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Bab’Aziz (you know, the Prince…the one who Contemplated His Soul…)

Bab'Aziz (you know, the Prince...the one who Contemplated His Soul...)

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It drops by the local art house every few months without fail–the “challenging” exotic import, too maddeningly slow and nonlinear for the Pan’s Labyrinth crowd to cross it over to mainstream success, yet too naively earnest and moppet-dependent to impress a critical community taken with the more avant-garde and minimalist likes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul or the Dardenne brothers. An unfortunate situation, perhaps, but don’t shed too many tears for a foreign film caught between a rock and a hard place like Bab-Aziz: The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul. Tunisian director Nacer Khemir’s latest internationally co-produced effort–the last in his “Desert Trilogy” and the first to find theatrical distribution in the States, though the first two will be released on DVD this month–will likely have supporters able to see in its fairy tale platitudes and vague beauty something “life-affirming” and indicative of the dervish culture it purportedly represents. But without wholly dismissing its unpretentious spirituality, it’s still difficult to praise Bab’Aziz merely on the basis of good intentions. Khemir is going for the mythical and transcendent, but Bab’Aziz too often feels fluffy and antiquated.

Click here to read Michael Joshua Rowin’s review of Bab’Aziz.

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