Kechiche’s Grain of Life
Tunis-born French director Abdellatif Kechiche presented his long-awaited new feature La Graine et le mulet [+see also:
interview: Hafsia Herzi
film profile] on the Venetian Lido as part of the Official Competition. His previous film, L’esquive [+see also:
film profile] was the surprise winner of the Best Film César in 2005.
Like that earlier film, La Graine et le mulet (literally “Grain and Mullet”, the two principal ingredients of a fish couscous) explores both the universal search for happiness and tensions and situations very specific to immigrant families, though the director’s new film is not set in a Parisian suburb but in the Mediterranean port city of Sète (near Montpellier).
Habib Boufares plays Slimane, a 61-year-old immigrant shipyard worker who is laid off and then decides to open a couscous restaurant on a boat with the help of his extended family that includes his ex-wife, his children and their partners, his own partner and her adolescent daughter, played by Hafsia Herzi, who steals the show.
Kechiche has lost none of his appetite for the overlapping dialogues and hysterical verbal fights that were also on display in his previous film, though here his approach is more classical in terms of filming and editing (more action-reaction shots rather than swooping cameras) and in storytelling terms, taking this simple premise and stretching it over a novelistic 2.5 hours, with two meals taking up more than half of the film’s running time.
Explained the director: “Generally, an ongoing action doesn’t allow you to stay on one thing for too long, but a real family meal or the beginning of an emotion showing through on someone’s face needs screen time to happen”.
The €6.1m film was produced by Claude Berri for Pathé Renn, with Pathé also on board for domestic distribution (date as yet to be fixed) and international sales. The film was co-produced by Hirsch and France 2 Cinéma and backed by Canal + and Ciné Cinéma.
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