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3.7 out of 5 stars23
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 23 April 2011
I loved this. The presence of Claudia Cardinale on the cast list assured me it would not be dross, and it wasn't (though she has come some way since The Leopard!). The protagonists are opposites who find they have more in common than they realise. Malik, Arabic-speaking but very much a European in style, returns to Tunisia and his family. There he find the houseboy is French-speaking but very much a Tunisian in style and inhibitions. Malik has the lordly attitudes of the colonists. His counterpart has the innate subservience of a servant. Piece by piece they come together. What I found interesting was the way pre-revolution Tunisia intruded into the film (made before 2011). Malik puts off an unwanted marriage by making a speech which sets out why he dislikes the then regime. Later the intrusive nature of the police is revealed when the lovers are caught by a badge-waver, himself also observed by a policeman. As time passes the development of the relationship is shown. It is a taut observation of the lifestyles of Tunisia. First class - well worth buying
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on 20 October 2010
Sara (Claudia Cardinale), glamorous and wealthy, lives a colonial-style life in Tunisia. Her thirty-something architect son, Malik, returns from France to keep her company after the death of his father some months previously. Sara and Malik's aunts are expectantly hopeful that Malik will 'settle down' and marry. However, Malik only has eyes for Sara's 25-year-old handyman, Bilal (who is also French, but of Arabic descent). Malik's attraction to Bilal is evident from the outset - although Bilal (Salim Kechiouche) seems cowed by his status as Sara's servant, and shies away from Malik's attentions.

THE STRING (French/Arabic, with subtitles) is a generally well-crafted drama. The cast is robust and competent - particularly notable are the majestic grace of screen-legend Claudia Cardinale as Sara, and the shy cap-doffing quality of Salim Kechiouche (Criminal Lovers,Le Clan) as Bilal. Further, the tropical Tunisian setting opens itself to the exploration of the wealthy professional / unskilled handyman romance that perhaps invokes the Maurice-Scudder relationship of Maurice, although in a more contemporary mise-en-scene.

So - why not a higher rating? THE STRING's promise of 'cultural conflict' remains unfulfilled. Director Mehdi Ben Attia took the easy route of scripting all the primary characters as Western Europeans - effectively rendering the Tunisian setting redundant. Hence, THE SCRIPT avoids the anticipated potency of more diverse cultural oppositions to Malik and Bilal's budding relationship (the primary alternative perspective is limited to the scanty, muttered disgruntlement of Sara's Muslim maid); as a consequence, there is much less antagonism between Malik and Bilal than there might otherwise have been.

The mounting tension between Malik and Bilal is further weakened by a large number of busy, competing sub-plots - flashbacks to the death of Sara's husband, a lesbian couple's plan to use Malik as a surrogate father, and Malik's liaison with his male cousin. Finally, perhaps the most interesting quirk of the film - Malik's hallucinations that he is wrapped in string causing him to spin round in an attempt to untangle himself (hence the film's name) - feels more like a brusque bolt-on than an integral component. Such limitations tend to mellow THE STRING's potential impact, resulting in an unnecessarily bland and unchallenging piece.

These (perhaps unduly harsh) criticisms aside, it is easy to see why THE STRING will be a crowd-pleaser. Take a conventional Romeo and Juliet love-story, add a dominant matriarch; layer the resulting mixture on top of a sunny North African setting, and you have a recipe for solid, undemanding entertainment. Viewers primarily seeking a recognisable and comfortably-warm film will undoubtedly appreciate THE STRING.
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The String (Le Fil) is a `gay drama'. It tells the story of thirty year old Malik, played by Antonin Stahly, when he returns to the Colonial home of his mother (Claudia Cardinale -Italian icon etc). All she wants is to see him settle down and marry.

She employs a number of people including a handyman, played by Salim Kechiouche `Le Clan, `Full Speed). They take a shine to each other and start a secret relationship. Not only do we have the social difference of rich and poor but also the societal and religious Christian and Muslim) pressures as this is set in Tunisia.

These issues are all explored and there are some genuinely touching scenes. It is beautifully shot, acted and directed. One thing that bothered me was the actual `string' referenced in the title, it is obviously a metaphor, but they actually use a real one attached to Malik at certain points, to emphasise how his family are holding on to him. Whilst this may be seen a stylistic genius, I found it to be more of an alienation device. That said it did not detract too highly from my enjoyment.

I do not want to give any plot spoilers, but this was not all that challenging, more of a gentle love story with some spanners thrown in at certain junctures. In French and Arabic with subtitles (which are not literal at least in the French, in some parts), this has a run time of 90 mins, perfect for the European market.
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on 15 June 2011
In this gay-orientated love and social drama an ageing Italian film icon, Claudia Cardinale, plays the mother of a liberal, in Paris educated, Arab young man who has to learn to live with the prejudices surrounding him in his native Tunisia. He returns to Tunisia for his father's funeral and decides to stay. His privileged upbringing 'allows' him to be open with his homosexuality to the dismay of his mother. When he also seduces one of the servants their relationship is pushed to its limit. Despite their conservative Arab/Islamic surroundings and the predictable disapproval a relationship develops between these two men. This opens the figurative can of worms.

