Your Guide to Abdellatif Kechiche’s Most Iconic Films
Celebrating the Tunisian-French film director’s return
Sarah Ben Romdane
Five years after his Palme d’Or winning film Blue Is The Warmest Colour, Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche returns with his new movie Mektoub, My Love – his sixth full-length feature film to date.
Set in the South of France, the film follows a holiday love triangle between three friends. Yet, it isn’t really the plot that so deeply moves the audience, but Kechiche’s sumptuous, sensual and luminous shots, which perfectly capture the beauty of summery nonchalance and effervescence.
Kechiche’s experimental but immediately-cult filmmaking style has made of him one of the most influential of his time, as uses his expert lens to add momentous depth and significance to life’s most simple but trivial moments.
As Mektoub, My Love opens, MILLE selects three of the filmmaker’s most iconic movies.
Games of Love and Chance, 2004 (L’Esquive)
Games of Love and Chance is probably the best “banlieue-film” made since La Haine. Set in the outskirts of Paris, the film follows Krimo, a clumsy young North African teenager who falls in love with Lydia, the bold and self-confident blond girl. As they both end up respectively playing the leading roles in a classical play at school, Kechiche follows their affair, while confronting the world of the streets and the universe of 18th century French dramatist Marivaux. By combining antithetical codes of classical and popular cinema, Games of Love and Chance develops into a political film without even speaking about politics. A masterpiece.
The Secret of the Grain, 2007 (La Graine et le Mulet)
In English, “la graine et le mulet” literally translates to “the grain and the mullet” – the two essential ingredients of a traditional Tunisian fish couscous. Kechiche uses this metaphor to evoke various dualities that are actually dependent on each other – such as the relationship between older and younger generations, as well as the relationship between France and North Africa. The film—set in the same Southern city as Mektoub, My Love—tells the story of Slimane, an unemployed Tunisian father who decides to open a couscous restaurant, as he wants to make sure he can leave something for his children.
As always, what matters in Kechiche’s film isn’t just the scenario, but the elements that surround it: the people, the conversations, the expressions, the attitudes, the looks and the smiles – in other words, the things in life that seem insignificant, while being so meaningful. Through that, the director reveals social and identity fractures of French society, without ever falling in demagoguery.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour, 2013 (La Vie d’Adèle)
Blue Is The Warmest Colour isn’t a film – it is an experience. Much like Games of Love and Chance, the film centres around a school and begins with a quote from Marivaux, “I am a woman”. But Adèle isn’t a woman yet – she is still learning. Kechiche follows the coming of age of an introvert and shy teenage girl, who experiments “first times” with her lesbian French teacher. “Blue is the warmest colour” explores the topic of initiation, but most importantly it examines exclusion, a theme that appears so important in Kechiche’s repertoire. Through long scenes and raw, sometimes disturbing close-ups, Kechiche perfects his documentary-like style and aesthetic, which pays homage to life.