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Film Details

Directed by: Abdellatif Kechiche Abdel Kechiche

Produced: 2007

Countries & Regions: France

DVD Details

Certificate: 15

Length: 151 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 27 October 2008

Cat No: ART386DVD

Extras:
Anamorphic (16:9)
Languages(s): French
Subtitles: English
Interactive Menu
Screen ratio 1:1.78
Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital

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Couscous

Cast: Alice Houri , Habib Boufares , Hafsia Herzi , Farida Benkhetache , Abdelhamid Aktouche , Bouraouia Marzouk , Abelkader Djeloulli , Olivier Loustau

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French ensemble piece focussing on the lives of an immigrant community in the south of France. Slimane Beiji (Habib Boufares) is a... Read More

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French ensemble piece focussing on the lives of an immigrant community in the south of France. Slimane Beiji (Habib Boufares) is a sixty-year-old shipyard worker who dreams of one day giving up his job and opening up his own couscous restaurant. Recently divorced, but obliged to stay close to his family, Slimane’s hopes for the restaurant seem to be nothing more than a pipedream after he is suddenly laid-off from the docks. Still dreaming and talking of his plans with his family whenever they meet, the restaurant soon becomes a dream that the whole family can relate to, assuming a symbolic importance in their efforts to make a better life for themselves.

It is difficult to think of a film released this year which has received as many 5 star reviews as Couscous (La Graine et le Mulet), yet the film only received a limited release in UK cinemas, depriving many of the chance to see this wonderful drama. It focuses on a North African family living in Sète, a French coastal town on the Mediterranean, where the newly unemployed paterfamilias Slimane attempts to open a couscous restaurant with his severance pay. His former wife and family agree to help in the venture, to the chagrin of his current partner.

This may sound like the plot of a schmaltzy family drama in which estranged relatives put aside their differences to ensure a triumphant success for the underdog, yet Couscous is far more complex and realistic (although not pessimistic).

Tunisian filmmaker Abdel Kechiche wisely allows some scenes to run on for lengthy takes, recalling the best work of Mike Leigh. An early lunchtime sequence sets up family dynamics which come to the fore at the film’s close, whilst the conversations about trivial matters such as potty training or how to pronounce certain Arabic word beautifully establish character.

Although the lugubrious father is nominally the film’s protagonist, it is the women in his life who are the driving force, and the actresses flesh out some of the most interesting characters of the year. Best of all is young Hafsia Herzi as the impassioned stepdaughter, who adores her marginalised substitute father and puts in the most effort to his business venture. The scenes where she accompanies Slimane to numerous meetings with reluctant bank managers and officials to obtain funding are a tour-de-force, as is her final party trick.

Fans of Almodóvar will recognise similar themes, but Kechiche develops a style that is entirely his own. Using improvisation and cinéma vérité techniques, he injects the narrative with a vital humanity; every character here is entirely believable. The film deservedly won four awards at Venice and four major French Césars.

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