Thematically and aesthetically in between Games of Love and Chance (2003) and Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013), Couscous, released in 2007, offers a social reflection upon the economical situation in France and its implications on the working class. Slimane is a sixty-year-old struggling to keep his job on a shipyard. When fired, he decides to start a family business: a restaurant held on a boat that serves couscous, a typical North-African dish.
Following the path of neorealist directors, Abdellatif Kechiche offers a portrait of day-to-day people, mainly played by non-professional actors, and their battle towards a sustainable economic situation. In focusing on Slimane, his workplaces, his families (divorced, he lives in his girlfriend’s hotel with her daughter), and his friends, the director created a real microcosm, that has the potential to narrates a universal story. Slimane is an ordinary man, with an ordinary family that have ordinary arguments. Together, they work towards the realization of Slimane’s dream, and their unity singularly contrasts with the politics, bank employees and administrative assistants who are, constantly, getting in the way of the project.
As it is the case for both Games of Love and Chance and Blue is the Warmest Colour, the dialogues in Couscous are purposely crafted using a very familiar language. Whilst this choice strongly reinforces the realist nature of the film, it sometimes burdens the characters with heavy speeches that struggle to free themselves from clichés, which is especially problematic during altercations. In fact, the film is at his strongest when dialogue-free. The last scene is an alternate montage between a direct and assumed quote of Vittorio De Sica’ Bicyclette Thieves and a mesmerizing belly dancing sequence. When Rym, played by the astonishing Hafsia Herzi, decides to start entertaining the crowd in the boat, it is not only her, but the whole film which seem to emancipate itself. The camera focuses on the curves of her body, the expression on her face, and creates a sensual atmosphere that renders the beauty and wildness of her age.
Acclaimed by critics, primed 16 times in film festivals around the world, Couscous is now available on Blu-Ray. The high-quality of the format gives a unique finish to the photography of the film, magnifying the colours of Sète’s harbour and offering great pan shots of the two main characters on their bike, roaming in the streets at night.
Couscous, directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, is released on Blu-ray by Artificial Eye. Certificate 15.