324 Great Directors: Abdellatif Kechiche

“I don’t want it to look like life, I want it to actually be life. Real moments of life, that’s what I’m after.”

Why This Director?: Blue is the Warmest Color was undeniably powerful, controversial, and visionary.

My Last Experience Was…: Blue is the Warmest Color.

What Did I Watch: Secret of the Grain.

Where Does He Fit: Kechiche’s Palme winner was accused of possessing the male gaze in its incredibly graphic and thorough lesbian sex scenes. I can understand why someone would feel that way, but really, the opening of The Secret of the Grain consists of a woman getting her ass slapped by a man on a tourist boat tour for what feels like an awfully lengthy period of time (especially since the shooting is so jittery in this), so I think he’s just naturally fairly heterosexual. It’s also hard to fault something like that when he gets everything else in the details of the universe he is constructing so right both times, both by making his movies fairly long and with actors who are astoundingly natural on the camera.

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Hafsia Herzi, the main character’s lover’s daughter, got most of the attention and deserved it. However, sixty year old Habib Boufares is the real standout, with a magnificently expressive face that most directors would dream to have in their films…yet this is the only one he has made. Shame, because you can sort of tell exactly how much he cares about food from the very first scenes of him visiting his daughter and grandchildren with some fresh fish in tow.

This makes the story sound feel good, but it is not, and thank goodness for that. What unfolds very slowly and carefully over the course of this is a sort of cacophony. Blue is the Warmest Color definitely used a lot of noise, but everyone is always shouting and working and getting physical in various ways here. It’s astoundingly authentic stuff, realism done in a way that feels portrait shaped rather than some of the early versions of it that used bombastic soundtracks and were acclaimed for being realistic for the subject matter and casting alone.

After a long series of conversations with only the Herzi character believing in our protagonist’s ability to start a couscous restaurant, the racial elements that have been lying under the surface for the past two hours and change finally come to the forefront in an ending that is incredibly sad in how much it plays to the stereotypes that we have avoided for so lengthy a time in showing a fully drawn out Arabic family. Yet that is the point. Stereotypes sell, and no one would care about this man and his restaurant if he did not indulge in cheap exoticism.

Most Valuable Asset: Boundary pusher.
Buzzword: Peering.
Most Excited For: His upcoming movie. Or Black Venus.

Coming Up Next: Kenneth Lonergan’s messy family epics.

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