Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Other obligations on Mondays kept me away from the Film Fest on day four, but I'm back like a heart attack for day 5 with one of my most anticipated films of the Fest: The Secret of the Grain. My plan was to catch The Secret of the Grain and a Russian film called The Mermaid. However, The Secret of the Grain was sold out so the shuffle to get as many people into the theater as possible forced the film to start a little late. But then, the biggest disappointment came when the light when down and I saw the Cyperhome logo. With no humility, they were screening The Secret of the Grain from a DVD. The steam from my ears subsided once I quickly became engaged with the film, uh, I mean, video, until it stopped and started at the beginning about a third of the way through—I kid you not. Someone had to get up and tell someone that their DVD was effed up and then we had to scan to the appropriate spot where it had stopped. Needless to say, we got out too late for my second screening.

(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 Kechiche
Set in the French coastal town of S├Ęte, 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.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, that is really something if you could wade through all the crap and still find the movie highly recommendable. Don't blame you for the rant, honestly. They should be ashamed of themselves, and did their best to screw their customers and a very good movie.

Anonymous said...

Have you complained directly to the festival? That kind of bumbling, and not printing screening formats in the first place, is absolutely unacceptable.

People need to start letting MFA know directly (and often) that they'll get no further support unless improvements are made. Seriously.

Daniel Getahun said...

Wow, that's outrageous. I think all of the ones I've seen have been on film so far, and it's bizarre that this one was not since it's a fairly recent release. I figured it would be a big hit and now I'll probably end up missing both of its screenings. It IS available On Demand for $6.99, but that just ain't right if it's on the big screen.

joe said...

I wouldn't consider that a self-indulgent rant at all. It's a completely valid point, and one that the festival should take more seriously. These complaints come in every year, but their M.O. Doesn't change in the slightest. These days, when people (in the film business, at least) are lamenting attendance figures and complaining that people are opting to stay home and watch movies, exhibitors have a responsibility to give their patrons a unique cinematic experience, and that involves everything from what and how they communicate through what actually hits that screen. It's experiences like the one that you had that leave people thinking there isn't any reason to bother going OUT to see a film anymore.

Kathie Smith said...

Probably the worst thing about it was I was the only one who seemed to care that it was on DVD. I don't get it.

Complaining to staff (or worse, the volunteers) seems pointless right now. If I get a chance with the right person, I will voice my opinion directly. After the fest is over I will write a letter, that will probably end up in the circular file, but whatever.

Anonymous said...

I know you don't want to lose the festival, but I'd simply stop going. Don't give MFA any money or support until they show they're ready to be serious again. Simple, really. Their attitude deserves a cold shoulder.

Support Barry and Take-Up screenings. Support the Parkway. Support the Walker. Support those doing it right.

Kathie Smith said...

I totally agree with you. We'll see how I feel about the whole experience at the end of the week.

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