It cannot be easy for a filmmaker to be cut off from the very country that
is his main source of inspiration. Consider the case of director Merzak
In his most acclaimed film, "Bab El Qued City," Allouache dared
to criticize the fundamentalist extremists who are presently in power in
his native Algeria. So for now he's a filmmaker without a country, living
the life of an exile in France.
Given his situation, Allouache's "Salut Cousin!" is surprisingly
giddy for a tale of two Algerians in the traditionally hostile environment
of Paris. There's a certain undercurrent of sadness, occasional poignant
reminders of Allouache's own personal dilemma. One Algerian immigrant, a
30-year-resident of Paris, wistfully confides that he still misses "the
smell of mint."
The film is, in effect, a Gallic replay of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple."
Alilo (Gad Elmaleh), a sweet-natured country bumpkin, arrives fresh from
Algeria. His wondering eyes pop wide with shock as he's exposed to the flamboyant
life style of his urbanized cousin Mok (Mess Hattou).
Mok's apartment is mainly a closet for his absurdly theatrical clothes.
He welcomes his cousin by whipping up a plate of "Thai spaghetti."
The neat and conservative Alilo is even more astounded to witness his cousin,
in a comical clash of cultures, try to recite the fables of La Fontaine
to a pounding hip-hop beat. Mok, an aspiring rap singer and a hopeless gambler,
even takes Alilo on an obviously "E.T."-inspired motorbike ride
in which they gleefully soar over the city's magically lit streets.
To sum up, "Salut Cousin!" contains some engaging moments thanks
to Elmaleh's earnest performance, but it fails to leave a lasting impression.