Greg Corradini

LDir. Jacques Doillon

Love is prostitution in director Jacques Doillon’s “Raja,” a love story set in Morocco involving business transactions and cultural divisions.

Bored with his fortune and solitude, a Frenchman named Frederic (Pascal Gregory) pads around his Moroccan mansion, his shirt open at the collar, poetically musing on the loss of his youth.

Young Moroccan prostitutes provide him with release and a momentary remission of ennui. But then Frederic’s sexual focus shifts to his coltish 19-year-old gardener, Raja.

Doillon uses cinematic realism and deft story telling to execute the subverted social critiques at work in the film.

Frederic’s whimsical worries, his lavish gardens and opulent dens are ironically juxtaposed against Raja’s (and Morocco’s) poverty.

There are shots of Frederic laughing arm-in-arm with his cooks, emitting warmth and radiance. Then he shamelessly accosts Raja, promising her money and gifts for consensual sex. At one point, he flat-out boasts to her about his potency.

But the cultural divide is a large one and Raja and Frederic speak different languages, a physical sign of their mutual misunderstanding. While Frederic believes his money and power can buy him anything in Morroco, Raja knows that money means nothing in the realm of love.

On the rebound from the life of prostitution she was leading before, Raja eventually does become smitten with Frederic and his lifestyle.

Doillon explores the cultural divide that inevitably separates them and, in the process, transgresses the normal confines of a love story for a social critique of the subverted forms of post-colonialism in Morocco.