Monday, October 3, 2016

André Téchiné's new jewel, BEING 17, may mark the top of his illustrious career -- with some help from Céline Sciamma

A great, unfolding love story, as well as a wondrous coming-of-age film, BEING 17 is the latest addition to the oeuvre of one of France's gifts to cinema, André Téchiné. Working steadily for over fifty years, Téchiné, shown below, is now 73 years old and his abilities only seem to grow stronger and more assured. Even what may look, upon initial viewing, like a misstep usually prove better with an additional watch. His are some of the best coming-of-age movies ever made: rich, wise and bone-deep. This filmmaker offers behavior above all, then lets us, along with his characters, struggle with the meaning of that behavior until it is somehow sorted out. Not always to the best ends. But always with truth, feeling and even, sometimes, humor.

In his latest film two boys, toward the end of their school years and on the cusp on young adulthood, find themselves engaged in angry competition and even physical fighting. This is brought on more by one -- Tomas, the mixed-race, adopted son of a kindly, hard-working farm family in the mountains -- than by the other, Damien, who is the son of the town's doctor mom and soldier father, the latter most often found abroad in some area of conflict.

Téchiné usually works with some of his country's best and most iconic actors -- from Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche to André Dussollier and Gérard Depardieu, as well as discovering and making the most of young talent that then goes on to find its own impressive career (Gaël Morel, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet and Roschdy Zem, among many others).

So it is again, as one of France's finest and most versatile actresses, Sandrine Kiberlain stars here as that doctor mom (the still boyish and beautiful Alexis Loret, above, right, of Alice and Martin, plays the soldier dad). Ms Kiberlain (two photos up and above, center) is as eloquent, exotically lovely and engulfing as ever, but the movie belong rightly to its two young stars: Kacey Mottet Klein (above, left, who already has a major resumé behind him, including Sister, Home and Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life) playing Damien, and newcomer Corentin Fila (below), who plays Tomas.

These two young men are terrific actors, representing that oh-so-tricky age of 17 to alternately ferocious and moving affect. There is not a false moment in any of their work nor in any of Téchiné's -- along with Ms Sciamma's who collaborated on the sensitive but never too-explanatory screenplay. Where these feelings of anger are coming from and why are the questions that keep arising, and the filmmaker lets the answers come haltingly and very believably.

I am not certain there is another movie-maker who understands any better how character-building is a thing that goes on and on, revealing itself in small increments along with the growth and change that occurs. And he has found two young actors who can embody this halting growth and change quite splendidly -- coming as it does at the most pivotal and difficult time of life. The two young actors keep us with them, held in an alternately angry and loving embrace, through events minor and major.

The film takes place over four seasons at school, in the home, on the farm and throughout the countryside. Being 17 is a visually beautiful movie (could there be a more gorgeous place to live than here?) but also an equally intelligent one. And it takes its place -- along with an earlier film this year, Summertime -- as one of, maybe the finest of dramas/earned-love-stories of our new millennium.

The movie -- from Strand Releasing and running a just-about-perfect 116 minutes (In French with English subtitles) -- opens this Friday, October 7, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the IFC Center, and in Los Angeles on Friday, October 14, at Laemmle's Royal and Playhouse 7. Here in the South Florida area it will open on Friday, October 21,at the Bill Cosford Cinema in Coral Gables, the Tower Theater in Miami, the Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale, and at the Lake Worth Playhouse in Lake Worth.  Click here, then scroll down to click on Screenings, to view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters across the country where the movie will be shown over the next few weeks.

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