Looking for Comedy in The Muslim World
Review Date: 1.16.06
I like dry humor and I’ve always admired Albert Brooks. But I’m allergic to dust, which is to say, if metaphors were descriptions of the actual, I’d have sneezed my way through most of Brooks’ latest, a film called: Looking For Comedy In The Muslim World.
The premise is interesting. Brooks, playing a character named Albert Brooks, is sent by some arm of the State Department to India and Pakistan to find out what makes Muslims laugh. Bombing the hell out of border villages doesn’t seem to do the trick, so sending Albert to find out what makes their funny bones tingle seems like a good idea.
Of course Brooks’ tongue is deeply in cheek, but it’s so deep the whole film is thrown off balance. It pains me to tell you skip it, because Brooks is a comic genius. But not in this film. So yes, skip it.
Now - just when you may have been thinking that Woody Allen was out of material, that his best work was behind him, along he comes with Match Point. This is a remarkable film, easily the best he’s made in a long while. If the Academy rewarded great filmmaking, Allen’s film would be a top contender for the Oscars. But I think Match Point is a tad too intelligent to lure the kind of audiences that spell Academy Award. There is sex and crime in Match Point, but it’s not the splashy, crowd drawing kind.
Match Point is a character study, a psychological thriller. No movie I can think of has succeeded in making me so uncomfortable for so long. From beginning to end I was on edge. Which is right where Allen wants us. When the tension feels almost unbearable, Allen lets the line out, just a bit. But raw knuckle time resumes, after a brief breather.
This is the kind of film where you’re quite sure you know what’s going to happen. The story line has the feel of inevitability about it. The blade will drop. Heads will roll, but when? And whose heads?
Because the story unfolds in pretty much a straight line, without so much as a flash back, (except at the very beginning, when we hear a voice-over discussing the idea of luck, and illustrating the narrator’s theory with a slow motion volley on the tennis court), I can tell you just a bit of the plot without ruining a thing.
A young Irishman, recently retired from the professional tennis circuit, seeks employment at a posh club in London. He is hired. We observe him settling into a cheap flat. The camera lingers long enough on his leisure hours for us to learn that he’s reading the Penguin edition of Crime And Punishment.
Soon, at work, he meets a brother and sister, scions of a fabulously wealthy businessman, played beautifully by the Scottish actor, Brian Cox. Before long, friendships and alliances are made and romance blooms. From erstwhile tennis pro to the upper echelons of high society, by virtue of wit and guile, our young protagonist begins to climb. It helps that the tycoon and the young Irishman share a love of opera.
That’s enough. I’ve given nothing important away. It’s what happens along the ascension that makes Match Point fascinating.
While waiting for the ‘match point’ in this film, you’ll be grinding your molars. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride of the psyche.
For KUSP’s Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.