1994, NR, 110 min. Directed by André Téchiné. Starring Michele Moretti, Frederic Gorny, Stephane Rideau, Elodie Bouchez, Gael Morel.
REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., Nov. 10, 1995
Certain scenes in Téchiné's award-winning film Wild Reeds crackle with unresolved sexual tension: Two attractive boys speed on a scooter through golden-hued farmland in rural France, one with his arms wrapped lovingly, almost desperately, around the other. These moments are quite powerful. They have a way of carrying the more mundane scenes in which young boarding school friends Francois (Morel), Maite (Bouchez), and Serge (Rideau) analyze their feelings and desires almost incessantly. A type of Jules and Jim for the younger crowd, Wild Reeds follows these three youths in France in 1962 toward the end of the Algerian War. Complicating the triangle is the presence of an older student Henri (Gorny), a man who both repels and intrigues Francois and Serge, but perhaps affects Maite, the schoolteacher's (Moretti) daughter, most dramatically. Although Francois shares an intense relationship with Maite, the two have not become physically involved. Francois feels “reassured” by his soulmate Maite, but he is not as certain of his sexual orientation because of his strong attraction to and feelings for Serge (with whom he shares a sexual encounter) and the older Henri. Maite is not so much confused as she is not quite willing to give herself to a man, seeing the act of sex for the power dynamic it often becomes. In addition to affecting performances by all the principals, Téchiné's coming-of-age story foregrounds lush images of the French countryside beautifully photographed by Jeanne Lapoirie. Wild Reeds swept this year's Cesar Awards (the French equivalent of the Oscar) for best picture, director, screenplay, and young new actress (Bouchez), and it deserves much of the praise it has received. However, Wild Reeds may not be for every viewer. Its story is distinctly French in the way it focuses on interior dilemmas and privileges mental action over physical drama. To this end, Téchiné's camera fluidly celebrates the conflicts of each character as it glides through close-ups, which are most effective on the face of actress Bouchez whose features clearly convey a range of adolescent emotions. While the story of Wild Reeds may be at times unbearably obscure, the images infuse the film with a drama and beauty that is unrelenting in its impact.