MaRock the Casbah

I saw a great French coming-of-age movie called MaRock over the weekend. It’s the story of a teenage Moroccan Arab girl who falls deeply in love with a Jewish boy and although it was billed as a Romeo and Juliet story it really isn’t.

It has plenty to recommend it as a version of the classic star-crossed lovers: Jews versus Arabs, street car racing through Casablanca instead of public duelling, a radicalised Muslim brother who would make a very good Tybalt, nightclubs, a guy whose homosexuality is an open secret who makes a perfect Friar Lawrence and post-sundown family feasting during Ramadan. But the writer doesn’t even try to figure out a way to bring Jews and Arabs together at the end of the film. That would stretch suspension of disbelief a little too far.

Modern Casablanca, as depicted in this film, looks nothing like the Hollywood back lot shown in the 1942 movie named after the city. Minarets and sky blue domes? Check. Walled gardens based around water features? Check. Lying out in the sun on the flat stucco rooftops? Check. 1980s glass and steel in the CBD? Check. Wide palm tree-lined streets? Check. Looks like a lovely place to relax as long as the nightclub knife fights and drag racing along the tourist strip occurs less frequently than depicted.

There’s dialogue in both French and Arabic throughout the film and sometimes it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other starts. The cross-pollination between the two languages is obviously immense and on-going. This leaves aside the fact that the French spoken in the film is very colloquial and tres argotique.

The thing I’m discovering now is that subtitles on French films are really starting to bug me. Firstly, the words of the subtitles are (necessarily) different to the words spoken. Secondly, when I can understand what’s being said, I comprehend it a fraction later than I than I do the subtitles. The dissonance this creates just plain confuses me.


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