Many gay people will see their own struggles in this film. If you are not gay see this film with an open mind. It will confront you with a parent's acceptance or not of his/her child sexuality and its effect on their relationship but also that child's difficulty in dealing with his feelings and responsibilities in what his society deems acceptable. This film succeeds on all fronts thanks to a good storyline, beautiful scenery and an excellent cast.
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on 29 September 2012
Other reviewers have outlined both accurately and in detail the strengths and weaknesses of this film. Nevertheless I think it does encapsulate the issues now facing countries like Tunisia, with a string Western orientation, after the Arab Spring. The compromises which have to be made with a socially conservative culture are essentially the same which were faced by gay people in Britain throughout much of the 20th century.
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on 3 December 2012
This romantic gay potboiler is a refreshing change from some of the turgid offerings we are becoming used to in this genre. Other reviewers have outlined the plot well enough and I'm glad I'm not alone in praising as well as enjoying this always watchable effort. Juat a few points. The side plots could have been expanded, there are several interesting ones including the cultural clashes, surrogate baby plan, Bilal's background etc. Just as in the more recent 'Our Paradise', there is enough plot and interesting characters to fill up a mini series. Still, what there is is generally beautifully played what with Cardinale in full flow you can't help but be hooked. Here I must give a special mention to Salim Kechiouche who gives yet another excellent performance in the pivotal role of Malik's lover, Bilal. I always praise his performances because he is invariably good. From 'Criminal Lovers', 'Full Speed', 'Le Clan', 'Grand Ecole' and now 'The String', he has continued to give honest, realistic performances as gay characters which elevate his supporting roles to pivotal ones. Perhaps the fact that he is seriously hot looking holds him back a little. I hope not. Also, see how he enjoys his work. His dance and party scenes with Cardinale ooze pleasure and his chemistry with (the tragically late) Antonin Stahly is plain to see.The supporting cast is top notch - ('Mahbouba!!!). Nice work all round. The soundtrack supports the continuity well and has a catchy title the old hit 'La Bambola'. Mainly in French and Arabic with generally accurate subtitles, this is worth seeing and owning.
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on 26 August 2011
Bit slow in the beginning - unless you know the synopsis beforehand. Storyline was averagely good. Most of the scenes were satisfactory, but the part when they got married was a bit exaggerated and the ending was .. quite a flop. but at least it is a not a sad ending for a LGBTQ movie. and I just learned that Tunis is so pretty! My next holiday destination. :)
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on 22 October 2010
An interesting and unusual film starring Italian cinema icon Claudia Cardinale. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a movie full of brooding emotions, forbidden liasons and cultural, familial clashes together with the psychological insight you come to expect from French film. Some of the acting is first rate.....and the ending.....well, I won't spoil it for you.
The scenario tells the story of a 30 year old son [Antonin Stahly] who returns to stay with his mother [Cardinale] in Tunis following the death of his father. We see, through a series of well edited flashbacks, the background - father, a Moslem and terminally ill [Cardinale being his French, Catholic wife]apparently a good man but a moral disciplinarian who has a detached relationship with his son whom he suspects of being gay. Cardinale and Stahly have an intense but difficult mother - son relationship symbolised by the 'string' of the title, a metaphor which pulls and traps him whenever he comes under stress.
Mother expects son to get married, settle down and take up architecture - all under her watchful eye. Of course it doesn't turn out that way. Son meets Bilal, [Salim Kechiouche] an Arab/French live in handyman whose ambiguous sexuality appeals to him. Their relationship builds slowly but is postponed by Bilal's master/servant position in which he feels himself a stranger at the households beck and call.
The story continues, with various sub-plots, to explore this triangular set of personalities with aplomb from director Mehdi Ben Attia - clearly a name to watch -as the film is tightly edited, beautifully shot and composed with little slack, and despite the flashbacks, clearly has a beginning, middle and end.
The acting is generally fine. Cardinale, still imposingly beautiful,relishes her role as a fading, suffocating matriarch. Stahly is suitably confused if determined to forge his own path. The best belongs to Kechiouche who together with his obvious physicality, gives an emotionally charged and realistic performance full of subtlety and charm as the 'man in the middle'. The emotional depth in the film comes from his interactions with the other characters.
This could have got 5 stars if only there were some reasonable DVD extras - there aren't. In French and Arabic with English subtitles. Make up your own mind but watch it twice first.
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on 1 January 2013
In had seen the film at a cinema in Paris and I wanted to have the DVD to show it to my friends because I think that, although not perfect, the subject of this film is unusual and involves Tunisian people whose menthality and way of living I know so well!
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on 14 May 2014
A feel good French movie about finding love.

When considerably neurotic architect arrives to his homeland, former French colony, he is confronted by demons of the past and over bearing mother - wonderfully portrayed by a true legend Claudia Cardinale. He immediately takes upon notice young handy man who works for them and decides to keep polite distance because of their vast differences. This is the world with old, colonial rule: help and wealthy, idle employers do not mix. Forced to spend time together, love and lust blossom but not to everyone's approval...

With strong, handsome leading men, beautiful photography, confident directing and happy ending this film is highly recommended.
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