One of the worst movie experiences of my life was watching Sex and the City. I know it was a big hit but the whole thing just annoyed me. And not just because of the jokes about losing control of one's bowels. Certainly the moral message of the film didn't sit well with me either. It's not like I'm a snobby consumer of entertainment. I was an enthusiastic watcher of the HBO series. (I know, I know.) Anyway, all that to say that I'm pretty sure I will not be watching Sex and the City 2 unless it's part of my trademarked "Bad Movie Night" that I do with one of my friends. But this review from The Hollywood Reporter is fairly positive:
[E]ven if "Sex and the City 2" consisted of nothing but a two-and-a-half hour fashion show, it would draw crowds. But it also has the returning cast members in fine comic form, and it has more cutting-edge humor than the first movie. Critics will carp about the platitudes in the script and about the longueurs in the nearly 2 1/2-hour opus, but for the core audience, there will be no complaints about too much of a good thing. This picture is going to be a smash.
So why am I mentioning it here? Well, it turns out the movie sends the characters on an "all-expenses-paid luxury vacation to Abu Dhabi." So the movie has the women coming up against "the puritanical and misogynistic culture of the Middle East." I can imagine all sorts of ways that this would be played for laughs or -- and the reviewer mentions a couple of them. The women sing Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" in an Abu Dhabi nightclub. And they're rescued at one point by some Muslim women who strip off their "black robes" as the reviewer puts it -- revealing stylish Western outfits underneath. But even though he's all for this movie, here's how he puts it:
The rather scathing portrayal of Muslim society no doubt will stir controversy, especially in a frothy summer entertainment, but there's something bracing about the film's saucy political incorrectness. Or is it politically correct? "SATC 2" is at once proudly feminist and blatantly anti-Muslim, which means that it might confound liberal viewers.
I know it's not the most important media outlet in the world, but it shows once again how the media tend to view Islam and its adherents as a monolithic block. I haven't seen the film and, if I'm lucky, I won't. But what's described above is blatant disparaging not of Islam so much as of of one particular interpretation of Islam. By way of example, a few months ago some photos were floating around of the graduating class at Cairo University. The photo from the 1950s showed women in Western dresses with cap sleeves and full skirts that went just below the knee. None of the women covered their heads. The 2004 graduating class showed that nearly all of the women were covered. The story about Egypt's transformation has been covered well -- I particularly liked this 2007 story in the New York Times about moving from secular style to frequent displays of Muslim piety. The point is, though, that there are various interpretations among Muslims about fashion.
And on the other hand, I hope that when this movie comes out that people will be able to have intelligent discussions about the conflicts not just between feminism and certain interpretations of Islam but about other conflicts as well.
In more substantive movie news, Reuters FaithWorld had a post -- with links to more stories -- about how religion-themed movies took the top prizes at the Cannes Film Festival:
A Buddhist-inspired Thai film has won the coveted Palme d'Or for best picture at the Cannes film festival. "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," a mystical exploration of reincarnation as a well-to-do farmer confronts his imminent death, was directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Xavier Beauvois' "Of Gods and Men," based on the real-life story of seven Catholic monks murdered during unrest in Algeria in the 1990s, took the runner-up Grand Prix award at the closing session on Sunday.
The main Reuters story doesn't give many more details on the Beauvois film but the Times (U.K.) reviewed it and gave much more information on the Cistercian brothers who were taken hostage by Islamic radicals.