Saturday, June 18, 2011


16th French Film Festival
Cinema 4, Shang Cineplex

The themes of Catholic guilt and budding sexuality are explored in this coming of age film set in a middle class French town. 15 year old Anna is home for her summer break from her Catholic boarding school. As she prepares for her confirmation rite, she also takes care of her ailing grandfather. Her father has left her devout mother for another woman. Overwhelmed with grief and self pity, the mother seeks consolation in the arms of the local priest. Anna meanwhile develops a special friendship with her neighbor Pierre.

There is generally good rapport between the cast especially the bonding moments between Anna and her grandfather, Jean. Clara Augarde as Anna blooms in all her naive innocence while veteran French comedian Michel Galabru gives a wonderful performance by bringing an affecting poignancy to a man who has lived life to the fullest but now faces his mortality. I also recognize the singer Lio who portrays Anna's mother. I remember her from my distant childhood days when we were living in Belgium as a singer with a soft melodic voice with her standard bangs framing her face. And now she is portraying mother roles, whoa I feel ancient!

There is a definite realistic tone to the film as it traces Anna's conflicted journey, brilliantly. A young girl on the throes of adulthood, coming to terms with her blossoming sexuality plus having to deal with a family crisis that threatens to destroy her firmly rooted faith. The music track, including religious hymns and American songs (like a choral version of Radiohead's "Creep") nicely anchors the film's mood of melancholy and rapture.

The French title refers to a Serge Gainsbourg song that likens love to a poisonous drug. A song sung in his usual drunken stupor with cigarette fumes billowing fashion. Although the song isn't played during the film, I figure it is appropriate for the theme of the movie.

Although this film may not resonate well with non believers of the Catholic faith, it nevertheless will find its true calling with anyone who has had to deal with dilemma and massive guilt trips.

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