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Friday, April 06, 2012

L'effrontée (The Hussy)


Today after a long illness Claude Miller died. He surely will be missed but I know that he will live through his magnificent body of work, especially two movies that touched me more than the others, 1981 Garde à vue with Romy Schneider and 1985 L'effrontée with 14-year-old Charlotte Gainsbourg.

To honor Claude Miller life and work decided to watch again L'effrontée even do I knew that probably my movie memories were going to be better than what I will see with today eyes. Definitively what I remember was better than what I saw today, but still film and story are compelling thanks to an outstanding Charlotte Gainsbourg performance and a director that deals with the most difficult time in a girl –between childhood and adolescence- by telling us about the summer of her first disillusion, all told with the most luminous images and compositions.

Film tells the story of Charlotte, 13-years-old, living with her father, her brother and the housekeeper in a village; she only has one friend younger than her Lulu that worships her and bores her. But everything bores Charlotte who dislikes her mediocre milieu where everything is predictable like at school or the Saturday dance at Roule Roule; she wishes to have another life. Her chance comes when she learns that the same age girl, Clara, that mesmerized Charlotte while watching her playing the piano is coming to her little town and she decides to do whatever is possible to get close to her after meeting Clara in the street. These are the basic dynamics that will evolve into an interesting story while the music of Mendelssohn, Beethoven and the unbelievable sticky song (still have it in my mind) “Sarà perchè ti amo” by Richi e Poveri that of course I sang in those years, a song that tells about the essence of this story.

Can’t say that when I first saw this movie I clearly saw what I’m about to share with you but definitively today it was crystal clear to me that this movie has lesbian interest “undertones” or better in French, story is “crypto-lesbienne”. Let me start by saying that Céline Sciamma says that this film was his inspiration for her debut film Naissance des pieuvres (Water Lilies) and even Tomboy; don’t doubt it as both Sciamma’s films tell stories similar to the one told here plus the storytelling and cinematic techniques are quite outstandingly similar. As a matter of fact Lulu in this film looks very much alike to the lead character in Sciamma’s Tomboy. If you saw Sciamma’s films and you like them then this film is must be seen for you.

But there is more. The song Sarà perchè ti amo is constantly played at very key moments in the movie and can’t sing song for you here but check some of the lyrics in Italian (without accents).

Che confusione
sara perche ti amo
e un'emozione
che cresce piano piano
stringimi forte e stammi piu vicino
se ci sto bene
sara perche ti amo.

Goes something like this: “What a confusion, must be because I love you, is an emotion, that grows slowly slowly, hug me strongly and come close, if I feel good, must be because I love you”; which of course talks about what Charlotte surely feels for Clara… and Lulu for Charlotte! It’s a coming of age film but also is about Charlotte and Lulu first love, as well as about jealousy, disenchantment and reality acceptance. Quite nice story indeed.

But most of all Claude Miller's film is a very French movie, so I know is not for all audiences, much less for those that tend to have puritan views about sexuality. Still is a beautiful movie that I strongly recommend to those that love French cinema, like to revisit or visit for the first time movies by great French directors, wish to see the Prix Louis Delluc 1985 winner, wish to see great Charlotte Gainsbourg in the role that gave her the Cesar for Most Promising Actress in 1986, wish to watch non-traditional lesbian interest stories, and/or wish to have an excellent cinematic experience French style of course.

My humble homage to a great director, filmmaker and storyteller. Farewell Claude Miller.

Enjoy!!!

Watch trailer @MOC

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