La Graine Et Le Mullet (The Secret Of The Grain) – **1/2

Posted: July 31, 2012 in 2007, Drama, France, XX1/2

After having been laid off at a ship’s wharf where he’s been working at for more than 35 years, a sixty year old French man decides to restore an old freight ship and make it into a couscous restaurant. In the meantime his family is having their own issues. There are too many to list as this is basically a family chronicle even though the whole story takes places in just a few months. It may sound boring, but it’s not. It’s an incredibly honest movie about everyday things. And about dreams, hopes, frustrations, devotion, love and pain. Quite remarkable for a movie with inexperienced actors who seem to improvise in all the scenes and get away with it tremendously.

The movie only has one HUGE flaw: some of the scenes are way too looooong which makes this a tough movie to sit through. It had my attention for about 2 hours, but the last 30 minutes were boring. Especially since the end is by then very predictable. Don’t get me wrong, I would have wanted it to be a three-hour movie or even a ten-hour miniseries. But some of the scenes just drag on and on and on.

Director Abdellatif Kechiche excels in bringing realism to a new level. This isn’t a documentary, nor is it filmed as a pseudo-documentary. It is fiction. But just because of the length of the improvised scenes, it feels like you’re in the middle of the conversations happening on the screen. There’s this scene where one of his daughter-in-laws lashes out at him because his son – her husband – is cheating on her and everyone in the family knows about it. Improvised theatre doesn’t get better than this. Realism neither. The woman just goes on and on and on. But in the meantime, you realize that this is how it would occur in real life. People don’t express their frustration into a few well-scripted lines. People go on and on and on. There are several other scenes in the movie where the characters just talk on and on and on. Even though you want the story to just hurry up , you do find yourself listening to the entire conversations, regardless of how long they are. It’s human nature to be curious about the lives of others.

Luckily the movie has some humor and the acting is superb! As you get absorbed in this man’s life you start rooting for him, especially since you are not sure he will succeed in his dreams. This is the great advantage of European cinema: you can never tell if the movie will end happy or sad. Hollywood still seems to always want the main character to win and prevail, which makes most American movies non-suspenseful.

I’m impressed, but i would have been more in awe is they had gotten rid of the 10 minute belly dancing or the 10 minute running after a stolen motorcycle, etc… and had focused a bit more on the lives of the remarkable supporting characters.There was more to this story then what we’ve seen.

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