To my Beirut

Á mon Beyrouth…

Last Valentine in Beirut – my early screening

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to watch an early private screening of the upcoming film “Last Valentine in Beirut”, which will come out during the summer.

To be honest, a few years back, when I heard about a film that told the story of a prostitute living in Lebanon, I thought that it would be interesting. Then I heard that it would be the first Arabic film ever released in 3D. Due to my steadfast belief that 3D should only exist for “Avatar and Avatar alone”, I was apprehensive. And so, to quote my good friend who voiced my thoughts: “Are we going to be watching a pair of boobs in 3D?”

Of course, I didn’t mention it at the time to the producer, Assad Tarabay, who requested that I watch the film to tell him of my opinion.

As in the trailer, the main character begins by introducing herself, with her ID, that her name is Juliette, and she works as a “charmouta” (prostitute). And so the audience is taken into a series of scenes that reflect different aspects of Juliette’s life. And as it usually is with films that show misjudged characters, the two-faced double-life of society comes through in sarcasm, mockery, humourous and not so humourous moments.

In short, the film is a tragicomedy of the life of a prostitute. Another story is also intertwined. It follows two characters, a director and his assistant who are writing out the story of her life, careful not to upset “certain people” and figuring out what is best for the film. I can’t say more without spoiling the story, but I will say it was certainly better than I expected, and certainly better than the impression I got from the trailer of the film. The costume and art direction created a fasicnating mise-en-scéne, that was aesthetically contrasting throughout the film. However, whatever might be said about “Last Valentine in Beirut”, it cannot be argued that the script is an intelligent one.

Although I felt that some scenes were pro-longed, the film was pretty well done in terms of the challenging nature of the approach of Turk’s directing technique, in which the camera direction was quite simple. It didn’t move.

Literally, it didn’t move. Every scene felt as though it was done in the theatre, not on camera. The perspective of the viewer stays the same while everything in the cadre and background transforms. And the funny part is that it actually works. It works that the camera stays as it is because as you watch the film, you can’t really see it in any other way. And because it works, you get to see why it was made in 3D.  Every scene is so meticulously directed with so many details that it keeps your attention steadfast. The scenario of the film, the script, will make you laugh and cry, with the storyline smartly moving from scene to scene.

The actors did very well, particularly Lorraine Kodeih, who in my opinion, captured the role perfectly, and was able to project a reality that was very believable. It certainly was not the sympathetic role of a “Fantine” character from “Les Misérables”. But while viewers may sympathize with her while watching the film, the sad reality is that society will remain in its permanent hypocritical state. There are many ways to perceive this film, but I suppose it depends on what each of us want to see.

I will end on a note, that perhaps it is my personal taste for independent films, and maybe it is because I quite enjoy fresh outlooks. Maybe it is because this movie should be watched several times to understand all the hidden connotations, and maybe it was because I really did find that it was much better than the trailer itself. But I do know for a fact that it is not a film for everyone. It does have its commercial side, but…

However, I guess I’ll just wait till summer and see how its received.

Last Valentine in Beirut Facebook Page
Last Valentine in Beirut IMDB
Director/Writer/Screenplay: Salim El Turk
Cast: Lorraine Kodeih, Shady Hanna, Pedros Temizian, Aziz Abdo, Ziad Saeed, Assaad Tarabay
Producer: Assaad Tarabay

Awards: - Official selection (Cyprus and Greece film festival)
 - Winner best Set Costume and Design (Cyprus Film Festival)

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