Thursday, March 4, 2010

À nos amours 1983

Maurice Pialat produced a comparably light and relatively unknown body of work as a director. If he's remembered for anything, it will certainly be this film, À Nos Amours, in which a 15-year-old undergoes sexual awakening amid her boring and sometimes hateful life as a teen.

Played by real-life 15-year-old Sandrine Bonnaire, À Nos Amours is every bit as explicit as you might fear. I've been told, as a father with a young daughter, that the film Thirteen would scare the pants off of me. Thirteen is Kool-Aid compared to this. À Nos Amours is a punch in the stomach after a fifth of whiskey, a horrorshow of sexuality where it simply shouldn't be.

What makes À Nos Amours so compelling is not that it's grotesque or disgusting. It's far from it. What makes it work so well is that our heroine Suzanne is portrayed as just any other girl in town. She could be anyone, and in fact she's even not particularly pretty, looking a bit gawky and sporting a massive jaw. But she's easy, and her parents all but ignore her, sending her into the arms of one guy after another in search of... something, we suppose. What's scary is that Suzanne isn't even apologetic about any of this. This is just the way she is.

Explaining how À Nos Amours succeeds as a thought piece on existential dread for new fathers is probably not going to convince any of you to see the film, but you ought to give it a spin. For the first hour, À Nos Amours is searing and fires on all cylinders. Ultimately it slips, though, and the last third is a chatty act that meanders its way to a non-ending. Pialat was hardly a master filmmaker (though he plays Suzanne's father perfectly here), but he knew his way around a movie set just the same. He shoots À Nos Amours with an unsparing and uncaring lens, and no one here escapes coming off in an unflattering light.

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