Tuesday, June 17, 2008

La Graine et le Mulet (The Secret of the Grain) (2007)

This is a movie about an Algerian family living in a French port town. The characters are richly flawed. Their familial dramas are absorbing. Many scenes are centered around eating. But, because the film is shot in close-ups, at times, it's hard to watch them talking and eating. You are, literally, in their grills observing their talking and chewing--food is on their lips, on their faces and in their mouths, in all phases of consumption; it made me a little queasy.

This boisterous family is experiencing drama. Slimane, the patriarch is no longer with the matriarch. He has a younger girlfriend who owns the boarding house/hotel where he now resides. He has becomes the father figure for her charming teenage daughter, who doesn't appreciate the way his sons treat him. Slimane's hours at his dock job have been cut and it's made clear more cuts may follow. So, Slimane banks on a dream. He uses his severance to buy a heap of crap boat on which he'd like to open a restaurant specializing in couscous, which happens to be his ex-wife's forte (she will be the cook). However, after going through the endless bureaucratic hoops to get his restaurant opened, he gets a one-night shot at impressing the functionaries; his destiny rests on them (and the couscous, of course). That night builds up to the climax. It's built and built and built and built and then BOOM: abrupt ending. Some movies end with unanswered questions and it works...leaving the rest to our interpretation but some finales can be too sudden especially after 2.5 hours.

Themes: family dynamics, infidelity, aging, dreams

Director: Abdellatafi Kechiche

Country: France

Genre: Drama

Time: 151 minutes

Scale: 4...due almost entirely to drawn-out ending

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