Saturday, January 22, 2011 teenagers! THE FRENCH KISSERS and ALL THAT GLITTERS

Films that concentrate on teens and their more obvious needs -- sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, to name a few -- tend to bore TrustMovies rather quickly. When these are shown as part of a larger canvas (as does another film in the fest, Complices, about which I'll have more to say soon), the situation can take on immense relevance and weight.  But when the focus is solely on their current lives, constricted by age plus lack of experience and/or opportunity, what can be gleaned from the film (or even enjoyed by a mature viewer) is often pretty minor. So it is with THE FRENCH KISSERS (Les Beaux gosses).

This nod to the mentality of American Pie (and its many spin-offs) has its moments, but they're too few and far between to keep us going. Despite the presence of stars like Emmanuelle Devos (shown above), Irène Jacob and Noméie Lvovsky (none of whom are seen to much advantage), the movie concentrates on youths who are just at that age at which they are least intelligent and most obnoxious. While I applaud the movie's sense of verité in capturing these qualities, I still have to wonder why first-time filmmaker Riad Sattouf bothered. Further, in sticking much closer to the needs of the boys involved, while leaving the girls in subsidiary roles (how American!), M. Sattouf effectively reduces his movie to the cheap and obvious -- which does tend to sell tickets, I admit. In any case, The French Kissers managed to put even last year's lesser Rendez-vous With French Cinema efforts (during which it made its U.S. debut) into more pleasing perspective. Now it is available (as the single out-of-competition film) at Your move.

Although ALL THAT GLITTERS (Tout ce qui brille) also features teens as its main characters, because these are girls -- and girls intent on changing their "status" in life -- this film has a broader canvass, just as the characters have a (somewhat) wider range of interest. This is not to say that the film is all that great, but it holds attention far better than its male counterpart. Co-directed and -written (with Hervé Mimran) by Géraldine Nakache (who also co-stars, with Leïla Bekhti), the film is glossy and professional in every way. A little too much so, in fact; at times it makes one long for some of the scuzz of The French Kissers.

To its credit (I think), the movie shows its two teens as girls ready to take unfair advantage of cab drivers and anyone else who might get in their way, as they seek out some fun. They come from a banlieue -- but a very nice one, I would say: quite middle class! -- and while one (Bekhti) seeks to leave it via love, the other is content to do so using her own skills and intelligence. When they meet a pair of wealthy, haute-bourgeoisie lesbians (Virginie Ledoyen, above, and Linh Dan Pham) with a child in tow and and apartment that looks like quite the thing, our girls jump at the chance to be part of this. A sense of entitlement clings to a lot of the characters here, and "using" is standard practice. By the end, friendships are threatened and lessons learned but no harm has come to anyone. While we've seen all this many times before, the French-Algerian slant will perhaps be new to some American audiences. Ms Ledoyen (Shall We Kiss?, The Army of Crime) is always a pleasure to see, as is Ms Bekti (below, right, whom we know from Mesrine and A Prophet) and Ms Nakache (below, left). A hit in its native land, All That Glitters might just corral some younger viewers here in the USA, too. can be downloaded  for just one more week. Click here to order either of the two movies above -- or the entire program, including full- length and short films.

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