Salut Cousin! Review

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Alilo (Elmaleh) arrives in Paris to pick up a suitcase of dresses for resale in Algeria. The misplacing of the address leads him to stay with his cousin, who introduces him to a whole new way of life. Alilo has to return, but he has only just started to l


An amiable twists-of-fate tale about Algerians in Paris may not be the kind of movie to pull big bananas at the box office. However, director Merzak Allouache's proficiency at dragging his central characters to and fro hooks you right up to the dying moments.

Alilo (Elmaleh) arrives in Paris from Algiers to stay with his designer-clad, wannabe rock star cousin Mok (Hattou), intending to collect a mysterious suitcase of clobber for his boss back home. His visit is extended when, having lost the pick-up address en route, he is unable to contact said boss to refurbish himself with the vital information.

In between manic long-distance phone calls, he is drawn wide-eyed into Mok's trendily decadent lifestyle, ignorant of Western city life but certain of what's right and wrong. Mok, however, has debts, seriously bad hair and trouble acknowledging reality. While romance with an African neighbour, Fatoumata (Berdy), beckons for Alilo, his cousin's future looks increasingly iffy.

The humour is affectionate and understated - for instance, Alilo getting his hand stuck in the hatch at a touchy-feely sex show when his money runs out - but weightier matters such as racism and the political gloom shrouding Algeria are not neglected.

Allouache allows himself a few flights of fancy (one scene is reminiscent of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, no less) and the roving-camera sequences capture the confusing bustle that confronts Alilo. There are no explosions, car chases or special effects but the film has enough endearing moments: Safy Boutella's jazzy North African score; a colourful array of characters; a zig-zagging plot which leaves you guessing; and a disarming performance from Elmaleh as the innocent abroad.

Affectionate, sensitive portrayal of two very different cultures residing in the same space. Humorous without losing sight of its weightier subjects.