Touzani’s sophomore feature, a Moroccan queer drama, continues her penchant for a cinema of delicateness, centering on a middle-aged couple whose lives are subtly reinvigorated when a young apprentice joins their tailor shop.
Dir. Maryam Touzani
2022 | Morocco | Drama | 118 min | 1.85:1 | Arabic
Not rated – likely to be R21 for homosexual theme
Cast: Lobna Azabal, Saleh Bakri, Ayoub Messioui
Plot: A middle-aged tailor and his wife find their relationship turned upside down by the arrival of a handsome new apprentice.
Awards: Won FIPRESCI Prize – Un Certain Regard & Nom. for Queer Palm (Cannes)
International Sales: Films Boutique
Subject Matter: Moderate – LGBTQ; Husband & Wife; Traditional Craft
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: Screener – Singapore Film Society Showcase
I was quite impressed by Maryam Touzani’s first feature, Adam (2019), about a homeless pregnant woman seeking shelter in a bakery owned by a dispassionate mother.
In her sophomore work, The Blue Caftan, we get a similar milieu, in this case, a loving but somewhat passionless middle-aged couple who operates a traditional tailor shop where tailoring is done painstakingly by hand.
When a young man joins as an apprentice, their lives become subtly reinvigorated as the relational dynamics among the trio are reconfigured. This is a rare Arabic drama that deals with homosexual themes, though it isn’t an outwardly queer movie.
Under Touzani’s hands, The Blue Caftan continues her penchant for a cinema of delicateness. There is a sense of quiet caress to the visual style as the camera lingers on every touch against fabric, thread, ornament and skin.
“No one wants to learn the craft anymore.”
It is a decidedly patient film, allowing viewers to soak into the atmosphere of warmth and empathy, though I wish it didn’t have to take too much time to convey this.
From a narrative point of view, Touzani’s work also operates at a lower dramatic register with no discernible peaks, a ‘plateau’ approach to storytelling that relies mostly on how the characters (and the corresponding performances of the actors) relate to each other as their circumstances and feelings toward one other change.
Ultimately, The Blue Caftan celebrates love in all forms, whether heterosexual or homosexual, spousal or platonic, with none weaker than the other. There is also a love for the traditional craft of tailorship, and in one scene in a crowded F&B establishment, a love for football.
This film was, of course, shot way before Morocco triumphantly surged all the way to the semi-finals of the World Cup 2022. But you can already tell how passionate the Moroccans are for the sport.