Film Review : ‘The Blue Caftan’ (‘Le bleu du caftan’)

The second feature film by the Moroccan writer-director Maryam Touzani is a triangle of melancholy relations involving an artisanal tailor, his dying wife and his male apprentice.

The opening frames of the blue caftan caress the fluid folds and lifted in the sparkle with a length of blue silk oil while the hands of the seamstress appear slowly, manipulating the fabric with an obvious love and respect. Later, he explains to a client that the material must slide on the contours of the body, which allows him to sink without hindrance. This principle also guides the sweet observation by Maryam Touzani of her characters in a film of sensuality and exquisite sadness. The Moroccan writer-director returns to the section of the Cannes de Cannes section, three years after his first feature film, Adam, Adam, with a work of delicacy and restraint even more transnovative.

The slow but richly emotional combustion drama should draw attention due to the relative rarity of queer films in Maghreb cinema alone. But it is a convincing narration to any standard, its flexible hypnotic rhythms, its powerful atmosphere and its muffled tone and its intimate camera work offering us as close as possible to three characters who in turn study constantly. The actors playing these three points with a complicated triangle could not be better.

In one of the oldest medinas in the Moroccan city in the northwest of Salé, Halim (Saleh Bakri, the group’s visit) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal, so memorable in Adam) run a caftan shop where he has Make the hand in hand clothes according to the missing traditions he learned from his late father.

The impatience of customers who want a faster service and the backwards of orders require hiring an apprentice, Youssef (the new gifted venu Ayoub Messioui), a calm young man eager to learn all that Halim teaches him on the Creation of models, sewing and embroidery. In particular, Halim’s elaborate work on a splendid blue caftan for the arrogant woman of a city official fascinates Youssef.

The attention to the details of the camera of Virginie Surdej in these work scenes – the coils of golden thread, the precision function, the royal braiding and the complex construction of long rows of roller loop button – transmits the love that Halim is pouring into his profession. Youssef’s responsiveness seems to be motivated by the dedicated know-how of the tailor only by the tacit but clearly mutual physical attraction between the two men.

“A caftan must be able to survive the one who wears it. Go from mother to daughter. Resist the time, ”Halim said to him. These words resonate slowly with the notions of what makes a lasting relationship, as well as the invasive obsolescence of the handmade sewing in favor of the manufacture of machines.

Mina, a woman from Berdpoken, to my lawyer, initially encourages Youssef, because her husband has more work than he can manage comfortably and is not inclined to rush. Previous apprentices have lost any interest and have evolved quickly. But at the same time, she looks at the beautiful new employee as a hawk, with growing irritability with each gaze in the eyes of the doe that he directs in Halim and with each persistent gaze that Halim returns. Mina even accuses Youssef of stealing fabric, damaging his salary despite having convinced Halim that he is not a thief. Having taken care of him since he was 8 years old, he told Mina that money goes and goes and makes little difference for him.

Touzani skillfully uses an error of direction to suggest a marriageless marriage between Mina Maladif, the details of her illness revealed only gradually, and Halim, whose inability to suppress her gay desires regularly directs him to anonymous sex in private rooms in the hammam local. When Mina launches sex with him, it seems to be an act of desperate need for her affection, typical of a drama imbued with desire.

But under the moderate conversations of the married couple, almost guined, a deep reciprocal love, even a mutual gratitude, becomes clear, especially once Mina’s health begins to decrease. This creates a painful conflict for the taciturn tailor when Youssef reveals his feelings in an intensely moving physical display in the store, and the rejection of the older man provokes the fusion of the apprentice.

However, when he sees that the store remained closed for an extended period, Youssef is too kind and too emotionally invested to stay away. He calls the couple at home and graciously assumes the company’s responsibility while gradually becoming a member of their family.

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