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This is to my knowledge the very first film of indie actress Bulle Ogier,
who was part, along with Pierre Clémenti and Jean-Pierre Kalfon, of the
original cast for the play "Les idoles", which inspired this film. A film
that is a tasteful blend between a stage happening and a musical. Marc'o,
then a stage veteran who was directing his first feature, was a visionary,
as he had grasped most of what the cult of youth idols such as pop-stars
all about: a very fertile ground for business and cynicism. Gigi la folle,
the wrongly innocent sweet blonde played by Bulle Ogier, was inspired by
singer France Gall, whereas Charlie le surineur, played by a wild Pierre
Clémenti, is more or less Johnny Hallyday, a supposed natural-born rebel, i
fact a totally artificial marketing produce. As for Jean-Pierre Kalfon, the
last of the idols, he plays a dishevelled and mystic palm reader turned
a frantic singer, a compromise between the Beatles under their indian
and a bunch of psychedelic bands such as they existed then. The three of
them dance and sing all along like roaring lions, giving a very impressive
performance of raw pop power. Although their voice qualities are not the
strong point of the film, the music is rich and varied, ranging from quiet
ballad to over-the-top kick-on-stage dance routines.
The portrait Marc'o gives of the french youth on the eve of May 1968 is of a world seething in unrest, reading supposed rebellion orders on the lips of their teen idols. In that way, Les idoles is a political point of view about the power of the media and music over the consciences. All this in bright and wonderful colors, psychedelic interiors, a visual world close to the world of the series "The Prisoner". A great film, a very intelligent witness of its time.
This is exactly the kind of movie the Nouvelle Vague made
possible.Probably inspired by some aspects of Godard's notorious
"Masculin/Feminin",it represents all that I hate in the French cinema.
Probably inspired by real-life "teenage idols" ,these three pitiful "singers" make the viewer turn a deaf ear to the music they play and sing (which is some kind of parboiled cross between a poor man's Velvet Underground -and I like this group- and histrionic vocals).
To be successful,such a movie demands precision -what the Rutles did with the Beatles,for instance-,a great sense of humor , a rebellious mind devoid of clichés (the only moment that politically succeeds is Charlie's problems with the draft;during those precious minutes,I did think the movie was going somewhere).
The French "teenage idols" period was the early sixties .The 1962-1965 was the "yeah yeah" boys and girls heyday.Although some of them survived, from 1966 onwards ,some real artists (Jacques Dutronc,Julien Clerc,Michel Polnareff) began to emerge .Charlie is a distant relative of Johnny Halliday,but Gigi does not look like France Gall ,Serge Gainsbourg's Lolita.And it's an insult to mention the Beatles as far as Simon is concerned.There is also a hint at "Soeur Sourire" ,who hit the US charts as "the singing nun" in 1964.Proof positive that the story belongs to the first half of the sixties.
All the actors overplay .Pierre Clementi could have been a good thespian,had he had more Bunuel and Deville (and less so -called avant-garde);Bulle Ogier is, depending on whom you ask , either sublime or atrociously unbearable ,some kind of female Jean-Pierre Leaud.Jean-Pierre Kalfon is more restrained,be he blessed just for that.
Les Idoles : a relic , a failed spoof; take Watkins's "Privilège" instead.
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