The Secret of the Grain (Le Grain et le Mulet)

The Secret of the Grain, English film release title, which also was released variously as Le Grain et le Mulet and Couscous, is Ahmed Kechiche’s third feature film, which has been reviewed variously by Roger Ebert ( ) and A.O. Scott ( ), among others, very thoroughly online.  My point in this essay is to address some of the issues given short shrift in the reviews, or ignored in totality—issues related to culture.

Basically, the film tells the story of Slimane Beiji, who has worked for 35 years, on and off the books, in the shipyards repairing ships and boats, but in his old age has either become redundant, slow, or as his son-in-law complains, not immigrant enough—i.e. not cheap enough labor any longer now that they are in essence “French” rather than true immigrants.  However, throughout the film we never are allowed to forget that Slimane and his family are immigrants, and are treated as such by general social elements.  Forced into retirement against his will, Slimane is suddenly struck by the idea of renovating a tattered old ship he’s demolishing into a couscous restaurant selling the fabulous fish couscous his ex-wife is famed for, and for which Tunisia is known.  The first part of the film introduces us to Slimane’s character traits, and his extended family, which is very significant for the second part of the film, which renders efforts to get the restaurant renovated, permitted, docked, and operational—all of which require the help of this extended family.  Blocked at every turn, Slimane decides to host a huge party aboard the ship, the third part of the film, renovated without the requested bank loan, using his own severance pay, in order to show all the bigwigs of the town that he is indeed capable—with the help of said family and friends—of producing and running the restaurant and thus does deserve their theretofore withheld licenses, permits, and help.  Of course the party starts off well, but soon introduces some last minute conflicts when the famed dish can’t be served because the main ingredient, the couscous (the grain), is missing because one son has escaped the party—to avoid detection by one of his mistresses—by driving off in the family car containing the pot of couscous.  While everyone else in the family stands around wringing their hands, arguing with each other, and plying the guests with drink because they can’t think of any other option, Slimane takes off on his motorbike to find the missing couscous and son.  While he’s gone, several important events happen.  His motorbike is stolen while he is in his son’s house listening to his daughter-in-law rant about what a miserable philandering husband the son is, which everyone knows and condones; Slimane then spends a lengthy time running pitifully after some juveniles joy-riding on his bike and taunting him to “come on, catch us, old man”.   While he is gone and the guests are getting angry at the party, Rym, the daughter of Slimane’s “mistress” and like Slimane’s own daughter, suddenly appears and dazzles everyone with a lengthy belly-dance, while her mother secretly goes home and prepares a huge pot of couscous to replace the missing grain so that the guests can eat and the party be saved.  However, we are left in limbo as to what the outcome of the party, the restaurant plan, or even the various families might be when Slimane can run after the boys on the bike no more, grasps his chest, and slumps prostrate onto the street.

As is my trend, I’m interested in looking at the cultural elements, not necessarily the film aesthetics, except where those aesthetics might have to do with culture.  In the instance of this film, I do believe that Kechiche’s manner of langorously filming events, letting them unfold in real time over a lengthy time, is a cultural manifestation of African and North African films when they are not overly influenced by western traditions of time ellipsing cuts and eliminating the quotidian in favor of the “active” character elements.  Kechiche variously lingers in several scenes, one in which we are active participants with numerous family and guests around a lunch table eating the ex-wife’s famous fish couscous (the mulet of the title=mullet).  The camera is close in on everyone’s face, as the room is small with numerous people seated around a table, and the scene is quite long and nothing hugely important happens—we listen to people talk about dieting, the delicious couscous, whether a husband has learned any Arabic from his wife or taught the children, general table discussion and joking and laughing.  This scene goes on for ages it seems, but we do come to know a bit about the people who are going to appear later in the film, even if they are in ancillary roles, they are important to Slimane and thus important to the film.  Further, lunch time with couscous and friends, especially on a Friday, is important to linger over, a time to collaborate and collect and be with others, not a meal to rush through either in real life or in screen time.  Such loving detailed renditions of moments that may seem mundane real life populate the film.  Another instance of this occurs when Rym belly dances for the boat guests—the scene goes on for several dances, cutting from lengthy shots on Rym’s gyrating belly to the guests in thrall and becoming excited by the spectacle.  Partly the dance extends for such a long while to emphasize the wait that the guests undergo, and partly the filmmaker attests to Rym’s desire to do whatever it takes to make Slimane’s project successful—which we see throughout the film, and partly the filmmaker thrusts into our faces something which is truly spectacle that the voyeur wants to see but is rarely given such length of time to ingest—the near nude writhing body of a lithesome young woman.  While this may be a personal trait of the filmmaker, I also believe it is a trait of African and Middle Eastern filmmaking in general, as said above, in which life’s quotidian nature is worthy of screen time, as it is not in the west, or if it is, it is seen as a somewhat special type of film, such as “My Dinner with Andre”, etc.

