Monsieur Ibrahim

Fifty years into a long and varied career, Omar Sharif gives one of his very best performances in this touching adaptation of playwright Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's autobiographical novel, Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran. The Egyptian-born Sharif plays Monsieur Ibrahim, the Muslim proprietor of small Parisian grocery who becomes an unlikely father-figure...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Fifty years into a long and varied career, Omar Sharif gives one of his very best performances in this touching adaptation of playwright Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's autobiographical novel, Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran. The Egyptian-born Sharif plays Monsieur Ibrahim, the Muslim proprietor of small Parisian grocery who becomes an unlikely father-figure to a Jewish teenager who's been abandoned by his parents. Moise (Pierre Boulanger), or "Momo," hasn't seen his mother (Isabelle Renauld) in years; she walked out when Momo was still a child, taking her older son, Paul, and leaving Momo in the care of his depressed and distant father (Gilbert Melki). Alone most of the day with no one to talk to but the prostitutes he occasionally hires with his piggy-bank savings and whatever he can skim off the grocery money, Momo shops for — or more accurately, shoplifts — dinner at "the Arab's": Monsieur Ibrahim's store. Endowed with the wisdom of the Koran and intuition that borders on clairvoyance, the "Arab" — who soon clues Momo into the fact that he's actually Turkish — knows exactly what the kid is doing. But Ibrahim figures that bonding with this lonely, practically parentless young man is far more valuable than whatever Momo's pocketing from the shelves. Ibrahim shows Momo how to save money by serving his father cat food instead of pate and yesterday's warmed over bread instead of today's baguette, as well as how to stretch the Bordeaux with a little water. Ibrahim also teaches Momo the meaning of the "his" Koran and the value of a smile, and when Momo returns home to find that his father has abandoned him, Monsieur Ibrahim teaches Momo the meaning of fatherhood. Schmitt adapted his novel into a successful stage monologue before collaborating with director Francois Dupeyron on the film's screenplay, and they open up the action beautifully. Momo's coming of age is set against a vibrant recreation of 1960's Paris, complete with a swinging Franco-pop soundtrack and a fresh, Nouvelle Vague vibe. Dupeyron even includes a scene in which Momo watches a film crew shooting what appears to be a scene from Jean Luc Godard's CONTEMPT, complete with Isabelle Adjani in a tousled Bardot-blond wig, making a cameo appearance as "La Star." Boulanger is completely captivating as the kind of kid Truffaut would have adored, but it's Sharif's show. Next to his portrayal of Yuri in DR. ZHIVAGO, this may be the role for which he'll be best remembered. (In French, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Fifty years into a long and varied career, Omar Sharif gives one of his very best performances in this touching adaptation of playwright Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's autobiographical novel, Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran. The Egyptian-born Sharif… (more)

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