Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Les Roseaux Sauvages / J'Embrasse Pas

THE WILD REEDS (LES ROSEAUX SAUVAGES). A perfect coming of age tale, from that Andre Techine boxset of four titles, in 1994. We are in Southern France circa 1963 as our four teens and their various relationships intertwine. The Algerian war is in the background. We start with the wedding of a soldier who does not want to be sent back to Algeria, attended by Maite (Elodie Bouchez) whose mother teaches Maite’s best friend Francois (Gael Morel) and classmate Serge (Stephane Rideau). Francois realises he is gay and has feelings for Serge. The school hunk Serge may fool around with him but is more down to earth and pragmatic and Serge realises he wants to marry and have children. Then there is Henri (Frederic Gorny) – part French and Algerian, listening to the war news incessantly on the radio. He is cool with the boys’ relationship of sorts. Maite has problems of her own, as her mother has a breakdown and she is unsure of her feelings for Francois. It all climaxes the day they go for an afternoon swim while waiting their exam results, and events are nicely resolved as our three friends head back to face their futures – Henri having departed for Marseilles after he and Maite have their own shared moment of intimacy. There is too a very touching scene when Francois seeks out the local shoeshop owner, who is known to be homosexual, and pours out his troubles to him, seeking his advice over what to do about Serge, and how is his life going to turn out and how the shop-owner managed when his age – but the older man cannot really help. Techine again shows his mastery of complex multi-strand narratives and brilliantly directs his young cast. The politics of the story and the Algerian war may be complex to understand now, but does not detract from the warmth and delicacy of the treatment; nice music score too (Beach Boys, The Twist, Del Shannon etc). I liked it enormously - it really captures what it is like to be a teen facing life's complexities.

I DON’T KISS (J’EMBRASSE PAS). This 1991 Andre Techine is a masterly study of a young country innocent who arrives in the big city totally unaware of his intellectual and social limitations – a case study where he is pinned down and examined like a butterfly in a case. Manual Blanc is the na├»ve Pierre, perhaps a bit dim?, certainly surly and perhaps unlikeable, who leaves his family in the Pyrenees to be an actor in Paris. He is of course hopelessly ill-equipped and cannot get to grips with Hamlet’s “To be or not to be”, so that’s another class he storms out of. He turns up on the doorstep of a woman he met the previous year when he was working at Lourdes – she has an ailing mother. He eventually moves in with her but it is another doomed relationship as he does not emphatise or have feelings for her, but mechanically goes through the motions. A guy at work introduces him to some eldergays (the new buzzword for older homosexuals) well-known writer Philippe Noiret who is interested in Pierre (but not that way) and, to my surprise, Ivan Desny (whom I had seen the previous day in his ‘50s heyday in ANASTASIA). Pierre drifts around the edges of the rentboy milieu, a pitiless universe (“the last thing you have to sell is yourself”), having only contempt for it all, hates his poorly paid hospital work and finally accepts his destiny of being a male prostitute, with his own set of rules – including not kissing! It seems he is quite good at it, and doesn’t think about it too much until he becomes obsessed about another whore, Emmanuelle Beart, who has a very violent pimp... After being attacked, raped and left for dead by the pimp and his gang, he goes off to join the army, where his brother also has enlisted – and then comes out a lot harder, and as he tells the brother, it will be a different story when he goes back to Paris – he wasn’t ready the first time. Like Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel our “hero” has never seen the sea so we end with him, not in freeze-frame, but frolicking in the ocean. Paris had better watch out - but I dare say it can always assimilate another cold-hearted whore. Now for the other two Techine moves in that boxset, both starring Catherine Deneuve.

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