LE GRAND VOYAGE (Ismaël Ferroukhi, 2004)

Wim Wenders is probably the crown prince of road pictures; on the evidence of Le grand voyage I would say that Ismaël Ferroukhi is instead the genre’s crownless dud. The worthlessness of this journey from southern France to Mecca is signaled by the sentimental music that swells at the opening of the film, as highschooler Reda pedals his bicycle home, and that periodically punctuates the proceedings thereafter. I also could have done without the visual implication that the boy, because (we find out) he is too contemporary to share his elderly father’s old-time faith, is merely spinning his wheels.
     The premise, for me, is outrageous: that the Moroccan father would command his son to drive him to Mecca, thus aborting Reda’s chance to take his graduating exams, for which he only has this one last shot since he has already failed these exams once before. A hajj, although one of the pillars of the Muslim faith, would not take precedence over a son’s future for anyone other than a madman or a cold-hearted bastard. (The vast majority of Muslims never make the trip and enter Paradise, when the time comes, nevertheless.) Predictably, though, the film insists that Reda learn to “appreciate” this paternal monster of his after, just as predictably, the two endlessly quarrel with one another along the way until that god-awful moment when the paternal monster “opens up.” Ferroukhi’s “journey” is a tiresome collision of the arrogance of old age and the arrogance of youth.

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