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Born in 1943 during German occupation of their French town, Patrick and Marie-José have been best friends; now teens, they experiment with sex, which doesn't seem to bring them closer. Patrick has also taken to American jazz, hanging out at a nearby Army base where he picks up the drums and comes to the attention of a Caberra, a brutish American sergeant who enjoys starting fights with Black soldiers. Caberra gives Patrick a drum kit, talks to him about life, and introduces him around. Patrick meets Trudy, an American teen who loves Buddy Holly. Marie-José is jealous and establishes her own liaison. What of Patrick and Marie-José's pact to be friends forever? Written by
An unflattering portrayal of the postwar American occupation
This film is half in French, half in English. Most of the cast is American. The story is set in France in the 50's, the post-war period to which the French refer as the American Occupation. The portrayal of Americans is not very flattering, and may explain why this movie was not shown in the US.
French President DeGaul forced the American bases to close, but until that time as this movie displays, American soldiers were occupiers. Their presence was resented by many, flaunting as the soldiers did American material culture, Coke, Levis, Schwinns, bought from the PX, a store to which the French were forbidden entry.
Every American in this film is big and healthy while the French are emaciated and somber. The Americans listen to Buddy Holly, the French prefer Coltrane. The Americans drive large shiny cars, the French ride old delivery vans. The Americans speak in English to everyone, oblivious to whether they are understood or not.
Alicia Silverstone plays one of these strapping carefree Americans, critical of wobbly French bicycles and refusing to swim in a lake for fear of catching polio. One sex scene, filmed in the no-big-deal typical fashion, resolves with Silverstone wiping semen off her hand and lips with antiseptic disdain. But not everything is a cheap shot at Americans: there's a fantastic scene where a rival French girl makes a pathetic and ill-timed plea to Silverstone's new boyfriend. Silverstone reacts with an incredulous: "Shut up!"
Great period scenery, cobblestone streets, military vehicles, sock hop and jazz club events. Lots of disaffected jazz and joyous gospel from the oppressed black troops. The French boy's father is a veterinarian and there's an interesting scene where a stallion is held down in the town square and gelded. Another graphic moment involves a calf foetus which must be aborted with a wire garrote, to the revulsion of an otherwise explosively violent racist American sargeant.
The Americans eventually learn they must leave France to face the "communist peril" on her own. In the final scene smallish French athletes walk in a parade to be suddenly barnstormed by American cowboys on horseback. Cheerleaders, among them Silverstone, and leather-helmeted football players flow out of flashy finned convertibles to play an exhibition game of football as the townspeople look on.
Our hero and his French girl, once both smitten by American culture, now smile at each other bemusedly. Americans may as well be martians!
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