Addressing cultural elements otherwise, it is important to delve into the various ways in which the immigrant status is treated in the film.  First, we are exposed to Slimane’s disagreement with his severance package due to having had to work “off the books” for quite a number of years, so that his severance pay is quite lower than anticipated and the French employer unwilling to take Slimane’s—or any other immigrant’s—situation into account, since he wants to make money off the immigrant’s dilemma.  In fact, as mentioned above, Slimane’s son-in-law even rancors that the shipyards want to get rid of “the French” (which now includes former immigrants) to hire cheaper new immigrants.  At the bank to take out a loan for the restaurant renovation and at various public offices seeking permits, Slimane’s immigrant status is constantly an issue even when obliquely.  These become even clearer during the dinner conversation at the party Slimane hosts—his invitees all gossip that he won’t get his loan, that he wants a docking location for the boat in a sought after location but won’t be allowed to have it if other non-immigrant boats apply, and in general the public officials on one hand are willing to partake of the party and free liquor and food but are simultaneously unwilling to be lenient towards Slimane after all.  In fact, Kechiche paints a rather dismal picture of the attitude that “real” French have towards “immigrant” French.  They appreciate the couscous and belly dancing, and ogle Rym as she undulates on stage to quell their irritation at being kept waiting for dinner.  While they have little time for her when she’s dressed up in a suit applying for a loan and permits, they are bewitched by her dance in true orientalist fashion.

Another cultural element that is fascinating is when the musicians from L’Hotel Orient (The Oriental Hotel) sit around gossiping about Slimane, his ex-wife, his girlfriend (the owner of the hotel where they, the musicians and Slimane, all live), his project, and other subjects, Kechiche once again follows the gossip in minute detail even though it is not that informative as to the narrative flow of the story.  However, once again we are introduced to these characters who come to his rescue—support him by playing all night at the boat party for a free meal of couscous, and support him morally for “going for it”, pursuing a dream rather than just retiring and being “kept” by his girlfriend.  Men in the Middle East and North Africa do tend to hang out, drinking coffee and tea and smoking, and gossiping endlessly; this apparently does not change when they change location to France.  While the women may gossip and have the domain of the home and the kitchen, or even the domicile of the hotel, the men still remain highly evident in the public domain of the café, the outside world.

Though Slimane is estranged from his ex-wife to a certain extent, and is behind on his alimony payments due to a slow-down of work at the docks, she is still willing to support him by making couscous for 100 guests at the party, she still receives fresh fish from him often, she still makes a plate of Friday couscous for him to eat in his hotel room.  There are close family ties even through the divorce, as Slimane’s sons visit him in his hotel room, help him renovate the boat, help at the dinner, and even counsel him on what to do now that he’s retired.  In fact, it is their counsel, when Slimane shares his couscous lunch with Rym one Friday, that leads eventually to the idea to do a restaurant.  The two boys suggest Slimane even move back to Tunisia, where the wife would let him have their house—although he’s been in France for over 35 years at least—which prompts Rym to harangue at Slimane that the boys have nothing of his own best interest at heart, they don’t respect him anymore, and that they expect him to just fade away.  We simultaneously learn of Rym’s closeness to Slimane, that she is like a daughter to him, that she loves him too, and that she still has strong respect for him and disrespect for his sons.  In Middle Eastern and North African culture, a man should have the respect of his sons.

