Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Kasbah

The King of Norway's big white yacht, Norge, is still moored beside St Katherine's Dock this morning. It's crew, mostly gathered aft at a wooden table when I passed, were all wearing black sweaters and berets giving the impression that the vessel might belong to a vintage Bond villain.

The Queen of Norway and crown princess Mette will attend a literary luncheon at the Groucho Club in Soho today. Not the sort of thing our own philistine monarch goes in for.

CNN has had little time for Wilma, even when it whooshed up the west coast of Florida - they're definitely bored with storms now. Hurricane coverage is all about the story, not the news. Katrina fed the story of American social and racial division and the incompetence with which Louisiana's officialdom went about sheltering their population. Wilma could have fed a story about how surprisingly competently the Yucatan authorities went about a similar task, but this story isn't about Mexicans and they have been almost totally invisible within the blanket media coverage about dream holidays that became a nightmare.

Talking of which, Kasbah (2000) is a Spanish-Argentine take on the holiday from hell formula. Spain is the only Western European nation with (more or less) one of those American-style frontiers with Third World otherness, permitting its citizens to climb into their cars and drive south into a dusty place full of dirty, dodgy indigenes and proactively unhelpful officials.

The plot is baroque and increasingly ridiculious and soap opera-like as its unwinds. Essentially though it is about Mario (Ernesto Alterio), bastard son of a wealthy bastard, who finds himself vacationing in picturesquely inhospitable Morocco with his beautiful, money-worry free half sister Laura (played by Elena Ballesteros), who promptly vanishes - a key moment, because up until that point she was probably the main reason for watching the film! Cue dodgy natives and unhelpful officials, obligatory jail room scene etc.

Mario's situation at first seems unfortunate but he seems to invite more and more trouble for himself. His salvation clearly lies in falling into the slinky arms of kooky hippie Alix (Natalia Verbeke - who also starred with fellow Argie Ernesto Alterio in El Otro Lado de La Cama) and avoiding the more muscle-bound alternatives attached to the torso of pyschotically-chippy trucker-mercenary Rodrigo.

By the time Laura reappears it no longer seems important, as the film appears to have degenerated into a video for its own soundtrack. Entertaining enough though.

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