Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB
Original Title: Diabolo menthe
France, 1977. Alexandre Films, Films de L’Alma. Screenplay by Diane Kurys, Alain Le Henry. Cinematography by Philippe Rousselot. Produced by Serge Laski. Music by Yves Simon. Production Design by Tony Egry, Laurent Janet, Bernard Madelenat. Film Editing by Joele Van Effenterre. National Board of Review Awards 1979. New York Film Critics Awards 1979. Toronto International Film Festival 1978.
Diane Kurys makes an exciting debut with this insightful and perfectly performed feminine response to The 400 Blows. Anne and Frederique spend their summers at their father’s beach house before returning to their mother in the city for the school term. Anne is on the cusp of womanhood and is experiencing all the madness that accompanies this, not just the physical changes that are upsetting enough, but also the emotional turmoil (like having a crush on her sister’s boyfriend) and the ambivalence about growing up that sees her pursuing as many mature interests as indulgences in childish behaviour. Her mother (an exquisite performance by Anouk Ferjac) is trying to keep things going and maybe even enjoy a new relationship but is constantly putting out fires with her girls, with Anne particularly threatening to drive her to madness. Played out in a series of captivating but never contrived or stagy scenes, this is a rare exploration of coming of age that respects the pain of entering adulthood without needing to indulge in misery, its joys feel like real life and don’t contradict the more serious turns of the plot, captured with vibrant perfection by cinematographer Philippe Rousselot. Much of its power comes from the lead performance by Eléonore Klarwein, who gives Anne a spirit of exploration and curiosity that allows us to forgive her many poorly judged choices. Kurys, who would follow this film with her masterpiece Entre Nous, shows a sharp eye for the small moments that make up the character’s trajectory into maturity, creating a world for Anne out of the mosaic of bits and pieces she picks up from others and her own experiences.