The Magic Box (2002)

Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - France , Tunisia   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Todd Kristel

The Magic Box doesn't evoke the magic of motion pictures and childhood memories quite as effectively as Cinema Paradiso (which is mentioned by name in this film). It does, however, contain some compelling scenes about Raouf's childhood in Tunisia, including some interesting contrasts between his strict religious father (Lotfi Bouchnak) and maverick uncle (Hichem Rostom ), as well as some attractive cinematography by Yorgos Arvanitis. But the film never jells as a whole. Part of the problem is that the story line involving Raouf's midlife isn't particularly compelling. The adult Raouf (Abdel Kechiche) is somewhat of a cipher whose inner workings remain unclear; the same is true for his wife, Lou (Marianne Basler), a character who isn't developed much beyond her discomfort with living in Rouf's homeland. This seems to be a personal film yet, ironically, it suffers from being too impersonal at times.