Saturday, 18 October 2008

3 Fridays, 3 French Films Part 2: Couscous

Film: Couscous (Abdel Kechiche, 2007)

Watched: 11th July 2008
Where: Renoir Cinema

Slimane has worked hard all his life, working in a shipyard to support his families, his first family and his new family. At sixty years old manual work is tough; life is tougher still when new generations of migrant workers who work faster and for less take the place of older migrant workers. What really matters to Slimane and who really understands him? I suppose that is the main theme of the film but maybe it says a little more about a desire to have something that is ours, something that cannot be taken away. After finding out that he is likely to be out of a job and that his family does not really understand him, Slimane decides to do something that matters to him, to bring things back around to how he thinks they should be. He decides to take his redundancy and use the funds to convert a boat in to a couscous restaurant with the help of Rym, the daughter of his new partner and owner of the hotel in which he lives.

Couscous sets itself up so we can see the difficult situation Slimane finds himself in, his family prefer to argue and only calm down at the dinner table to eat amazing couscous made by Souad, Slimane's ex-wife. Slimane prefers to eat alone in his tiny hotel room, however Rym likes to keep him company and support him. As the film builds, it is Rym who truly believes that Slimane can make his restaurant a reality and helps him out with the things he finds difficult. Cue the (comic) scenes where Rym and Slimane go to the chamber of commerce and the banks to try and get the necessary planning permission and funding to get the new restaurant afloat, with Rym playing his business assistant, making his business plan, and trying to look the part in only the way someone slightly out of their depth can manage. Slimane doesn't open up much in the film, though we can see his frustration and shyness, though from his ideas for the restaurant we feel what really matters to him, having his whole family round him, new and old, all together, all happy, all with a part to play. Slimane feels awkward in the hotel when invited to his partner's room, he feels lost when his sons come to visit and say he should go "back to the old country" now that he's retired/unemployed and useless to the family.

The film comes to a climax with the opening of Slimane's restaurant. His family (old) are preparing the food to be heated and served for the grand opening. The old boat has been transformed thanks to Rym's endeavor, a prime space has been reserved for one night only and everything is falling into place. Everyone who knows Slimane is playing a part for the opening and everyone wants to be there except for his new partner who feels she will be made unwelcome as Slimane's first family disapprove of their relationship. When it comes to the crunch the truth comes out, Couscous seems to show that everyone has their place in the world. Slimane's family turn out for him, all the guests turn up, the band from the hotel where Slimane stays play their hearts out, how could Slimane fail to fulfil his dream? Well, someone stole the couscous... Slimane's son Hamid is in trouble as the woman he is having an affair with is a guest at the opening of the restaurant, in a selfish panic he drives away unseen with all the couscous in the boot. The consequences are two fold: we see the truth of Hamid, he is deceitful, we see the truth in the rest of Slimane's family and friends, they all come together to try and make his mark on the world a reality, they stall the guests with drinks and music and dance as Slimane goes off on his moped in search of the grain! Even Slimane's new partner gets in on the act, going back to her hotel to make up a new batch of couscous even though she doesn't trust her cooking. As Slimane goes searching for Hamid, Souad and the couscous, his moped is stolen by a gang of youths. Slimane runs himself to death chasing the moped and the film ends. Slimane gets what he wanted, not that he's around to know it. His truth, that his life will be the death of him, is made real. What is also made true is that Slimane has left his mark on the world and his family. He has left them a restaurant and also the truth that they can come together and make something special.

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