September 7, 2003|He made one of the cinema's greatest (and lengthiest) entrances in Lawrence of Arabia, appearing as a heat-obscured speck of dust that gradually adopts the form of a black-swathed man on horseback, one Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish. Omar Sharif's regal stride into our appointed meeting place, a third-floor room within Toronto's Hotel Intercontinental, felt almost as dramatic to me, for his every step is weighted with a half-century of fame. Mr. Sharif is at the Toronto International Film Festival promoting a delicate French film in which he stars opposite young Pierre Boulanger, François Dupeyron's Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran. The picture works largely because of the legend-in-his-own-time baggage the actor brings to the title role of a neighbourhood grocer yearning to pass his considerable wisdom on. When I interviewed him, Mr. Sharif was, like his alter ego Ibrahim, pensive and forthcoming, with little patience for subtext. I found him both gracious and melancholy, and was heartbroken when our all-too-brief time together ran out.