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Film Critics: Today, December 18, winners from Rolling Stone magazine, PhoenixCC, UtahFCA, Kansas CityFCC and St. LouisFCA. Nominations from VancouverFCC.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

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


Wow!!! This Abdel Kechiche movie is really something else and something quite different from most movies. Tells an apparently simple story but does it in such a way that creates tension and tension and more tension with nothing-special happening, just a grain that is missing. I’m honestly exhausted and I have never seen a belly dancing like the one is shown here, especially because all the build up but also because the actress that does the dance really steals the whole movie.

The movie tells about a French Arab family and the patriarch that wants to make true his dream after hard working for 35 years, he always dreamed about opening a restaurant that sells couscous and fish as the main attraction. But this is the excuse to present you the life of Arab immigrants with all their cultural contradictions between elders and younger generations.

Have to tell you that the beginning is a little hard to sustain as has irritating dialogues that can drive you crazy, like the long one about potty training or even the extended family lunch with banal conversation. But I see all the irritating chattering as mood setting for the film, besides being representative of the power that Arab women have at home. But it is hard to endure.

But once Slimane Beiji starts to work on his dream and the ship appears in the story the movie slows down its pace -and chatter noise- and develops a story that makes you just love the main characters, especially Rym played by Hafsia Herzi a newcomer that truly steals the movie with her performance in a role that allows her to be serious, strong willed, funny and an extraordinary belly dancing performer in a scene that will amaze you and make you uncomfortable at the same time. This is truly amazing.

There is a moment in the story that is too predictable and well what I thought it would happen, it did. But since that moment the movie picks up the pace again until abruptly ends. Yes, this is that kind of movie that will give you no answers for the end and most viewers not used to the filmmaker not ending the story will be disappointed, as they’ll have to figure it out. But you have all the elements to end the movie as you wish.

As a movie, well has too many moments filmed in real time and most seem like a documentary of a moment in the family life and you feel like an observer/intruder as you are not allowed to become part of whatever they are rapidly chatting. But cinematography is well above average for indoor and outdoor takes.

I honestly have not idea who the natural target of this movie could be, as this is somehow different to regular French or European movies, cannot say is an art movie and my best description is that is such a different movie that perhaps those that enjoy experimental cinema and perhaps only serious cinema lovers could endure its totality. There are so many non-European viewers that didn’t liked the movie, that I’m sure that some of you readers will like it and some will not.

But do not think that this is not a good movie, this is a great movie winner of the prestigious Louis Delluc Prize, and at the 2007 Venice Film Festival the Special Prize, the FIPRESCI Prize, Honorable Mention in the SIGNIS Award and Hafsia Herzi won the Marcello Mastroianni Award; then at the 2008 César Awards won the Best Film as well as Kechiche the Best Director and Hafsia Herzi the Most Promising Actress. The movie, Kechiche and Hafsia Herzi also won awards at the Étoiles d'Or and browse the blog to find other fest were had nominations and wins.

I liked the movie a lot, it make feel so many things -including feeling very uncomfortable at many moments- that I absolutely admire a movie that can do this to me and at the same time engage me with so many words and very little images compositions. Bravo!!!

Absolutely a must be seen for serious cinephiles. By the way the name of the movie comes from the main ingredient in couscous and a mulet is a fish.

Big Enjoy!!!

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