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Monsieur Ibrahim


Monsieur Ibrahim


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With no bar mitzvah in the works and a financially strapped father who pays him little attention, Pierre Boulanger decides to celebrate his 13th birthday by cracking open his piggy bank and visiting one of the prostitutes who line the street outside his window. With no one else acknowledging his passage into manhood, he makes his own arrangements. If Boulanger's character were somehow to meet up with François Truffaut's Antoine Doinel, they could trade secrets on how to get by with only a little money and even less parental supervision. But while Monsieur Ibrahim's early-'60s Paris overlaps geographically and chronologically with Truffaut's, their heroes otherwise live in different worlds. The sun always shines in Monsieur Ibrahim's Rue Bleu district, the hookers all have hearts of gold, and there's usually some classic pop blaring. Boulanger even finds a guardian angel in Omar Sharif, a saintly Muslim shopkeeper who doesn't mind Boulanger's thefts, so long as he has good reason for them. Gently instructing his young friend, using principles derived from a highly personalized interpretation of the Koran, Sharif becomes the father Boulanger should have had all along, in spite of their cultural differences. (Think of it as Tuesdays With Mohammed.) Unfailingly charming, the two leads make their friendship live and breathe in a way that frequently allows them to overcome the film's unrelenting sentimentality. Adapting a novel by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, François Dupeyron uses handheld cameras and some jarring edits, but, prostitutes and all, this is storybook material: heartfelt, pleasant, cuddly, and a little too insubstantial to stick in the mind for long. There's a refreshing naïveté to the way it steps back from politics to ask why everyone can't just get along, but Monsieur Ibrahim might have had more impact if it didn't paint the world so simply that the question no longer makes sense.