Magazine article Newsweek

Wild Reeds

Magazine article Newsweek

Wild Reeds

Article excerpt

THE FRENCH ARE MASTERS OF THE COMING-OF-AGE story, specialists in adolescent sexual awakening. The rites of passage that provoke Porky-like titters and guffaws in American movies are the occasion for a display of exquisite Gallic sensibilities. It's obviously a key moment in the national psyche, and it has been captured beautifully by Andre Techine in his moving, richly textured Wild Reeds. Techine's film stirred up deep passion in France, where it swept this year's Cesar Awards (their Oscars) for best picture, director, screenplay and most promising female newcomer (Elodie Bouchez). It's set in 1962 in a boarding school in the southwest of France at a crucial moment in French consciousness -- the Algerian war for independence, a traumatic event that divided the country much as the Vietnam War ripped apart the American social fabric.

Algeria means little to the bright, sensitive Francois (Gael Morel), who loves Ingmar Bergman films and Faulkner and is just beginning to discover that his sexual desires focus not on his pretty best friend Maite (Bouchez), but on the handsome peasant boy Serge (Stephane Rideau), whose brother has just been sent to Algeria to fight. One brief schoolboy sexual encounter means everything to Francois, but it's just a one-time experiment to Serge, who's smitten with Maite. Complicating these sexual and class matters is the arrival of Henri (Frederic Gorny), a right-wing pied noir -- a French citizen born in Algeria and forced to leave North Africa because of the war. Sophisticated, self-destructive and seething with bitterness at his exile, Henri brings the volatile political passions of the outside world to this provincial enclave. …

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