22 September 2014

Mes Petites Amoureuses 1974 02 G

Mes Petites Amoureuses is the forgotten gem of 1970s cinema. Jean Eustache's semi-autobiographical film, is the ultimate 'Coming of Age' story, that inspired many other films in the following decades, possibly including Richard Ayoade's Submarine (2010). The story gently meanders at a slow, but nevertheless exciting pace. The summer vistas shot in France, evoke a sense of peace and calm, but also that of inner thought, the most important aspect of the movie.

We follow Daniel, a French adolescent, on his journey of sexual discovery and experimentation. Daniel is forced to leave his doting grandmother in the French countryside and move to his mother's home in a nearby town. Due to the tough financial situation of the family, he is forced to quit school and begin to work full time as a mechanic's assistant. It is here that Daniel is forced to confront and accept manhood and grow in all aspects of life, while still in his formative years.

He quickly falls in with many of the local boys who are obsessed with finding girls and obtaining any sexual contact they can. Daniel witnesses the boys in action, scrutinising their behaviour towards the girls that they 'target' and tries to copy it himself. The early advances from Daniel are met with blank stares and refusals by the girls but slowly he learns the tricks of the boys and begins to win many of the local girls. This is the beginning of Daniel's sexual life and he now has learned the skills that he needs to experiment further.

Mes Petites Amoureuses centres around the inner thoughts of the protagonist, Daniel. The director manages to translate this across to the audience in a very clever manner. At first we hear many of Daniel's thoughts in the form of voice over, as he considers his options in a particular circumstance.

As the film progresses the voice over becomes more and more sparse. All that remains is the blank look of Daniel in reply to an event, no particular emotion can be read from his face. But then suddenly the image of Daniel begins to talk to the audience, we know exactly what he is thinking, because we know precisely how his mind works, after journeying with him and watching him overcome his problems. We have grown with him and tackled his problems united. The beauty achieved by this is sublime cinema, as the images talk without sound.

The films feels like a fiction film trapped in a documentary. The cinematography tells this quiet, unassuming story, very discreetly. The constant panning shots and dolly shots give the frame life, we are always walking with Daniel wherever he goes. There are very few leaps in time in the narrative. Perhaps this was designed in this way to make the audience feel as if they were one of the boys too, slowly following the gang around trying to learn and fit in, like Daniel?

The film teaches us that the cycle of life repeats and repeats. The teachers teach the young and then the young become the teachers of the next generation. Although time passes and countries and people change, the way we learn will always stay the same, as we strive to learn from one another.

Mes Petites Amoureuses is screened for one night only at FACT on Wednesday 24 September.


You can read more by Laurence on his website. He is also on Twitter at @laurencejcarr


Tickets for Mes Petites Amoureuses are available now from the Box Office, by phone on 0871 902 5737 and online.