I am not a movie reviewer and I’m not the type of person who wouldn’t skip a new movie int the theaters. This is my take on a Lebanese movie that got a lot of attention for misjudged content.
I watched Tannoura Maxi last Thursday. The theater was almost full and even though I got my ticket almost an hour and a half before screening time, the only seats I got were next to the wall at the 4th row from the screen. Well, the movie wasn’t being screened in their largest theater but still the number was impressive after the showers of negative review the movie has collected. Most of the viewers stayed the whole time, few left and one was not able to keep his mouth shut for the entire movie until he was fed up at around 15-20 minutes before the movie ended (and to make the matter worse, he was sitting right behind me)
Before going through reviewing the movie, I have something to say. The type of viewers this publicity has collected is not the best type of audiences. Everyone rushed to see what the fuzz is all about with their hopes so high. And when they watched the movie, they were bombarded by a slow-paced, almost silent, nostalgic biography with twists of drama and fantasies. Not having this in mind resulted in waves of disappointment that transformed into hate. People expected more of a Nadine Labaki copycat with the vision of Joe Bou Eid (since most of the Lebanese productions in different branches of arts are being imported either from the west or from one another) but it turned out to be something completely different (although a few visuals hinted back to Nadine Labaki’s 2007 film Caramel). It’s not the typical movie you’d go to the cinema to watch and it’s not in any way a commercial movie. Tannoura Maxi is not an easy movie that you’d watch just for the sake of having fun and that’s what in my opinion made the audience not understand it as it is supposed to be. On another note, having a preconceived idea about the movie made things worse. Some people decided to boycott the movie (and they succeeded), others went and watched the movie out of curiosity and a lot of them had in mind the poison that the TV presenter and his guests threw up on air. Only few watched it objectively and viewed it as an artwork.
The movie is 95 minutes long. It visually narrates the way 2 persons coming from different cities from Lebanon met during the civil war (1982). The man was a priest to be ordered living in a village and the woman came from Beirut fleeting the clashes that were taking place in the capital. The woman likes that man after seeing him a few times and she tries to get closer and seduce him. After many trials and incidents he decides to give up on priesthood and join that woman and get married.
The story, as you have read and heard, is usual and has nothing special about it. Yet the visual treatment of the story and the little additions in the other characters along with their individual stories have pushed the movie into the Lebanese popular culture. Some stories and incidents were narrated bluntly unlike when others tend to hide certain political name or behaviors. About that, church gossips (that some found offensive) that happen at church during prayers always happen and there’s no reason for hiding them. Hiding them means denying them. Yet I (and probably you) know that they happen every Sunday.
The story unfolds itself onto the screen in a weird way that you need to be well focused and patient to connect the dots. There are a lot of different styles that the writer/director has used in the movie to unfold his characters but I won’t be discussing them to avoid spoilers.
Since the movie has few script, music was mandatory. The music was captivating and composed by Mike Massy; a new promising artist with one-of-a-kind talent.
Despite the massive criticism, I mostly enjoyed the movie. Though I felt it has been dragging at first because of its slow pace, but reading through the scenes would hook you up to it. I was not offended by any scene but I felt that some scenes are useless or long for no reason since the added time didn’t add anything more to the plot. The viewer can get the idea from few seconds and to me it was enough.
Tannoura Maxi is indeed an eye candy. Colors, angles, costumes, and sets are beautiful. And as I read over the blogsphere, it’s an on-screen Pinterest (for the delicate, visual-based, and colorful treatment)
The movie got banned earlier this week. Priests worked along with the tv presenter (who dedicated 3 episodes for Tannoura Maxi) on achieving the ban. It is said that it might be re-released once the controversial scenes are removed but I still can’t make sense out of that. And writing this today (after a couple of stressful days of chaos and madness in Tripoli and Beirut) I find it very illogical for authorities to run after a movie instead of criminals on the loose.
The team of Tannoura Maxi has worked hard on insuring a presence whether online or offline. Print material were spread and distributed everywhere, and as you search online, they are on Facebook, twitter, IMDB, Wikipedia (and on lots of people’s blogs) I tip my hat for that.
In the end I have to say, I liked the movie but I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody. The audience of this movie can only extend to art students, viewers and tasters. It was clear that regular people did not understand the movie for they were looking for an easy-to-watch movie. Tannoura Maxi would have been more appreciated if it was screened at a film festival or a specific audience of art consumers.
Just for the fun of it, here is a couple of comments the guy was sitting behind me had said:
“Even popcorn is not tasty in a Lebanese movie” He got a response: “Would you prefer hommos and tabouleh instead?”
“I’m sure all the people here in the theater are bored but they’ve got nothing better to do, that’s why they are still here”
Here are some links over the web about Tannoura Maxi
(I recommend reading this one) An-Nahar by Father George Massouh
Al Akhbar by Pierre Abi Saab
Arabic CNN by Bariaa Ahmar
UPDATE: After the suspension on Monday May 21st, the movie is back to the theaters as of Wednesday 24th. The director has stated earlier on his Facebook profile that it would be suspended for 48 hours only.
Did you watch the movie? What did you think about it?
What do you think of the ban?
- Shame in a Country that do not respect Artistique expression in a Movie… Tannoura Maxi has been banned (ritachemaly.wordpress.com)
- ‘Where Do We Go?’ Lebanese Women Pave The Way (wnyc.org)