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Movie Review: The Secret of the Grain

Alternate Title: Big Night

Story: I like films surrounding the idea of food. You can be guaranteed that whatever recipe is featured, you will always get an interesting mix of family, friction and fracas. This terrific French film from celebrated director Abdellatif Kechiche does not disappoint.

Set in the contemporary rustic port of Sète we find down on his luck, 61 year old Slimane. After working 35 years in the local shipyards he is laid off. He attempts to realize a dream of opening his own restaurant featuring his ex-wife's famous couscous dish. Complicating his dreams are a maze of bureaucratic red tape, licenses, loans, permits, French prejudice and exclusion towards Tunisian citizens.

To add to his problems he has to contend with his four outspoken adult children from his first marriage, his ex-wife, current girlfriend and her lovely, spirited daughter, as well as the in-laws, grandchildren and nosy neighbors.

This film takes its time to develop. Like a slow cooked meal, the spices and ingredients are added slowly until it all comes to a boil. If you have patience, you will be rewarded in ways that will make you smile and will also break your heart.

The women are all three dimensional and interesting. The men in the film are more two dimensional and not something you would look for in the spice rack. Order up this film and learn about another culture that is overflowing with diversity, life and spice.

Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eY1xuBEpa80

I do not know what Hafsia Herzi is saying but enjoy some of her belly dancing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4rkVnS5yJU

Acting: Habib Boufares as Slimane, is man of few words. He plays his part perfectly. Hafsia Herzi as the lovely nd passionate young Rym, is a treasure. Her belly dancing is worth the price of admission alone. Faridah Benkhetache as Rym's mother is terrific. The rest of the ensemble cast is great too including, Abdelhamid Aktouche (Hamid), Bouraouïa Marzouk (Souad), Hatika Karaoui (Latifa) and Alice Houri (Julia).

Trivia: Director Abdellatif Kechiche's film, L'esquive stormed the Cesars (French Oscars) in 2005, winning four awards including Best Film. Hafsia Herzi recently picked up an award for Most Promising Actress at the Cesars (the French Oscars) for her performance in The Secret of the Grain.

Predilection: I like films about food.

Critters: A beautiful red parakeet.

Food: A mountain of couscous, fish, carrots, potatoes and all other sorts of vegetables.

Sex Spectrum: Sex is discussed and you get to see a few butts but other than that, just some fabulous belly dancing.

Blatant Product Placement: None

Soundtrack: Delightfully toe tapping.

Theater Audience: Packed

Weather: The weather was lovely in this port city.

Drift Factor: I did not drift but I admit to looking at my watch as my bladder alarm went off.

Predictability Level: Moderate.

Oscar Worthy: It might be included in Best Foreign Film.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen is always best but if you cannot find this delicious film, your large screen TV will have to do. For some other delectable films surrounding food try renting: Babette's Feat, Big Night, Eat Drink Man Woman, Chocolat, What's Cooking, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Tortilla Soup, La Grande Bouffe, Bread and Tulips, Fast Food Nation (gulp), Like Water for Chocolate, Mostly Martha, Tom Jones and Volver.

Length: Way over the two hour Lobo rule at 2 hours and 51 minutes. I was hungry by film's end.