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Definitive Arabian Nights,
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This review is from: Arabian Nights [DVD] (DVD)
This 1974 reworking of a selection of the Arabian Nights tales is the antithesis of Hollywood's sumptuous technicolour - and all the better for it. Authentic locations in North Africa and the Middle East all have an appropriately arid and bleached look, the brightness of the transfer only adding to the intense sense of heat. Many of the actors appear to be locals going about their normal business, in ancient cities barely changed since medieval times. It feels real.
The common thread throughout, is the story of a master's attempt to find a lost slave - the other tales are woven around this, and so well is it done that at times you forget Zumerud and her lover, becoming engrossed in the sub-text as though it were the main feature. You may recognise elements of Ali Baba, but most of the tales are lesser-known narratives (though, interestingly, all more engrossing than the more familiar fables).
The acting is sometimes clumsy and naive, though this gives an authentically bashful feel to the more erotic scenes, as other reviewers have pointed out. Much has been made of the fact that Pasolini's version is an 'adult' take on the theme, but, surprisingly, this doesn't detract from the fairytale-like quality of the film.
Beautifully photographed, and with a unique feeling. You can't imagine anything this simple, subtle or unpretentious being made today.