The last element I’d like to talk about is the various familial relationships.  It is not unusual that Middle East and North African families face divorce or, rarely, multiple wives.  In this film we face several interesting familial components dealing with wives.  Slimane’s relationship with all his children is strong, though we see that his retirement is weakening temporarily the respect that his son’s have for him—regained once he launches the boat project.  But we also see one son a philanderer who receives phone calls from his girlfriends at his mother’s and sister’s house—they are accused of being complicit in his cheating on his wife with young baby.  In fact, the sister cajoles the angry wife to calm down, come to lunch, forget the son’s late arrival home—she tries to protect the brother to his wife while then she confronts him in the hallway that his behavior is known to all and is disgusting.  Yet son’s—especially elder sons—being coddled and spoiled, no one is really going to confront the son about his behavior.  Finally, when Slimane is searching for the missing son and couscous on the night of the party, the hysterical wife lambasts him at length for his complicity in his son’s playboy activities.  Slimane can do nothing but leave the house because it is true.  Then we have the case that Slimane lives in the hotel his girlfriend owns.  What is unusual in Slimane’s case is that he does not marry his girlfriend, for reasons never quite made clear, though he has obviously committed years to the relationship and considers Rym (her daughter) like his own daughter, and she considers him a father.  Conflict arises in the movie because the girlfriend feels shamed that Slimane would turn to his ex-wife to make the fish couscous for the restaurant, though as the gossiping old men mentioned above make well known, the girlfriend’s couscous is inedible!  Still, she feels betrayed and this breaks down their relationship, and requires quite a bit of convincing from Rym before she will deign to attend the big party on the boat.  Yet in the end, it is she who quietly leaves the boat to go home and make a huge pot of grain to replace the missing grain, to “save the day” so to speak, and in essence “save the face” of not only Slimane but his whole extended family.  Further, while Slimane’s ex-wife, daughters, and friends all rally to pull off the couscous making, party handling, music making, etc., it is Rym who in essence sacrifices her status as outsider, guest, to perform the sensual and erotic belly dance to assuage the restless and angry guests.  Though she had been an integral component of getting the boat ready, from concept to completion, she felt rendered marginal at the party because she was not “family”, yet her dancing puts her squarely in that realm at the opportune moment, as does the couscous making by the girlfriend.  They can’t be marginalized any longer, but the film does not let us know anything about a rapprochement between families, an outcome to the party, an outcome for Slimane, because it just ends with Slimane slumped on the distant sidewalk while the girlfriend maneuvers the huge pot of couscous up the ship’s steps.  We know the party is saved, but what else?

Posted in greencine films | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Samira Makhmalbaf’s Blackboards

In addition to David Lipfert’s 2002 wonderful December 6th analysis of Blackboards at, I call attention to an interview with the filmmaker  at  Also see the website for a lot of information:

In this analysis, I will first present some of my own ideas about the film Blackboards, then follow with information gleaned from researching the film on the internet, which is quite interesting.

While a lot has been written about Blackboards by film reviewers (see a couple referenced above), a few surprising elements of culture have really received light shrift and I’d rather write about those elements than reiterate the main points of the film.  Most attention focuses upon the teachers carrying the blackboards, which of course is the main thrust of the film.  However, the arcs of the story–which the teachers encounter/interact with–are the real interest factors of the film.

In general, however, the film concerns young Kurdish men who traverse the Kurdish countryside with huge blackboards on their backs looking for villages and pupils who will host them for a meager pittance or even just food.  One even laments that he should have listened to his father who told him to become a shepherd rather than a school teacher!  Two teachers soon become the focus of the film.  One, Reboir, heads up the mountain where he encounters a group of boys, mules; the other, Said, heads down to the villages, where he encounters a group of about 100 men, a woman and her boy, wandering lost in the countryside.  The countryside is rock, rugged, arid, desolate, dusty, uninviting, isolating—characteristics we soon believe can be attributable to the people encountered as well.  They have no time for the teachers.  Villagers slam their windows and doors.  The boys tell the teacher to get lost.  The wanderers just ignore Said’s constant pleas for something to eat or drink.  Everyone is dusty, tired, worn out.

