During the early 1960s, Paris was an explosion of life. As the old gave way to the new, everything was in flux and the city was filled with an energy that promised cultural shifts and social change. Against this background, in a working class neighborhood, two unlikely characters--a young Jew and an elderly Muslim--begin a friendship. When we meet Moise, also known as Momo, he is in effect an orphan even tough he lives with prostitutes who treat him with genuine affection. Momo buys his groceries at the neighborhood shop, a crowded dark space owned and run by Ibrahim, a silent exotic looking man who sees and knows more than he lets on. After Momo is abandoned by his father, Ibrahim becomes the one grownup in Momo's life. Together they begin a journey that will change their lives forever.
This modest, sentimental film concerns the friendship between Momo, a young Jewish boy (Pierre Boulanger), and Ibrahim (Omar Sharif), a Muslim shopkeeper who becomes his surrogate father and spiritual guide. Set in Paris in the 1960's, the movie has a scruffy, New Wave look and a soundtrack full of period-appropriate French and American pop songs. This is, at bottom, a lesson in tolerance, but the atmosphere of unassuming realism and the tenderness of the two central performances make it less cloying then it might be, and Mr. Sharif's sly charisma almost rescues his character, who is basically the personification of exotic, enigmatic wisdom, from being a dubious Orientalist cliché. — A. O. Scott
2003-12-05 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Monsieur Ibrahim