Cocktail Molotov (1980)

“I’ve fought in Algiers. I’ve been a policeman for 20 years. And I can tell you one thing: we’ve gone mad.”

Cocktail Molotov Poster

Synopsis:
A restless teenager (Elise Caron) runs away from her bourgeois Parisian home with her boyfriend (Philippe Lebas) and his buddy (Francois Cluzet), just as the 1968 student uprisings and strikes begin.

Genres:

Review:
French writer-director Diane Kurys‘ follow-up to her autobiographical debut film Peppermint Soda (1977) appears to continue where this earlier film left off. It begins with a demonstration of passionate adolescent devotion, as Frederic (Philippe Lebas) leaps onto a public stage to declare his undying love for Anne (Elise Caron) in front of her parents. When Anne decides to be with Frederic against her parents’ wishes (we never learn exactly what they have against him, though class difference is implied as the nominal reason), the film’s theme of youthful rebellion begins, as Anne — determined to join a kibbutz — runs away from home with Frederic and his older buddy, Bruno (Francois Cluzet). Kurys’ film is at its best in these early, heady scenes, which perfectly capture the energy and exuberance of late adolescence, when one finally breaks free from the constraints of home and follows one’s heart. Caron nicely portrays Anne’s determination to live life on her own terms — and it’s a pleasant surprise to see her, fairly early on, deciding to leave her new lover behind when he expresses ambivalence over actually making the journey they’ve fantasized about for so long.

The two quickly reunite, however, and the bulk of the film simply follows them — and “third wheel” Bruno — as they journey south, then back to Paris again, all while hearing news about the strikes and student uprisings that began just as they left town. While it’s somewhat interesting to gain a time capsule perspective on this tumultuous era in French history, the film itself unfortunately loses its sense of direction as the strikes take over the narrative; Kurys’ attempt to show parallels between Anne’s newfound sense of freedom and the struggles of a nation to revolt against an “old morality” come across as a bit heavy-handed, especially as the trio encounter a series of characters (i.e., a truck driver, a policeman) who conveniently represent various “voices” and perspectives on current events. Left sadly unexplored is the muted love triangle between Anne, Frederic, and Bruno; their complex dynamics together — especially given Cluzet’s wistful, sensitive performance as Bruno — could have provided a much more interesting narrative trajectory.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Elise Caron as Anne
    Cocktail Caron
  • Francois Cluzet as Bruno
    Cocktail Cluzet
  • An effective rendering of adolescent love
    Cocktail Love

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

Links:

One Response to “Cocktail Molotov (1980)”

  1. Not a must.

    First viewing.

    True, this is a character study inside a specific time capsule…without much illumination. It comes off like a film that was made just because someone felt like making a film, not because the person had anything else particularly in mind. It’s nicely filmed – but, as a coming-of-age story, which it clearly is, it does not set itself apart in any unique way from other coming-of-age tales. Therefore, it’s a film more or less with an expiration date of 1980.

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