The film premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI Un Certain Regard award. The review of The Blue Caftan by Federico Gironi.
On paper The blue caftan has a very simple synopsis, which should or could push towards a foregone development and conclusion.
The protagonist is Halim, a maleem, a master tailor who makes traditional caftans. He runs his shop in the medina of the Moroccan city of Salé with his wife Mina, who is ill, but determined to stay close to her husband and not give up her job. To meet the demands of increasingly hasty and impatient customers, Halim and Mina take on the young Youssef as an apprentice and assistant, who is passionate about the art of embroidery and tailoring, but who also becomes a sort of threat to the couple, arousing the moved by Halim’s interest and by Mina’s concern, who has always pretended to ignore her husband’s more or less hidden and repressed homosexuality.
Now, based on this starting assumption, it would be and is easy to predict many of the film’s narrative trajectories. And yet, that of Maryam Touzani it is a film that manages to surpriseand to give the viewer a series of implications and considerations that are anything but easy and obvious.
First of all, while it’s obviously a central element, I think it is it is highly reductive to see The Blue Caftan as a film queerif this means believing that the topic queer both the power plant, destined to eat up everything around it with its political relevance.
No: I am strongly convinced that Touzani’s film is (also) about something else. It’s a movie, of course, about love in a broad and complex senseon various types of possible love, and not necessarily linked to sexuality, but Even before that, it is a film that talks about purity, dignity, respect for oneself and others, of duty and altruism.
A film that, in a broad, articulated and never superficial way, also thinks about a sort of resistance to the many small and large violences of society, whether this means protecting the times and methods of one’s work or learning to live life respecting this who you are and what you want.
Helped by its actors (without taking anything away from Ayoub MessiouiYoussef’s interpreter, Lubna Azabal and Saleh Bakri they are outstanding as Mina and Halim), Maryam Touzani he makes a film that formally reflects everything that exists and is agitated in terms of content.
His is a very elegant and sinuous cinema, embellished with unique details, such as Halim’s caftans (and if we really have to find a flaw, which is ultimately very insignificant, perhaps there is a pinch of aestheticization too much here and there). The blue caftan it’s a movie made of silences, small gestures, glances and movements. Of feelings that are expressed in a deaf and oblique way at first, and which as the events progress learn to gain the freedom and security they deserve: in the eyes and hearts of those who feel them as well as those who witness them.
The evolution of the triangle formed by the three protagonists, its progressive adjustment that goes in the direction of a solidity made of understanding and intimacy it is moving, as is Halim’s final gesture: which in a film made of small and private gestures, takes on a large and public dimension, but never aggressive, never angry, never demanding.
It is another of the merits of the Blue caftan: having shown that you can do and fight and be even in a sweet, polite, gentle way, but no less effective.
Far from the frenzy and often uselessly demanding anxiety of the times we live in.