(Just skip this paragraph, because this is nothing more than a self-indulgent rant.) Once again, the Film Festival refuses to put the format that will be screened for the films wither in the catalog or online. To be fair, this is the third screening that hasn't been on film, but the first one that mattered. Letters to the President and Helen were screened from a video source that looked really really good. Both looked to have been shot on HD and I had absolutely no complains about the transfer. The Secrets of the Grain however...wow; colors were soft and washed out. I was embarrassed. Everyone in that theater got cheated. Buy the DVD from the UK (maybe you can barrow MFA's Cyberhome if you don't have a region free player); it will look better in your home. Seriously disappointing.
OK. Now that I have vented, let me talk about the movie itself:
The Secret of the Grain (2007) directed by Abdel KechicheSet in the French coastal town of Sète, The Secret of the Grain focuses on 61-year-old patriarch Slimane and his large extended family. Recently shown the door at his job where he has repaired boats for 35 years, Slimane needs to come up with another plan. His adult children suggest he move home, but Slimane is committed to stay with his new lover and her daughter, Rym. He comes up with a plan to open a restaurant on an old boat where his ex-wife would cook fish couscous. His ex-wife knows the secret of the grain, and makes a couscous that you can almost taste in the theater. With a two and a half hour run time, The Secret of the Grain is overwhelming. Not necessarily because of the runtime itself, but because within those 151 minutes are only a handful of very talkative key sequences. The effect is exhausting and exhilarating. One such scene is a family meal where nothing much is said but it is an absolute whirlwind of conversation. It is quite intense. (Imagine a family reunion where you didn't just have to hold individual conversations, but where omnisciently engaged in all conversations.) The camera puts you right amongst the claustrophobic bustle. Although I do find fault in the divisive conflict (begging for resolution) near the end, it also results in one of the most overpowering scenes I have ever experienced. The acting was such that, throughout the entire film, I never felt I was watching people who were acting. The Secret of the Grain screens one more time (probably from DVD) Thursday, April 23 at 9:15. Highly Recommended.