“A Story of Love and Desire” by Leyla Bouzid

The second feature film by young Tunisian Leyla Bouzid, after ” Barely I open my eyes ”in 2015 (see article below), avoids all clichés … and it was not won! The art of taking pictures the wrong way

A column by Sandra Joxe

Director Leyla Bouzid

What could have been just the endless variation of the theme of sentimental education … provides an unexpected and sensitive look at contemporary North African youth. His relationship to love, to the dual culture and to the “suburbs”, this real territory, which is not a dangerous lawless zone.

A story of love and lust is the delicate story of the birth of feelings of love in a boy who is very shy … because he is very ardent.

romantic young man

Ahmed played by Sami Outalbali nominated for Césars 2022 as best male hope is French of Algerian origin. He grew up living in a city in the Paris suburbs, still with his parents. The father is an unemployed exile journalist who watches reports about the Arab Spring on television, the mother helps at home and her sister an independent teenager with a loud voice – in short, everything except the prototype of the submissive young girl … On the benches of college he meets Farah ( Zbeida Belhajamor), an emancipated and dynamic young Tunisian with a bourgeois background and newly arrived in Paris, in a small studio, to study at the Sorbonne and open his horizon and escape the restrictions imposed by his country on women On the university benches, they discover together a corpus of sensual and erotic Arabic literature of which he did not suspect the existence.

Leila Bouzid insists on this somewhat forgotten or even marginalized dimension of Arab culture, swept away by castrating fundamentalism: the 1001 Nights … and everything else!

Irregular foreplay

Through the poetic parable, the two young people experience a whole vision of romantic relationships: thousands of kilometers from smartphone applications and dating sites, their relationships are woven slowly but surely, through read poems, sighs, lost glances or secret smiles, philosophical discussions, brushed hands, so finally … embraced bodies.

As soon as they meet, a mutual and immediate attraction arises. But while their friends around them live their approach to sexuality in an unrestrained way, Ahmed refrains from revealing his feelings, refuses to take the first steps, and even denies Farah’s approaches at the risk of seeing her move away. , annoyed and sink him into a painful loneliness.

The whole interest of the film lies in these erratic and at times painful introductions, which disturb the young lady: because for once it is not SHE who hesitates, who slips, in short, who will not conclude … but HIM.

Because Ahmed, very much in love and even literally overwhelmed by lust, tries to resist it.

It is this male resistance, so elegantly painted, that is discussed from start to finish. Male lust, in its fragility, its shyness, and its laughter, is seldom filmed: even less frequently filmed by a woman … and when it comes to the lust of a young Arab, we venture into almost unexplored territory. . It is with tact that the director embraces the male body in his moments of intimacy: there we are again always far from the cliché.

Ahmed dampens the zeal of the beautiful Farah

The eroticism of Arabic poetry …

A teacher of comparative literature introduces them to erotic texts from the 12th century.andcentury as The perfumed garden by Cheikh Nefzaoui This colorful Arabic poetry with markedly erotic audacity makes them dream. An ideal introduction to a flirt? Not sure…

Ahmed dampens the zeal of the beautiful Farah, conquers, comfortable in his own skin. She expresses herself, he avoids. Excessive modesty? vow of chastity? Normative eye of the city watching over him? Like the poets he studies, the young man, above all, tends to sublimate his feelings, as if to idealize the elect of his heart: everything in him goes through his head. It is left to find the path of the gesture, the vector of expression of desire and therefore the transition to action.

Ahmed is far from “everything right now” and hedonism in vogue: on the contrary, he rediscovers the connection to the polite love of his poetic ancestors, with the classic tradition of temporization

Imbued with a culture that hides intimacy and rubs off on men boasting of their sexual exploits in a toxic masculinity, Ahmed rejects his desire for Farah, whom he falls in love with anyway. He sublimates his love so much … that he risk losing the loved one!

The more we move on in the cinematic narrative, the more the poetry becomes meaningful, as if all the young man’s libido exploded through the verb: He does not even understand Arabic himself, and asks his friends from the residential area (who weepily reject) sacrilege) and finally to his own father, to translate a love poem … sulphurous. Through the discovery of this unimaginable literary richness, it is the culture of his ancestors that Ahmed discovers with wonder. ISLAND

Son of an immigrant and young bourgeois

The director stages two facets of the North African world without giving in to the temptation to oppose them. Ahmed, who was the son of parents who cut ties to Algeria in the 1990s, does not speak Arabic. Impregnated with a certain Muslim moralizing rigor that questions women who live their sexuality outside of marriage, he transfers the city pressure to his sister.

In addition to these romantic crossovers, it is an original reflection and all in finesse that the director suggests two cultures, two “mentalities” of Arab youth, which, although close, are not alike.

The meeting between Ahmed and Farah is the meeting between Algerian culture and Tunisian culture. What is at stake in the film is the way in which these mentalities are counteracted in a French environment that highlights their differences.

The past between Algeria and France is more painful than the story of the relationship between Tunisia and France. It is this legacy of national stories that Leyla Bouzid’s protagonists inherit. E

The instructor stages the contrast between a culture marked by tradition and pride, embodied by Ahmed, son of Algerian immigrants, and a more modern and peaceful culture embodied with the sensuality of Farah. The two main characters are two facets of the contemporary Arab world. Ahmed does not feel safe anywhere: neither with his friends from the suburbs who are surprised to see him go to the University of Paris, nor with the students at the Sorbonne whose codes he does not master … or even sometimes with the young people and beautiful Tunisian, with whom he is in love, but who comes from another social class.

The poems read as well as the superb, heartbreaking and organic music (saxophone) express – better than all the dialogues – the hero’s inner tears.

Finally, a talented film that looks back on the young people who were sacrificed during the Ben Ali dictatorship

Leave a Comment