Demanding is never a word that you would like to associate with your film. It has a connotation that doesn’t serve your project well at all. Unfortunately, despite some strong graphics and a nice central performance, Luxor can’t help but give off this mood. It can be felt in an image that wants to be hypnotic but is mostly frustrating. That doesn’t make this film bad, but at least for me it’s too successful to recommend. I’m in the minority when it comes to this movie, so keep that in mind, but when it opens this week I’ll be one of the few who aren’t quite able to sing its praises …
The film is a drama mixed with a little romance. Hana (Andrea Riseborough) is a British helper returning to the ancient city of Luxor, where she was previously. When checking into a fancy hotel, it is not clear what exactly she is up to. Once settled, she tours the city but also meets her former lover in the Sultan (Karim Saleh). As she wanders through Luxor, sometimes with Sultan, she is haunted by the familiar nature of the place. In addition, elements of the past and present seem to weigh on them, suggesting that something remarkable happened in the city at some point. From there, it’s a wait game to see how everything is resolved. Zeina Durra writes and directs, with Michael Landes and Shirin Redha in the cast along with Riseborough and Saleh. Nascuy Linares composes the score, while Zelmira Gainza takes over the camera.
Andrea Riseborough is the main reason to see this movie when you do. She can be seen in practically every single scene and has an on-screen presence that gives you peace of mind. She is very much your guide on this tour of the city. If it’s just about staying with her and getting interested in her character, the film is on more stable ground. When other things come into play, things get rocky. There the claim arises. Riseborough is not part of it, however. She’s just the best part of the project, apart from none. It’s one of their better performances to date. It comes close to selling some of the tougher elements of Luxor, including a dance sequence that tends to come out of nowhere.
Luxor looks fine, but filmmaker Zeina Durra never makes the film interesting enough to overcome its narrative flaws. The romance between Hana and Sultan is not bad, but everything else that is attached to it brings them to a standstill. What should have had a Richard Linklater vibe that echoes before sunrise / sunset / midnight instead falls victim to trying to do too much. Less would have been more here. However, Durra’s writing and directing do not believe that the story sinks the ship despite the beautiful graphics. At the same time, Durra has something here so it’s not easy to discard right away. Most of the time it makes me curious about what she might have up her sleeve next.
Opening this weekend, Luxor is a mix of an experience that will ultimately make you want a little more of it. If you’re willing to deal with a little more claim than is probably necessary, you may feel kinder than I ultimately found. It’s hardly a bad film, just one that isn’t quite up to the standard it could have been. Again, most of my colleagues disagree, so your mileage may vary. If you’re curious, check it out and see what you think of it. Maybe i’m crazy Maybe I’m ahead of the curve right now? Probably the truth is somewhere in between.
Luxor can be viewed on Friday.
(Photos courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Pictures)