Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Apres Mai
France, 2012. MK2 Productions, France 3 Cinéma, Vortex Sutra, Canal+, Ciné+, Région Ile-de-France, France Télévision, Centre National de la Cinématographie, La Banque Postale Images 5. Screenplay by Olivier Assayas. Cinematography by Eric Gautier. Produced by Charles Gillibert, Nathanael Karmitz. Production Design by François-Renaud Labarthe. Costume Design by Jurgen Doering. Film Editing by Luc Barnier. Toronto International Film Festival 2012. Venice Film Festival 2012.
The film’s original French title, Apres Mai, immediately sets the scene for the action that takes place in this richly enjoyable film by Olivier Assayas: teenagers are so inspired by the student demonstrations of May 1968, itself a part of the bigger atmosphere of counterculture that we now associate with the period, that any kind of rebellion against the establishment is part of the learning curve for entering adulthood. Here we have a group of youngsters who vandalize their school and print politically outspoken newsletters, with the central character a sensitive artist (possibly standing in, at least in part, for Assayas himself) who extends his passions as equally to his activism as he does his art and his relationships with the two women in his life. Time passes, interactions change people, as do changes of scene, and we begin to see the dulling of radical protest as personal ambitions become more prevalent with these highly charismatic personalities. Despite a slightly excessive running time (the film could afford a trim, though not a big one), what we have here is an exemplary exercise in balance: the period is recreated with alarming realism without ever being kitschy about it, while the trajectory of these characters, who are taken from youthful idealism to a more complicated, adult point of view, is subtly achieved by carefully calibrated degrees. Assayas loves his characters’ naïve confidence, sweetly and intelligently presenting their limitations without ever looking down his nose at them.