Sunday, 18 September 2022

Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the 60s in Brussels [1994]

 Made as part of Arte’s influential “Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge…” series where French filmmakers were asked to contribute recollections from their adolescence days, this might well place among Chantal Akerman’s most tender and playful films despite its aesthetic sparseness… and, alongside The Meetings of Anna, among her most autobiographical fictional works. This delightfully understated and freewheeling film portrayed a day in the life of the 15-year-old Michelle (Circe Lethem) who’s rebelling against her bourgeoise upbringing and experiencing deep existential crisis. It begins with her decision to quit school – she writes fake letters of absence where the reason ranges from an uncle’s illness to her own death, thereafter followed by dramatically tearing off her report card – which she shares with her bosom friend Danielle (Joelle Marlier); she then goes to the cinema where she meets Paul (Julien Rassam) – a young army deserter from Paris – and the two lost souls aimlessly amble along the city before getting into the vacant apartment of her cousin who’s on a holiday; and she ends the day by going to a dance party with Danielle that continues till dawn. Over the course of this lovely, leisurely day she becomes intimate with Paul – as a mix of teenage curiosity and defiance – while also expressing palpable signals of her deep attachment with Danielle, thus making this such an evocative coming-of-age movie. It had two memorable uses of music – Michelle dancing with Paul to Leonard Cohen’s mellifluous Suzanne and later with Danielle to the lively La Bamba – while the proceedings, in a cheeky disregard for temporal conventions, were anachronistically filmed with artefacts indicating the 90s even if the title pointed to the 60s.

Director: Chantal Akerman

Genre: Drama/Coming-of-Age

Language: French

Country: France

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