Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Teen Life

US Go Home (1994) - Denis
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A couple of years before Nenette et Boni, Claire Denis did an hour-long film with the same principal cast (Grégoire Colin, Alice Houri and Vincent Gallo), commissioned by French TV. The series was called Tous les garçons et les filles leur age.... Naturally, US Go Home feels like a younger sibling to N & B- with Colin and Houri playing brother and sister in both. But the film is no less great. It's a pitch perfect movie about teens.

There were guides that Denis had to follow to meet the criteria of the series -- the film has to take place in its directors childhood time, has to be about youth and has to have a song that plays in its entirety. That third rule, for me, thank heavens, provides one of the best movie moment in history (perhaps the second best only to the last scene of, yet another Denis film, Beau Travail)! It's teenage Gregoire Colin in his room dancing to Eric Burdon & the Animals' Hey Gyp.

So the setting of US Go Home is a suburb of Paris in the 60s. It starts with Alain (Colin) quoting the book he is reading, which warns that there is nothing honorable about men who surrender themselves to lust. Whether the passage is having any effect on him remains to be seen throughout the film. Martine (Houri) wants to get laid. She and her sultry Russian friend Marlene (Jessica Tharaud) wants to go to a party at a house where the parents will be away. Martine's mom won't allow it though, unless her older brother Alain accompany them. He begrudgingly agrees. The girls gussy themselves up like crazy. In the middle of the bus ride, the bickering siblings go separate ways - girls to the party and Alain, as usual, to his rich friend's house where older kids mingle. Soon the girls find the said party lame - Parents are still there and everyone's doing samba. The girls then trek to Alain's hangout. There are people smoking, drinking punch and making out on the couch. Music also is rad! Alain ignores them. Pretty Marlene finds dance partners easy, and starts eyeing Alain. It's a little more difficult to find a guy for Martine with her baby face and dark kinky curls.

Teen years are confusing, humiliating, scary times. Desire overwhelms everything. Expectations are never met with satisfaction. After disappointing night, the siblings meet American sailor, Captain Brown, on the road. He wants to give them a ride home and share his last remaining coca cola. Alain, despite his fondness for American rock n' roll, refuses the offer, saying that he is a communist. It's a comment Captain Brown laughs off of. Just like Martine's hollow 'US must go home!' chant, it's something he picked up saying without conviction. Gallo is perfect with his 'I haven't slept in 36 hours' look and asshole nonchalance as a man who is not sad but always miserable. He and Martine bond.

Denis and co-writer Anne Wiazemsky know how to capture all the angst and disappointment and loneliness of teenage years. US Go Home is a tender, thoughtful, emotionally resonant film that happens to be one of Denis's very best.