Foreign Film Series: The Blue Caftan
Halim is more than a tailor. At the traditional shop in a Moroccan medina that he runs with his ailing wife Mina, he works lovingly and painstakingly hand-embroidering silks so exquisitely fine they are like wearing air. And in a way, this delicate, precise, time- consuming approach is mirrored in director Maryam Touzani’s film-making, with its focus on tiny details, the fleeting glance, an almost imperceptible brush of skin against skin. It is a gentle piece of Arabic-language storytelling, one that softly, slowly enfolds the audience rather than propels them on a journey. Halim, with his sad eyes and melodic, minor-key voice, loves his wife deeply, but the couple live with the secret of his homosexuality, something Mina has come to accept but that still generates an occasional stab of jealousy in her. When a new apprentice, Youssef, joins them, she is aware of the attraction between the two men. There is a sharp edge to her manner when she talks to Youssef, but the dynamic between the three subtly shifts over time. As Mina’s health fails, she weaves Youssef into the fabric of her own present and her husband’s future life.