Sunday, March 7, 2010

Restless: Le Bel Âge

Le Bel Âge (2009) - Perreau
The film starts with a teenage girl Claire sneaking into the huge decrepit mansion owned by her grandfather, Maurice, at night after partying with some friends. In the morning, Maurice comes into Claire's room and she hides under the bed. Later, Claire picks up an envelope with money in it from the mantle downstairs. As the film progresses, we learn this delicate dance between the young and the old who don't know how to communicate with each other, has been going on for a while.

Claire, a sullen 18 year-old school dropout and would-be swimming champ, is just like any other teenager- unsure of herself and restless. She hangs out with her group of friends who mean little to her, not because she enjoys it, but that's what's expected of teenagers: boyfriend, sex and general mischief.

She meets an old fashioned bookish boy who works for a local casino as a security personnel. He reads Conrad and has elaborate fantasies about traveling. He constantly pushes her to travel with him, but for Claire, he's sometimes just too square.

Perreau makes a point in the beginning of the film with one repeated scene from Claire and Maurice's points of views that it is about two people. But for Maurice, who's nearing the end, life for him is nothing but full of regrets. As the title suggests (same as Pat Bennatar's 1986 song), the film is an ode to that short, precarious time in life when one is teetering on the verge of adulthood and full of potential. Wonderfully played by baby faced Pauline Etienne, Claire is a smart teen who embodies that volatile period perfectly with her wide piercing eyes that both express vulnerability and determination. Her life is an open book full of possibilities.

Legendary actor Michel Piccoli (Le Mépris, Belle du Jour, La belle Noiseuse) is wonderful as a cranky, aging former resistance fighter, who had to make some tough choices under the German occupation. It's his memories that would enable Claire to go off on a journey of her own.

Beautifully shot by Céline Bozon in a foggy, rural, seaside town , Le Bel Âge is a somber examination of youth well done.

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