Most commentators mention the mules, young boys carrying heavy loads of contraband goods across the Iraq/Iran border, without calling attention to why these boys eschew education for this activity instead.  In one scene, the teacher Reboir tells the boys they can learn to read and write, and thus read stories and newspapers and learn what is going on in the world.  But the boys do know what is going on that has an influence on them—war and strife that leaves them with no remunerative activity but to be mules and endanger their lives on a daily basis to make money for shopkeepers and dealers elsewhere, while the border patrols seem insensitive to killing off children smugglers.  Further, one boy says he already knows stories—and proceeds to recount a story of his own, hunting a rabbit and ensuing strife with a neighbor, a story that actually has relevance for the lives of these kids and their lives of deprivation and struggle, but the teacher says he means “other” stories, as if those other irrelevant stories would be attractive to the pupils.  As the film meanders with another teacher (Said) through rough-hewn villages, stony and primitive, we can understand that these boys don’t have a lot of options in their daily village/regional lives.  First, they live in a contentious zone—a border zone, a Kurdish area to boot, a zone that seems to have little but sheep and goats and stones.  There is no school and there is no real opportunity to utilize an education received.  Even when the teacher Reboir tells the boys he can teach them math to do sums so they won’t be cheated by the bosses for whom they smuggle—the boys just look at him.  Is there an alternative to being cheated?  Not really.  Unless they leave their area, which raises a whole other issue of being Kurdish in Iran in general, which the film doesn’t particularly address, only elliptically.  Kurdish repression in Iran (and Iraq or Turkey for that matter) is a whole topic that I can’t particularly address fully, but to say that ethnic and religious and political identity has been repressed, human rights violated, activists arrested and killed, and areas deprived of development due to ethnicity, etc.

Other commentators emphasize the group of men and one woman with her son who encounter the teacher Said, who comes to be known as “Blackboard”.  He has traversed village after village and is desperate, for something to eat, something to drink, for a pupil, anything!  What he finds are trudging old and middle aged men who seem aimless, until they reveal they have become lost and are looking to return to Iraq to their village they had fled from because it had been gassed by the Iraqis during the Iran/Iraq war  (you can learn more about this at   Blackboard says he can lead them, but for what in exchange?  After declaring they have nothing, nothing—not even a scrap of bread–finally they relent and agree on a bag of walnuts.

But Blackboard also learns that one of the old men is dying because he can’t urinate, and can’t die in peace unless he can marry off his (widowed?) daughter to someone.  Blackboard volunteers, though we don’t really know why.  Perhaps, after all, she is homeless and so is he.  What else is he looking for?  That remains unsaid!  They are married after the ma’allem gets Said to put up his blackboard as dowry, to confirm that he will take care of the woman and not leave her hungry, and then after pestering Halaleh who is distracted taking care of her son, she finally agrees to the match.  Voila, it is done, they are married.  Why does she accept?  We don’t know because the woman is left an enigma.  Is it because she is unsure whether her father will die?  But why not marry within her tribe?  Why marry a complete stranger who has only a blackboard—or is it that the blackboard is enough?  It is uncertain whether for sure the marriage is even consummated, but we do see Said create a makeshift blockade with the blackboard for privacy for himself and his new wife, but mostly we see him “educating” her on how to write “I love you” which she refuses to pronounce, and for which he wants to give her a low grade, like she’s one of his students.  During their trek, there is little to no communication between the two, except for Said constantly “educating” her and her unwillingness to respond except to cower under the blackboard when they approach a border and are shot at by guards.  In the escape, her baby son leaves the group and goes running off in search of a rabbit he’s seen on the hillside, she follows, and Said too complains that she’s left him.  Finally she speaks!  In essence, the subtitle reads, “My heart is a train that passes many stations, but stops at only one–my son!”  It is no surprise, then, that when the group finally reaches the village area, Said wants to stay in Irani Kurdistan while Halaleh wants to go back to Iraqi Kurdistan to her village, so they are summarily divorced, Said loses his blackboard, and drifts off into the mists.

So, what does this tell us about the situation of women in this region?  Country?  Having seen numerous Iranian films where women are shown deprived of their rights, this film at least gives Halaleh two very unusual rights—to decide if she wants to marry Said, then to decide if she wants to stay with him or not.  Usually marriages are arranged by the parent and divorce decided by the man.  However, that she is rendered so speechless throughout the film might be due to how little agency Iranian women in general are thought to have—though that is certainly changing—or might be due to the trauma of being from a village totally decimated by gas/chemical warfare by its own government—or perhaps both!  It is left to the viewer to understand or decide.

To be sure, this is an outsider’s view.  The teachers are outsiders looking to find a place to fit in—searching to be accepted by the mules, the villages, or the random wife.  Even the filmmaker admits she doesn’t speak/understand Kurdish and relied on translators for making the film—but that doesn’t diminish the other side of outsidedness.  Kurds in general are considered outsiders, some wanting to form their own country—others satisfied with the identities of the countries they live in, but still somewhat treated as outsiders.  Both the boys (Iranians) and the wanderers (Iraqis) are considered outsiders by the border guards who fire upon them.  Even the border guards are outsiders because we don’t even know which side they are protecting—are they Irani or Iraqi?  Finally, we are the outsiders looking into the film to learn something new about humanity.

