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Immaculate Conception Review

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Hannah is the daughter of a US senator who follows her British lover James to Pakistan and finds a group of eunuchs who could help her fall pregnant. She becomes embroiled in their eastern philosophy, while he's away cheating on her with a Pakistani photographer.

★★★★★

Set in Pakistan in the late 80s, this drama tells the tale of an all-purpose Western couple - politically connected American-Jewish wife Melissa Leo and environmentally-active British atheist husband James Wilby - who seek a cure for their infertility by spending time at a Pakistani shrine run by Islamic eunuchs, where their problems are dealt with by prayer, incense, chanting, ritual drunkenness, lots of sex and, if all else fails, the provision of a non-eunuch temple-boy as sex surrogate for the wife.

Throw in a camp British crook who smuggles stolen Korans, Wilby's affair with a photographer, the unfolding drama of the fatwah on Salman Rushdie, more infodump on the country's culture and politics, and what you have is a film that is, to say the least, rather hard to believe. Director Dehlavi began this as a documentary about shrines in Pakistan and then had all the ideas that jelled into making it a fiction feature, though this delving into the strange world of Islamic eunuchs has been somewhat pre-empted by a BBC documentary which proved more alarming than anything here - apart from one stomach-turning moment when a eunuch shoves a snake into his nose and out of his mouth with one movement.

Despite trying to shoehorn oodles of secondary themes into the brew, the psychological tug-of-war between Islam and Judaism, some nasty imperialist behaviour, and the downbeat ending make this well worth a look, if for no other reason than Western audiences rarely get a chance to see anything vaguely Asian.

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