Adolescente, L’ (1979)

“Love is a neverending battle — the young, the old, in the same boat.”

L'Adolescente Poster

Synopsis:
On the brink of WWII, 13-year-old Marie (Laetitia Chauveau) and her mother (Edith Clever) go to stay with Marie’s grandmother (Simone Signoret) in the French countryside. Marie develops a crush on a young doctor (Francis Huster), and is devastated when she finds out that her sensual mother is having an affair with him.

Genres:

Review:
Jeanne Moreau’s second directorial effort — after Lumiere (1976) — was this unassuming summer vacation tale, set in pre-WWII France. As is often the case with coming-of-age stories, L’Adolescente is ultimately more concerned with chronicling its teenage protagonist’s budding sexual awareness than with the plot itself. As a result, while Moreau does a fine, sensitive job portraying Marie’s transition from childhood to adolescence, we don’t learn nearly enough about Marie’s mother (well-played by Edith Clever) — a woman who appears happily married, yet doesn’t hesitate to carry out an affair which can only end badly for everyone involved.

Moreau also relies a bit too heavily on cliched characterizations, with one sequence in particular — an early montage of the sundry villagers (each “type” is represented) — detracting from the authenticity of Marie’s personal story. In addition, Philippe Sarde’s musical theme, while lilting and effective at first, soon becomes overused and annoying. Nonetheless, there are enough positive elements in L’Adolescente – including the welcome presence of Simone Signoret as Marie’s grandmother, and a fine performance by young Laetitia Chauveau — to make it worth seeking out.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Simone Signoret as Marie’s wise grandmother
    Signoret
  • Laetitia Chauveau (who never made another film) as young Marie
    Marie
  • Beautiful cinematography of the French countryside
    Countryside
  • An effective portrayal of a young girl’s first crush on an older man
    Crush

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

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One Response to “Adolescente, L’ (1979)”

  1. Agreed, not a must, though foreign film fanatics esp. will find it enjoyable.

    While I don’t find the score a problem – it seems fitting somehow throughout – director Moreau overuses herself in often-unnecessary narration (esp. when we understand from faces or action).

    Slight, episodic mood piece, with occasional welcome subtlety (mainly its theme of three generations’ views: a girl on the brink of understanding passion; her mother in the throes of it; her grandmother – beyond “danc[ing] the waltz of passion.”). In a sidebar, we learn the grandmother’s husband was jealous, and that her daughter in turn married a jealous man. It seems her interest in the doctor is, in part, an eventual rejection of her first inclination. It’s true we don’t learn nearly enough about her – but obviously it’s not her story. It’s Marie’s, who sums it up best: “I’m all excited these days.”

    Perhaps what interested Moreau most about this story is in the French translation lesson Marie is memorizing: “Where was there a dearer one still, more precious than all others?” In other words, what is passion alone when compared to love?

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