Blackboards is Samira Makhmalbaf’s second film, co-written with her father, the famous Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and the film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Official Competition section of the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.

According to an interview downloaded from:

Halabcheh is a city in Iraq, situated close to the Iranian border. The Iraqi government used chemical bombardment to repress the Iraqi Kurds.  The movie “The Blackboard” was shot near Halabcheh, on the Iran-Iraq border. The landmines planted in that area during war have never been removed and one of our problems during production was to know where we can walk and where there are no landmines. We regularly received information from the local villagers on the safe lands to walk on.

○ Is this movie also the story of the different generations of Iranians?

Yes, We see three generations in this movie. One is the young generation which is fertile and productive, but the older generations have done little for them and they have to do dangerous things every day to make ends meet. They like to learn, but that is not one of their choices. The second generation is the middle one: the teachers. They try to teach and benefit the two other generation from their knowledge and experience, but do not succeed. The third generation is the one with no patience to hear what the second generation has to say. It is too late for them to change. They walk their own path. Bitter recollections hurt their common memory and they walk their own path. The older generation is more patriotic than the two younger ones. They have reached the end of their lives, and just like a flock of fish in the Pacific Ocean heading to their birthplace when they reach the end of their lives, these old men leave Iran and go to Iraq to die where they were born.

○ The old Iraqi men leave Iran and go to Iraq, to die where they were born. When did they come to Iran?

They took refuge in Iran during the eight-year-old Iran-Iraq war, to escape the chemical bombardments.

○ Where do the teenagers come from, and where do they go?

Every morning, they cross the Iranian border and illegally enter Iraq, and smuggle something back in to Iran on the same day. To earn in of to make it through the day, they play with their lives everyday.

Apart from the woman who is a talented young actress doing both movies and plays, and the young teacher who is one of the directors of the new generation of Iranian cinema, the rest are ordinary villagers from the area.

Posted in greencine films | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Custody

Released in 1993/94 by Merchant/Ivory Production team, this film shot on location in India (Mirpur and Bhopal) by Merchant, features Shashi Kapoor and Om Puri as the main protagonists who struggle with dreams and passions for poetry in a modernizing world more focused on money, gadgets and indulgences.  Deven (Om Puri) teaches Hindi at a college though his heart lies in writing Urdu poetry no one will publish and, he thinks, no one will read in the era in which formal Urdu is losing its significance in India—an old historic language giving way to a modern Hindi/Urdu mix.  Urdu poetry has a long tradition that Deven wishes he could be a part of, but that tradition is dying.

However, an old classmate tracks Deven down to help with preparing a struggling Urdu journal issue on poetry, at which point Deven insists on including poems by the famous and still living poet Nur Shahjehanebadi (Shashi Kapoor).  The publisher convinces Deven to instead do an interview—on his meager salary he makes the journey to Bhopal to find Nur an irascible elephantine man who would rather put off the interview to instead play host to a gaggle of men who flatter the poet, spout his poetry, and stuff themselves silly with his food and drink until even the poet, at one point, collapses in his own vomit.  Deven is silent, even angry, at what he witnesses—not only the degradation of an idol, but the dashing of a fabulous dream of interviewing and “saving” that idol from obscurity.  Nur, though depressed by his encroaching obscurity, cannot break out of his routine to allow himself to be saved.  Deven, however, does not give up but rather jumps at the chance when Nur soon writes him to come back–Nur says he can no longer write, but can only recite and invites Deven to come record his poetry.

During this return journey, Deven comes to face new hurdles, not just the poet’s lack of interest, but the poet’s second-wife’s desire to be seen as powerful and creative as the husband, the poet’s first-wife’s desire to profit from the husband’s fame financially, the need to get funding to do the recording—which is so meager that he is reduced to an old reel-to-reel recorder he doesn’t know how to use so is stuck with an inept “recordist” to pay, the sudden need to pay for the poet to record in a room outside of his house (in a brothel) to escape the second wife’s interference, and the sudden need to feed and ply with drink the poet’s followers.  Deven has always had to be a simple man, forced to teach Hindi to support his wife and child in somewhat poor conditions, and is overwhelmed by all these unforeseen extravagant expenses just to get a recording out of the poet.  But he perseveres because of his love of the language and of the poetry, seemingly in spite of the true nature of the source of that poetry.  Deven holds onto his dream of sustaining Urdu poetry and his admired poet in spite of all technological or modernizing setbacks, all illuminations that his dream is a crumbling façade of a man, all greed and grasping to profit from what Deven holds up as irreproachable high art.

