Sweet Arabian Skins
This, to my mind, is a terrific concoction.
It has no story to speak of. Oh, there’s some motion and noise but they are only there to give us something to look at while the three main notions unfurl, all of which are magically competent.
There are the songs. Disney can do this extremely well. At least they can recognise strong talent, manage and exploit it well. These songs by themselves carry the whole thing. This is not a cinematic experience, it is a musical one. You could enjoy this as well and perhaps even better by just listening.
The second component is Robin Williams. There seem to be parallel contradictory histories about whether he was extemporising or not. It hardly matters. He has narrative energy that at the time was unmatched. It is faded now.
And the third thing? Well, this third thing has increased tremendously since 9-11. I saw this with “Man on Wire.”
Disney is the absolute expert at character design, so long as the characters are women. For some reason, male characters are not as rich and mineable. This project was the result of them building a map of female characteristics and structuring projects around them. Why this is so novel is that it is likely the last American film to have an Arab beauty in my lifetime. Now that Arabs are politically demonised by the Bushies, it becomes impossible to treat these women as human and therefore appealing.
Here we have a snapshot from the era before that became impossible. Of course, at the time it was essentially an insulting stereotype: exotic, superflat belly dancer tummy and “orientally” kinetic rear end. There actually was at the time a Disney rear end specialist. I met her.
Now this is translated into forbidden fantasyland.
Posted in 2009
Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.