Colm Hogan

One of the best films you will see this year is Cairo Time, a perfectly cast and paced story about a man (Alexander Siddig—the Arab), a woman (Patricia Clarkson—the American), and the biggest city in Africa. Directed by Arab-Canadian Ruba Nadda, Cairo Time begins by throwing us into the streets, which are packed with people and cars that seem to obey no general rules (screeching, honking, yelling, negotiations). The chaos on the streets and sidewalks is matched with the tranquility of interior spaces: the hotel lobby, the cafes, the rug factory, the mosques, the markets. This is the greatness of great cities: They are at once stable and chaotic, insane and sane, dangerous and safe.

The American woman (a writer for a women's magazine that is not unlike Cosmopolitan) comes to Cairo to spend time with her husband, who works with the UN in Gaza. Her husband, however, is stuck in that war zone and sends his friend and former colleague, the Arab (he is educated and courtly), to pick her up from the airport. She moves into her splendid hotel room, she walks onto the balcony (an important element of the film), she watches the Nile flowing by the hotel. All around her: the very new, the very old, the sacred, the profane, the very poor, the very rich. Because her husband can't seem to get out of the trouble in Gaza, she spends more and more time with the Arab. Slowly they fall in love. Slowly she falls in love with the city. Film is music, film is architecture, film is the crowd, film is space, film is urban—this film is almost flawless. recommended

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