Yet another new voice is emerging from Moroccan cinema, and it’s fresh and energetic enough to be heard on multinational stages. Nour-Eddine Lakhmari’s feature, Casanegra, is a cross between classic film noir and Mean Streets, a dark tale of two small-time hustlers with big dreams looking to escape their dead-end lives in Casablanca. Lakhmari has crafted memorable portraits of not-so-quiet desperation, helped considerably by cinematographer Luca Coassin’s tonally muted but intense visuals. Already a local smash…
A terrific credits sequence, all neon signs in 1940s typeface, prepares the way for a style and story indebted as much to Anthony Mann as to Martin Scorsese. Karim (Anas Elbaz) and Adil (Omar Lotfi) are just past 20, looking for fast wealth through shady deals. Casanegra captures Moroccan dissatisfaction in such a hip way that some snatches of dialogue have become the nation’s latest street lingo. Part of the appeal is attributable to the two leads, both non-professionals who convey a nervous vulnerability beneath their tough-guy shells.
Shooting on location and mostly at night, Coassin and Lakhmari capture not merely the city but its tarnished yet still attractive soul in true film-noir fashion. Colors have been drained so that the visuals appear as close to black-and-white as possible. Sarah Mouta’s editing is sharp and considered, with Richard Horowitz’s jazzy score forming the ideal accompaniment.
Natasha Senjanovic for The Hollywood Reporter:
Lakhmari picked up Best Director at Taormina for this film about two childhood friends, young men striving to rise above their surrounding squalor.
While Moroccan films are traditionally relegated to arthouse cinemas, Casanegra is hip, stylish and engaging enough to break out further — if it weren’t for its two-hour running time. Lakhmari takes too long to set up the main premise, and then too long to see it through, though offering some Coen-esque characters and social criticism along the way.
Theatrical Trailer (No Subtitles)
…aaaand there’s not much else.