The Secret of the Grain ~ (France, 2007) ~ Netflix Stream

At over 2½ hours, this wonderful film may be a little extended, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to see it end. Over the last decade or so, there has been a spate of films centered around cooking and restaurants, and this is one of the best. La graine et le mulet is a joyous film, just so full of life.

When Slimane Beiji is forced out of his job after 35 years at the shipyards, he decides to pursue his dream and open a couscous-fish restaurant on a boat headed for the scrap yard. He’s helped out by his family – or should I say families. He’s divorced from his first wife and has a lover whose daughter is like his own.

The film opens with the first meal, a triumph of family portraiture, love, squabbles, gossipy. It’s one of those extended slice of life moments for which cinema seems to have been invented. The actors were mostly nonprofessionals, it is said, but Hafsia Herzi who plays Slimane’s lovers’ daughter, Rym is a revelation. She has several extended scenes that require a range of emotions, and also does a killer belly dance.

Many of the early scenes reminded me of vintage Altman, but he’s most attuned to Fatih Akin who we last saw directing Soul Kitchen, also a foodie film.

The Secret of the Grain is a great look at muslims in France, so besides being an exhilarating film, on another level it’s serious stuff. Streaming on Netflix, I’d say this one is a must see film. I loved it.

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