“The Blue Caftan” (“Le bleu du caftan”)
Metacritic (10/10), Letterboxd (5/5), Imdb.com (10/10)
Perhaps the biggest question I have in connection with this film is, “Why hasn’t it received far more recognition than it has?” This positively beautiful picture – winner of the Un Certain Regard FIPRESCI Prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival – should have received far wider attention than it has in this year’s awards competitions, including the Oscars. Writer-director Maryam Touzani’s second feature outing tells the tender, touching story of the middle-aged husband and wife owners of a traditional Moroccan caftan shop who take on a handsome young apprentice to help with their backlog of orders, a decision with ramifications that extend beyond the workplace, including those of an amorous nature. This gorgeously filmed, sensitively presented tale succeeds on so many levels that it’s difficult to list them all – a superbly nuanced screenplay, a beautiful background score, gorgeous costuming and exquisite cinematography, to name just a few. It also brilliantly evokes a variety of moods, from romantic to loving to sensual to erotic, all without ever becoming obvious, excessive or tawdry (though don’t be surprised if it opens up the water works at times, so keep the hankies within reach). Then there are the stellar performances of the three principals, all masterfully handled by Lubna Azabal, Saleh Bakri and newcomer Ayoub Missioui. Indeed, how this one got so egregiously overlooked truly escapes me, and I sincerely wish it had been released in time for me to include it on my list of the year’s best releases. It should have rightfully claimed nominations for best foreign language/international film in a number of competitions, given its far superior attributes compared to many of the underwhelming releases that somehow managed to land awards or nominations. It’s rare these days when a film has just about everything going for it, but “The Blue Caftan” certainly succeeds at this and is definitely well worth the viewing time.