The simple interview instead turns into quite a production and comedy of errors pitting tradition against modernity when Deven is forced to tape record the poet but finds the microphone unplugged, the tape recorder turned off, or the tape all unwound and entangled by the incompetent but modern “technical” school graduate foisted upon him to help wrangle the new technology that Deven finds incomprehensible.  But the interview is not the only instance of tradition competing with modernity—the poet’s wife demands to be taken seriously as a female poetess in the contemporary era, but is refused because she is too similar to her husband’s poetry and, still, she is a woman; one of the college administrators has inherited a huge palace, which he yearns to unload, and finally does, to someone who will tear it down to put up apartment blocks and free him of the burden of maintaining tradition; in tradition a poet would have followers who would support him and his artistry, while in modernity Nur is surrounded by followers who recite his poetry and hang-on in order to be fed sumptuously and plied with drink by the poet who fears being lost in obscurity.  Deven is our window into these conflicts of tradition and modernity—in fact his desire to record the poet exacerbates many of them.

The interview a disaster, partially due to the uncooperativeness of the poet or his followers, partly due to technical hazards, Deven ends up with an unusable recording and a somewhat crushed spirit.  His hero has let him down.  Urdu poetry has let him down.  He doesn’t have a fabulous recording, nor does he have a wonderful interview of a hallowed poet.  He has only shattered dreams of other shattered lives.  However, at the end of Nur’s life, when even Deven has given up hope of successfully being able to communicate with the illustrious poet, Nur sends Deven a volume of his last poems to keep “in custody”.  The film ends with Deven during the poet’s elaborate funeral carrying a bound volume of the loose poems Nur sent him.

What are the other cultural elements we see in this film?  Deven is constantly berated by his superior at the college—where he earns very little money and obviously gets little respect from the administration and even students.  This is not a satisfying job so that Deven must even more so turn towards self-fulfillment in poetry and in the opportunity to interact with an idol—thus even further defeating when that idol turns out to be an imperfect man with wife troubles and self-esteem issues.

Nur is facing a challenge in that at one time he was reknowned for his poetry, ghazals that his second wife steals and sings as her own, but that poetry is losing its appeal in the face of televisions, boom boxes and new technologies with the modern era.  Only the hangers-on who want to get some advantage from him still pay him homage—thus when Deven comes wanting an interview Nur just can’t break his somewhat isolating mannerisms—he ignores Deven, calls for food and drink for his “friends”, drinks himself into oblivion, ignores Deven with the microphone ready to record poetry and instead calls for drink and food or recites Keats, etc.  He does everything to render himself isolated, yet regrets his isolation in the modern world.  In fact, aside from a shopkeeper’s stock of new technologies and talk of the modern technological marvels such as video cameras, and a few buses, we see little of the modern era in the film at all.  We are almost as stuck in the past as Nur and his entourage are.

The world of women is given interesting shrift in this film—we see just Deven’s wife, Nur’s two wives and mother-in-law, and a few drifting brothel women; even Nur’s second wife is said to have come from a brothel or have been a dancer, thus a “loose” woman to be suspect.  Yet two women, Deven’s wife and Nur’s second wife, have some power, though very little, as the mothers of sons—thus highlighting again the dominating world of men and the subservient world of women according to Merchant’s film—which may not tell the whole story of India in the 1990’s!  We see the more traditional version of male-female relations, dominating husband and subservient wife, though Nur’s second wife does her best to break this pattern, as she struggles to be taken seriously as a poetess in her own right.  But she will always be overshadowed as a poetess by her husband’s own fame and style.  Her only avenue is to sing ghazals and be showered with money as a sensualized performer.

In conclusion, Merchant/Ivory present us a very sensualized film overall, from the mise-en-scene to the touching struggles of men and women trying to assert themselves in a world perhaps they cannot dominate, to the lovely ghazals and recited poetry, to the lovingly crafted human characters.

Posted in netflix films | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments