Like her appealing first feature, La petite Jérusalem, Karin Albou's The Wedding Song probes the threats to an intimate bond between two Semitic women. Here, World War II steps in to test a happy friendship between Tunisian neighborsNour (Olympe Borval), a devout Muslim, and Myriam (Lizzie Brocheré), whose Jewish single mother (played by the director) is equally poor but more secular, schooled, and ambitious for her daughter. The prospect of Nazi invasion, with the collusion of a French administration only too happy to refuel latent tensions between Arabs and Jews, threatens a bond already complicated by the romantic entanglement of one girl and the prospect of a forced marriage for the other. Though lovely to look at, The Wedding Song is a little overwhelmed by its relentlessly hyper-poetic imageryall those enormous eyes staring in fright from nocturnal shadows incongruously makes you think of crying-kitten posters. The overdetermined pressures of the big picture, with war, class, race, and religion crammed into every frame, threaten to turn each character into a historical position paper. Still, this spirited film sustains its momentum as a tale of powerless women uniting to take back control of their destinies.
Oct. 9-15, 2009