Wild Reeds

Though I liked his criticism for Cahiers du Cinema in the 60s, I haven’t been a big fan of the five early Andre Techine films I’ve seen. But this wonderful and masterful feature (1994), his 12th, suggests that maybe he was just tooling up. It’s one of the best movies from an excellent French television series of fiction features on teenagers of the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. If Techine’s French Provincial (1974) evoked in some ways the Bertolucci of The Conformist, this account of kids living in southwest France in 1962, toward the end of the Algerian war, has some of the feeling, lyricism, and sweetness of Bertolucci’s Before the Revolutionthough it’s clearly the work of someone much older and wiser. The main characters, all completing their baccalaureate exam at a boarding school, include a boy struggling with his homosexual desire for a close friend, an older student who’s a right-wing opponent of Algerian nationalism, and a communist daughter of one of the teachers, who befriends the homosexual and falls for the older student in spite of their political differences. One comes to regard these characters and others as old friends, and Techine’s handling of pastoral settings is as exquisite as his feeling for period. Winner of Cesar awards (the French equivalent of Oscars) for best picture, director, screenplay, and new female discovery (Elodie Bouchez). With Frederic Gorny, Gael Morel, Stephane Rideau, and Michele Moretti (who’s best known for her work with Jacques Rivette). (JR)

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