Long waiting for couscous
30 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Film director Abdel Kechiche became so involved with the footage for the picture La Graine et le Mulet (The Secret of the Grain) which tells the story of a big dysfunctional family of Tunisian immigrants in the southern French port town of Sete that he could not part with a smallest parts of it. He dedicated the film to his father, and I would not be surprised to find out that the film characters with their traditions, everyday problems, struggles, hopes, and losses were written by Abdel Kechiche from his own family, and the story he tells was inspired by his own growing up. The Secret of the Grain is compelling and personal movie but Kechiche either should have taken another editor or let them use the scissors without reservation. The movie is long with many scenes practically begging of being significantly trimmed. It does not apply to all scenes. Some are amazingly acted, and I would not miss a second of the scene where young Rym (Hafsia Herzi) is trying to convince her mother Lilia to go to the big party in the final part of the film. A newcomer Hafsia Herzi is a born actress, and a good one. She is without a doubt a very promising talent with huge potential but her endless belly-dancing in the final was just that - endless and boring. I get the purpose of the scene but its length and the camera peering at Hafsia's belly for what seems hours, totally kills it.

Kechiche shot the film in Cinéma vérité style, and while it works and lets us actually get to know the characters, overlong monologues and conversations often made me feel like watching a reality talk show which is a completely different genre altogether. The emotional and powerful monologue of Julia, the long-suffering wife of one of a male characters, would have been ten times more powerful had it been twice or even trice shorter. Yes, perhaps in reality the neglected young wife and mother would cry and complain even longer than the scene in the film lasts but we the viewers are grownups, we understand, we get it - don't hit us over the head.

The film is a recipient of many Awards including four César Awards (Best Film, Best Directing, Best Writing, and Most Promising Actress for Herzi) and it was nominated for Best Editing which really surprised me. I think Kechiche deserved to be recognized and rewarded but I hope that he will be more critical with his future films. The film creator should not be afraid of cutting of all unnecessary parts of his work to let a hidden masterpiece inside it breathe freely.
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