Couscous (La graine et le mulet, France, 2007)

Father-daughter love

This is a terrific film. I don’t think I’ve seen scenes of such emotional rawness since Frederick Wiseman’s Titicut Follies (1967). The improvisation gives certain scenes a documentary intensity.

The use of narrative is also striking: the two set piece ‘meal’ scenes go on for an extremely long time compared with the succinctness of much of the other action (eg Slimane losing his job). This also contrasts with the ‘thriller’ set up: there’s clearly doom lurking in the couscous’ journey to the restaurant and Slimane’s chase after his moped takes an age: on the one hand suspense is set up, on the other it’s unbearably stretched.

However, there are problems: the sexual objectification of Rym for example. Or maybe this is working in a Godardian way (such as in British Sounds, 1970) where the (temporally) long shots of a woman’s body leads the audience to question what they are looking at.

Blimey! A riveting family melodrama that links Wiseman to Godard.

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