles Times: "Wrote Surely there is room
in the movies for a small film with an unabashed, even old-fashioned
but timeless humanist spirit - and a triumphant portrayal by a
veteran star that is likely to be regarded as one of the year's
While the Miami Herald noted that it is a treat
to see Sharif back on the screen and Boulanger is a pleasure to
watch. The Los Angeles Daily News, meanwhile, referred
to it, simply, as a beautiful little gem of a movie.
But the final word goes to Variety, which concludes this
round-up, by stating that Sharif sparkles as a Turkish grocery
store owner and self-styled philosopher who brings sunshine into
the life of a lonely boy.