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At the port of Sète, Mr. Slimani, a tired 60-year-old, drags himself toward a shipyard job that has become more and more difficult to cope with as the years go by. He is a divorced father who forces himself to stay close to his family despite the schisms and tensions that are easily sparked off and that financial difficulties make even more intense. He is going through a delicate period in his life and, recently, everything seems to make him feel useless: a failure. He wants to escape from it all and set up his own restaurant. However, it appears to be an unreachable dream given his meager, irregular salary that is not anywhere near enough to supply what he needs to realize his ambition. But he can still dream and talk about it with his family in particular. A family that gradually gives its support to this project, which comes to symbolize the means to a better life. Thanks to its ingeniousness and hard work, this dream soon becomes a reality...or almost.... Written by
Venice Film Festival
Shooting was supposed to start in the summer of 2005 but one of the leading actors was sick, which resulted in a major delay. Thus, filming actually started on 5 September 2005 and was still running by 16 January 2006. The set was on a boat in the port of Sète for at least six weeks from October to December 2006. Outside temperatures were very low, as opposed to what they should have been if schedule could have been held. This led the production to set up large tents near the boat with heating systems for the actors and extras to remain comfortable between takes. See more »
[talking to Slimane about her husband]
Is that a family man ?
Never there for his kid.
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A long, intense and masterfully produced family drama
Cous Cous is set on the coast of Southern France in a coastal community where traditional industries are dying away. The void opening up with the decline of fishing and boat making industries is considerable, and the sprinkling of tourist interest in the area does little to salve these wounds. The malaise and despondency of the community is encapsulated in the person of Slimane, a taciturn divorcée who is told at the start of this film that he will henceforth receive only part-time employment at the scrapyard where he makes his living.
In the early stages of the film we are also introduced to Slimane's large and diverse family. The family minus Slimane is first brought together for a meal of fish and couscous at the household of Souad, Slimane's former wife. This is the first of several long and engrossing commensal scenes. The rapid, witty dialogue and the skillful close-up camera-work filmed around and among the diners create a remarkable intimacy between the actors and the viewer, so that very soon we are immersed in the family's intrigues and laughing at their bawdy humour.
However, the family is more often in disharmony. The children yearn for Slimane and Souad to resolve their differences, but Slimane is living in a hotel elsewhere in town. The proprietor of the hotel is his new partner and her daughter, Rym, is a close friend. Slimane's children disapprove openly of this situation, but at the same time they have their own problems to face up to, especially the wayward behaviour of Hamid, one of Slimane's sons, who frequently cheats on his fragile wife.
Slimane's despondency intensifies in the wake of his enforced semi-retirement from the scrapyard: he regrets that his family is divided and wishes that he had used his life to create something, to create a legacy for his children. It is in the face of this despair and with the help of Rym, the daughter of the hotel proprietor, that Slimane resolves to create a restaurant on a derelict boat a restaurant for which his ex-wife will cook and which his children will serve in. Rather than turning the rest of the film into a modern-day fairytale, director Abdel Kechiche remains levelheaded and keeps his camera trained on the complex and often strained web of relationships amongst the family members of Slimane's divided family. It is a slow and difficult struggle for Slimane to realise his goal, but Kechiche shows little of the construction of this ship in this long (two and a half hours) film.
In the final stages of the film Slimane is desperate to secure funding for his project and decides to host a grand opening of the restaurant with many eminent local personalities on the guestlist. The dramas and calamities in the protracted finale seem somewhat at odds with the first two-thirds of the film, which is low on drama and feels unstaged (indeed there are many non-professional actors in the cast and probably a considerable amount of improvisation). Nevertheless, as Slimane struggles to ensure that the dinner reaches the diners and the grand opening morphs awkwardly into a long-drawn-out party, the film climbs to a thrilling crescendo and a devastatingly abrupt ending.
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