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Simon de La Brosse
In a village in the Southwest of France, 1962. Maite and Francois are 18 years old. They are friends, not lovers. In Francois's classroom, there are Serge, whose brother has just married to try to escape from the war in Algeria, and Henri, a pied-noir (Algerian-born Frenchman). Francois and Serge will have a homosexual relationship, but Serge wants to marry his brother's wife...Written by
One of the songs featured at the party which Maïté and François go to after the movie is "Barbara Ann" by The Beach Boys, which was recorded and released in the fall of 1965, a full three years after the 1962 time setting for this movie. See more »
The slightly loose and episodic feel of this charming coming-of-ager doesn't matter because the characters and the conflicts are so well presented that we are enthralled throughout.
Three boys on the verge of manhood (with the French-Algerian conflict smoldering in the background) are in residence at a boarding school in the south of France in 1962. One is gay, the second is bi-sexual and the third is straight. Through their interactions we (and they) discover their sexuality.
Francois Forestier, played attractively by Gael Morel, is gay as he discovers one night when Serge Bartolo (Stephane Rideau), an athletic schoolmate with a natural style, awakens his sexuality by seducing him. For Serge it is just a school age sexual adventure; for Francois it is love so intense he is transformed. The third boy, Henri Mariana, who is from Algeria, is a little older and a little more cynical. He finds heterosexual love with his enemy, Maité Alverez, who is a hated communist. Elodie Bouchez, whom I recall from The Dreamlife of Angels (1998) for which she shared a Cannes Best Actress award, plays Maité whose style is earnest, witty and brave.
As it happens I was in France during the period of this film, and a teenager as well. The Algerian conflict haunted the young men because as soon as they were of age they could be sent away to fight. Also the Communist Party was strong in France and an attraction to some who opposed what they saw as French colonialism in Algeria and Vietnam. Director André Téchiné who characteristically explores human sexuality in his films (e.g., Rendez-Vous (1985) with a young and vital Juliette Binoche; Le lieu du crime (1986) with Catherine Deneuve; and Ma Saison Préférée (1993) also starring Catherine Deneuve) attempts to integrate these larger issues into his film but I don't think is entirely successful. Serge's older brother is killed in Algeria and his teacher blames herself for not helping him to escape his military service and suffers a nervous breakdown. However this story is not well-connected with the rest of the film. Also more could have been done with the divergent views of Maité and Henri. What I loved was the club scene where suddenly the French girls are twisting to Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again" which propelled me back to 1962 when indeed the Twist was all the rage in France.
What makes this film superior is the warm and truthful way in which the sexual awakenings are realized. The kids seem absolutely real and the dialogue is sharp and authentic. Morel is very winning. I especially liked the earnest way he confronts and then accepts his sexuality. Interesting was the scene in which he seeks out the shoe salesman whom he knows is gay for his advice on how he should cope with unrequited homosexual love.
This is a film about young people for open-minded adults attractively done. For many it will strike a strong cord of recognition.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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