The autobiographical first feature of Raja Amari, "Satin Rouge" is a fascinating examination of the joyous, turbulent self-discovery made by a proper, middle-aged woman, Lilia (Hiyam Abbas), who devises an elaborate alternate identity as a dancer at a cabaret.
A somewhat sorrowful widow and seamstress, Lilia maintains a tight leash on her beautiful, self-possessed daughter Salma (Hend El Fahem). In attempting to maintain control of the girl's life, Lilia finds herself drawn into the cabaret, where Lilia surrenders her deepest impulses and takes flight as a sexually liberated provocateur. The story also takes unexpected turns and shifts, though Amari sustains the feeling and mood with a precise, lyrical touch. Beautifully photographed by Eric Rohmer's key collaborator Diane Baratier, the film has a dazzling, ironic ending that suggests the start of a powerful and distinct new talent.
3 stars (out of 4)
Opens Friday, Nov. 1. In Arabic; English subtitles. Running time: 1:36. No MPAA rating (sexual suggestiveness, adult content).